Eileen Huang: My Response

Black Lives Matter Protest at Times Square, New York City on June 7 2020 (Photo courtesy to Anthony Quintano | Flickr)

Content warning: Anti-Black language, stereotypes, violence

In just this past week, my letter to the Chinese American community has received an outpouring of support. It’s captured the attention of Chinese American parents, children, grandparents, journalists, authors, and even winners of the Civil Courage Prize. Hundreds of you have reached out to me to share how helpful the letter was to you, or how it has changed your mind on a lot of issues. It has also incited quite a bit of controversy, to say at the least.

Some have commented that I cannot claim to represent the entire Chinese American community. They are right. I do not. However, many Chinese Americans are anti-Black. That’s a fact. Those who have criticized my piece because of this also assert that they themselves are not anti-Black at all. They then go on to say things such as, Black people are only poor because they are lazy, Do NOT donate to Black organizations, and, I would never let my children marry Black people, but that is not racism … that’s just my preference. Of course people who harbor anti-Black biases do not think they are racist—they think they are right. 

Some have taken offense to my statement that we owe Black Americans everything. They’ve stated that they’ve worked very hard to get where they are. That they came to this country with nothing—why should they owe their success to anyone? I am not discrediting their labor and struggle, though this narrative is not factual. Many of them did not come to this country with nothing. They came to receive PhDs, master’s degrees, undergraduate degrees, and high-paying jobs because the United States government only granted visas to high-income, highly educated professionals from Asian countries. It is also a fact that none of us would be here if it weren’t for the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the racist immigration quotas that had lasted for centuries and had barred most Asian immigrants from entering the country. The act only passed because of one defining historical moment: the Civil Rights Movement.

Some have also pointed out that we Asian Americans have contributed just as much—if not more—to the formation of America. This is true: Chinese Americans who came before us laid the tracks for the transcontinental railroad. Japanese issei worked in abysmal conditions on Hawaii’s sugar plantations. During World War II, Sikh and Filipino Americans enlisted in the military in large numbers. Yet, we have also contributed to much of America’s violence. It was a Korean American storekeeper who shot Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl, for trying to steal a bottle of orange juice. It was a Chinese American officer who fired at and killed Akai Gurley, a Black man who was only standing in the stairwell of his own apartment complex. And it was a Hmong American cop who protected the White man who suffocated George Floyd to death. We have contributed as much to America’s evils—its deep, underlying anti-Blackness—as its so-called “greatness.” This is a fact that we must work to recognize and amend.

Some of you have said that Black Americans are policed and murdered in large numbers simply because they did not work hard enough. This strikes me as the most nonsensical argument of all: Who in America has worked harder than Black Americans, whose ancestors literally built this nation from the ground up, whose people have plowed our fields, whose bones are buried under the White House, the Washington Monument, and all of our national landmarks? All of their achievements remain, to this day, uncompensated. The idea that America is a meritocracy—that you can gain respect and liberation simply by working hard—is simply false. 

Lastly, many of you have scolded me and other second-generation Chinese Americans, saying that we are sheltered and privileged, that we simply do not understand the pain, hardship, and diligence that our elders went through to become successful—that we should be showing gratitude instead of condemning our own community for its anti-Blackness.

We second-generation Chinese Americans are born into an inherently racist nation. Even though many of us were born in this country, we are still treated as foreigners. We’ve heard people shout, “Go back to your country!” or “Ni hao!” to us on the streets. We’ve watched White secretaries and grocery store clerks mock our parents for their broken English. We’ve forgotten how to speak our mother tongues, since, as children, we were scolded for speaking it in school. We’ve listened to the racial slurs hurled at our families: “chink,” “dogeater,” “gook.” We are severed from contact with our relatives in China; we can’t speak Chinese fluently. We witnessed our parents struggle against racist supervisors, bosses, landlords, and authority figures who continue to underestimate and silence them. It is not that we are sheltered from pain and trauma of our parents, but that we deeply, truly understand it. These traumas are passed down to us as well—only, we realize that they come from the racist laws, institutions, and attitudes that work to harm people of color in this country. 

We are not complaining. We are speaking out and making calls to action, ensuring that future generations of Chinese Americans, children of color, and other marginalized people can live in a better society. We want to dismantle structures that perpetuate institutional racism and White supremacy. We don’t want what happened—and still happens—to us and our parents to persist in the future. And is that not the biggest show of our gratitude? 

As my friend Kalos wrote compassionately in his essay, we are not calling out anti-Blackness because we want to condemn our own community, but because we deeply care about the people around us. Growing up, my Chinese American parents—who are also my biggest supporters—taught me that often, getting what you want isn’t easy. It can be difficult and painful. I suspect my article caused quite the stir because it touched on a dark reality, a spot of deep pain, shame, and discomfort for our people. Anti-racism is not an easy decision, but rather a difficult learning process. It is difficult to learn how we’ve hurt others, and even more difficult to unlearn those biases so many of us had held for our lifetimes. But we must try.

