Challenging My Internalized Oppression About Being Asian

1. Asian internalized oppression causes one to act in a manner which invites others to overlook, marginalize, distrust, discount the contributions, struggles, and concerns of Asians; when, after acting in this manner, Asian folks experience the mistreatment, it reinforces the notion that other people do not understand, don’t care, and won’t be allies. Asians’ distrust of others engenders others’ distrust towards Asians. To break the cycle, the direction for Asian folks to take against the internalized oppression is to interact with others with the assumption “Of course they will want to be my ally; I just need to coach them about me and my group.”

2. We often fight external “enemies” or “oppressors.” A real, immediate “enemy” is internalized oppression. It is the most pernicious aspect of racism. We tend not to challenge it with the same fierceness with which we attack the external racism. I have recommitted to challenging the internalized oppression with the awareness that it kills Asian peoples. Internalized oppression undermines our birthright to have deep, close connections with all people. Tackling internalized oppression will free us to take on real injustices with more clarity, freedom, and power.

3. One of the biggest obstacles to empowerment can be the feeling of self-righteous indignation (the impulse to seek out an “oppressor” and dramatize at them); this anger can actually keep Asian peoples victimized. When we break the silence and find our voice, it can be an angry voice. This anger and venting, while important in healing, is not an end in itself. We need to work to reclaim real power as people who can create change: finding our relaxed, confident, and truly powerful voice. We can cultivate the confidence to know that challenges are workable, that no one can take anything away and that we can treat all people humanly while creating that change.

4. Another key area of internalized oppression for Asians is self-hatred, shame, and harsh criticism of other Asians. I am actively deciding to go after Asian-heritage individuals, to get to know them, to share myself with them, to let them know that I care. I am committed to showing deep, unconditional pride in and affection for my Asian-heritage brothers and sisters, with the knowledge that anything else is internalized oppression.

5. Allies: when you get people of Asian heritage acting or speaking angrily towards you, realize that you are “getting in.” You are “safe enough” as an ally to be shown the pain that many Asian-heritage folks feel of having ever been silent or silenced. Help us rise above the victimization, to know the reality of our deep interconnections to the whole, that we matter, with all our humanness—strengths and struggles. Help us drop the “model minority stereotype,” that we must “be perfect” before being “visible.” When we make a mistake, let us clean it up. Understand the fear and self-hatred we may feel; help us be gentle with ourselves and each other. Do require that we treat you as an ally, not an enemy.

Unyong Kim
Washington, DC, USA


Last modified: 2017-05-06 23:35:41-07