As a team of people of color in the climate movement, the ClimatePlan team is conscious of how race and ethnicity impact our work. Often, during team meetings, we find ourselves discussing how to handle microaggressions or how it feels to be the only POC in the room. After the recent comments from some LA City Council members, we felt obligated to say something but were exasperated that we had to. We settled on giving each team member space to share their personal experience about subtle and not-so-subtle ways our identities are challenged in the climate movement. We invite you to read this series with an open mind and open heart
My identity has been challenged in the climate movement, but it's not from overt racist interactions or microaggressive reactions. The challenge has been internally dismantling the model minority myth and preventing that from affecting my advocacy work.
For those unfamiliar with the model minority myth, it highlights the perceived success of some East Asian Americans to minimize and erase systemic racism. The idea is that if East Asian Americans can succeed, then racism doesn’t exist. This myth also hurts East Asian Americans because it can obscure racism toward them. For some time, I fed into the model minority myth, but I realized it was hurting me. I felt the need to disconnect myself from my Taiwanese identity. This was used as a defense mechanism to prove that my family and I belonged here and to avoid dealing with racist comments or weird looks temporarily. To avoid being seen as Taiwanese, I would micromanage every action in public so my family wouldn't draw too much attention. I would avoid speaking Chinese and Taiwanese and do everything I could not to cause trouble. But all of these actions have created loneliness and sadness. I have been working on connecting myself back with my identity and unlearning the ideas that come from the myth.
I don't know what it would look like for me to show up in advocacy with my Taiwanese identity. I envision finding a balance between centering more community voices and academic literature. While academic literature and scientific data are necessary, research needs to provide the same credibility to community residents who are experts on the problems they face.
I look forward to the day when I can talk to Taiwanese immigrants about how they see climate change affecting them. I want my identity and my work to be synergistic.
As someone who fell into the trap of the model minority myth, I felt the only way to protect myself was to disconnect myself from the Taiwanese American and Asian American communities. With my advocacy work at ClimatePlan, I need to ensure I don’t fall into the trap of disconnecting community voices from my work. I’m working on unlearning the ideas from the model minority myth and will continue combatting my instincts to stay small and keep quiet to advocate for what’s important.
In 2023, ClimatePlan will also work with our network members to create principles for an anti-racist climate movement. Please stay tuned.