I strongly believe in our community’s ability to unlearn and address its anti-Blackness, evidenced by the overwhelming support I’ve received. For every angry WeChat comment I get, I get a sincere message from a Chinese father thanking me for writing an article that changed his perspective; emails from other Chinese American children saying that my letter allowed them to have productive conversations on race with their parents; direct messages from Chinese international students letting me know that they’ve shared my article with their relatives in China. Other students from Johns Hopkins, Columbia, and more have stood with me by writing their own letters. Friends of mine have told me that their parents are now furiously arguing with their anti-Black friends in their WeChat groups. Another friend reached out to me saying that her Chinese grandmother had learned more about police brutality against the Black community from my letter. She was angry when she heard about their pain. “We must stand with the Black community,” she had echoed. While the backlash my article has received has been intense, the support for Black Lives Matter that came from it has been even more powerful.

I want people who have opposed my letter to know that they can’t continue to sit out on these conversations on social and political issues, to maintain their silence. In this country, we Chinese Americans cannot blend into Whiteness by staying quiet, as much as we try. We are in yellow bodies. We are “chinks” unless we speak out against such labels—unless we demand change.

I want people who won’t acknowledge their anti-Blackness to know that my letter is not the creation of a single brainwashed “黄左.” Rather, it represents so many voices of the second generation striving to have this intergenerational dialogue with their elders. Harvard’s Chinese Student Association, Yale’s Chinese American Students Association, Yale’s Dean Sandy Chang, journalist Jeff Yang, Chinese American politicians, athletes, professors, city council members, and more have expressed their support of my article and of Black Lives Matter. We are waiting for more people to stand with us.

More importantly, I want our new supporters to mobilize. Our solidarity with the Black community means nothing without action. If you are in support of my letter, I urge you to identify other supporters and create WeChat groups where you can share information on places where you can donate, find peaceful protests and cleanups that are happening near you, and send each other readings and educational materials to further unlearn our anti-Blackness.

In the next few weeks, Kalos and I will work on an exciting new project. We are organizing a group of Chinese American students from Harvard, Yale, Stanford, Cornell, and more to write more articles on subjects many of you have brought up legitimate questions about: Why is policing so controversial in this country? Why are people calling to defund the police? What are other examples of Black and Asian American solidarity? Why should we support Affirmative Action? Who is Candace Owens? Our goal is to continue this dialogue that we’ve started. We will pull examples from history, ethnic studies, and our own experiences to spark more productive conversation on race in America. If you want to participate in these conversations, please keep following Chinese American and sharing our articles. 

My generation is speaking up. Will you listen?

Can I count on all of you who support this article to donate at least $5 to one of the organizations and funds below? It would mean a lot to me. 

Justice for Breonna Taylor Fund

Tony McDade Memorial Fund

Urban Word NYC

The Innocence Project

The Nina Pop and Tony McDade Mental Health Recovery Fund

Black Visions Collective

National Bail Out

The Okra Project

Please sign these petitions as well—it only takes a few seconds.

Justice for Maurice Gordon Jr.

Reopen Kendrick Johnson’s Case #J4Kendrick

Reopen Tamir Rice’s Case

Justice for Darrius Stewart

Reopen Kenneka Jenkin’s Case

Reopen Sandra Bland’s Case

If you’re looking for more Chinese- and Asian-language resources, here is a comprehensive list compiled by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum:


Lastly, if you’d like to stay updated on our WeChat project and receive updates on where to donate, please sign this petition:


23 评论

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The black girl who stole the orange juice also beat the store owner and that’s why she was shoot. Also, how do u explain 6% of Black male takes 44% of homicide and 77% of babies born in single parent family, their crime rate is 1900 times of Asian. We do not discriminate skin color, we disrespect anyone who commit crime, sleeps on welfare expect tax payer to raise their children, who take drugs and fail schools. Jewish, Asian even Mexican have improved their social status Over the past 30 yrs why black community still sink at the bottom while they already have black president senator majors? Did they try? Why don’t u go to south Chicago and live their for one month, then tell me what kind of life they have and had they even tried to improve themselves. There were 25 homicide and 85 wounded in 5/30/20 just one night in south Chicago. Black lives only matter when it’s being taken by other races, they don’t matter among themselves. All lives matter. Police lives matter. Black needs to do better and also matter their own lives. Instead of blaming racism for incompetence and blame ur parents as racist, why don’t and ur fellows enter the black communities in Chicago, Detroit, New York etc to help their children to study? Do u want to do that and five a try?????

The 2nd example about Akai Gurley was presented in a wrong way, at least misleading, too. Here’s quote from Wikipedia:
Akai Gurley, a 28-year-old man, was fatally shot on November 20, 2014, in Brooklyn, New York City, United States, by a New York City Police Department officer. Two police officers, patrolling stairwells in the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA)’s Louis H. Pink Houses in East New York, Brooklyn, entered a pitch-dark, unlit stairwell, one of them, Officer Peter Liang, 27, with his firearm drawn. Gurley and his girlfriend entered the seventh-floor stairwell, fourteen steps below them. Liang fired his weapon; his shot ricocheted off a wall and fatally struck Gurley in the chest. A jury convicted Liang of manslaughter, which a court later reduced to criminally negligent homicide.

“ It is also a fact that none of us would be here if it weren’t for the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which abolished the racist immigration quotas that had lasted for centuries and had barred most Asian immigrants from entering the country. The act only passed because of one defining” do you include Tingye Li, Shiing-Shen Chern, Tsing-Dao Lee and many others came to US before 1965 in “us”? If not, could you explain the scope of “us”?

Hey Eileen, i don’t think you really care about your own race, you would not like to learn Chinese, why? Chinese are not racism, we never heard about Chinese bully a black, they just are afraid of black people, in most cases, they are not wrong, on the contrary, didn’t you hear Chinese bullied by other races, especially black? If you really want to help your race, please at least begin from learning Chinese, no matter traditional or simplified. Before you attack your parents generation, please respect them first. As the second generation, you could be well included in this country and feel safer, but not everyone attacked you feel the same, we need respect ourselves first. 学点中文吧,否则你没有资格来教训华人应该怎样,不学中文,是迫于同学的压力吗?难道这不是对自己种族的歧视?

it’s a little bit silly and bold of you to say that Chinese are not racists… If you want to argue with me on that, I’d recommend you to check out how people respond to the African community in 广州 on 微博. Agreed, not all Chinese are racists but there is a lot of us who do hold racist perspectives towards Blacks, either in a direct or an indirect way. Eileen并没有教训华人该怎么样,她所提议的是start to have a conversation about racism and white supremacy in our community。而且你怎么知道她不会中文?大部分二代华裔中文能力可能不如他们的父母但是理解和沟通是没问题的。

I know that your parents and family are anti-black but you can use your parents and family as sample to represent Chinese. You can say Huang family is anti-black

Eileen, Please stop representing me! At least I see that you stopped labeling non-Chinese Asians as racists. Now you just attack your own community, although you didn’t even bother to learn the language.

Did you really believe many immigrants in Chinatown were high skill immigrants? Do you see the Hmong policeman Tou Thao as coming from a privileged background? When you see Tou Thao, you see an asian man instead of a police. Isn’t that another form of racism? Why do you interpret his action as the action of a certain skin-colored man, instead of a police?

You say you are privileged but you also say you are born into a inherently racist nation and suffered as much. Which one do you actually believe? Looks to me your heart believes that as a member of this race you are mistreated. Your words say you are privileged, but it looks like you are just saying some words other people put into your mouth.

If your parents provided you with a comfortable life, did they earn that through hard work and sacrifice? Does it make a privilege because it’s them who made the sacrifice, and you didn’t have to sacrifice any? Even in that case, you shouldn’t speak of the unknown pain and sacrifice your parents made so lightly. If you indeed were born with a silver spoon and your parents didn’t have to struggle to maintain a good life, how arrogant it is to believe and state an entire race of people are privileged as your own family is.

Are you proud of who you are, or ashamed of who you are? Are you confident and comfortable in your own skin(you call it yellow, but I never call my skin as yellow).

You should give a more honest and profound thought about your own racial identity, before you are in a hurry to condemn an entire race of people with much diverse history and complexity as racists.

Eileen, I have to say, you talk like a white. Your parent generation worked their butt off to get their degrees and got their visa. you know that, but you didn’t know 20 years ago their degrees from countries like China were not accredited, they have to finish their degree in the U.S. in order to get a job, it’s like double the efforts American (including blacks) need to achieve the same. You probably are not aware, Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 is based on the report on immigration regulations conducted by President Truman, some Chinese immigrants like Tsung-Dao Lee naturalized years before it. I’m not saying the Civil Rights Movement was irrelevant, but it’s not the sole reason of the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, things have been changing since the end of the WWII.

I’m not trying to teach you American History, you are totally capable to do your own research. I’d just post a kind reminder, do not overlook what your parents experienced, they maybe missing from the history books written by whites.

Yale University is named after a slave trader, Elihu Yale, a British merchant and slave trader and benefactor of the Collegiate School of Connecticut, which was renamed Yale College in his honor. Now you know this fact, please act to remove Yale from your university. Action speaks louder than words.

You should really learn more before representing the whole community without permission. At first, try to read more and understand more on Equity vs. Efficiency, Results Equity vs. Opportunity Equity. How about you just organize more Grass Root actions, e.g., voluntarily tutoring, servicing and helping the community that need help regardless of color and race; Yelling here in virtually world wouldn’t help solve any problem.

Every observable fact she collected might be true, but the conclusion is so far off from the mean. If you flip a fair coin, you can get ANY ratio of one side if you choose to stop at a point that favors you. She is stretching the reality way too far. She has the logic, but she is not a good scientist because she lacks some fundamental principles of life. It’s opinions that led her to her conclusion.

Often it’s not biased, just facts from statistics and personal experiences. I think you are lucky that you or your family have never harassed by blacks. What if you, your parents, and your relatives have been harassed by blacks? You can do a random survey of 100 persons from Chinatown, and ask how many of them have been harassed by blacks, how many of them heard of someone in the community being robbed by blacks. Then go to any communities and ask 100 persons how many of them harassed by Asians. When you walk in the dark alone, will you be more caution when you see blacks? If not, try subway stations after 10pm. Do I think my black co-workers are incompetent? No. In fact, they are usually very smart people and I respect them. However, when it’s on the street, I will avoid them because of statistics and personal experiences.

Yes, there are legitimate racial discrimination, but the government can only enforce laws, not changing statistics and people’s perceptions. The black community has to be good citizens, and rebuild their reputation day by day. Harassing others and shouting “racists!” do not help.

Dear Eileen, I honestly believe the majority of first generation Chinese immigrations are NOT racists at all. On the contrary, they are often the victims of racism in words or violence by not only whites but also blacks. Like Your parents, I came here for my graduate students in 1994 and worked hard to become a college professor. My personal experiences or encounters with blacks are mixed at best. My first month’s income as a university cafeteria worker at $4.25 per hour was cheated by a black student, who strategically targeted me as a new international student on the campus. Under his half threat and half begging I cashed a check for him at a drive ATM. I reported it to university police but I didn’t get my money back. My roommate John was a nice and kind black young man. He only paid the landlord one month deposit and one month rent before he was evicted a year later and he regularly took my food from the shared refrigerator. At least he was honest about his “taking” my food. Well, in the years since my graduate studies, I have had more interactions with blacks. Black professors are highly professional and decent, but black students are more likely to feel entitled and privileged. As an intellectual I try to make sense of black community, which has been receiving preferential treatment since the civil rights act in education and employment. True, blacks are being discriminated against still, but so are Chinese Americans. Reverse discrimination is a fact. Second, I urge you to be in your parents shoes by studying Chinese culture values and try to understand why labeling your parents as racists is totally wrong. Let me give you some Chinese values:(1) hard work, working harder facing obstacles like Chinese high schoolers have to earn a much high score on SAT in order to be admitted into Yale (2) education, saving pennies and nickels to put kids to college (3) family, parents take responsibilities seriously (4) compliance with laws and rules by staying away from troubles such as drug, teens pregnancy; and (5) value fairness of skin or whiteness of skin. These five cultural values may define Chinese and run counter to other ethnic cultures (e.g. blacks or synchronize with other cultural groups (e.g., Latino, Protestant work ethics). These cultural differences may explain why Chinese Americans don’t agree with blacks on many issues, which doesn’t necessarily translate into racism. Finally, I hope you develop a balanced view of Chinese Americans and blacks and Latinos without being morally condescending toward your fellow Chinese. In conclusion, I admire your courage of speaking up and your passion for a just cause and your compassion for the weak and underprivileged, but at the same time I also hope you develop a sharper mind to dissect a complicated issue and make unique contributions towards the betterment of the well-being of the Chinese Americans community and the rest.

You are totally dishonest when you say you received outpouring support when so many Asian Americans are protesting against your claim.

It is exactly RACIST to accuse the Chinese community being racist, simply by the very definition of racism.

You spread misinformation, hatred, and discrimination against the Chinese community.
What a shame you are to the honorable Chinese community.

Hi Eileen, There are 43,615 Black/African American live in New Haven. Why don’t you move out of Yale Residential College, and live in Black/African American community for your junior/senior year, then you can speak for them with more first-hand information? — Sharlene

Miss Huang, if you stand with the black community, can you tell them to stop their violence and crime on Asian especially those Chinese in Chinatown or Chinese community??? I saw most of Chinese attacked by black through bunch of news. You can be a representative of Chinese community to express our community’s concern. It is nothing to do with discrimination.

“we are still treated as foreigners (by blacks). We’ve heard (black) people shout, “Go back to your country!” or “Ni hao!” to us on the streets. We’ve watched White (& black) secretaries and grocery store clerks mock our parents for their broken English. We’ve forgotten how to speak our mother tongues, since, as children, we were scolded for speaking it in school. We’ve listened to the racial slurs hurled at our families (by blacks): “chink,” “dogeater,” “gook.”