Our Heroes are Black: The American Dream of an Outsider

I’m not American, but I’ve seen racism. It’s everywhere.

Racism in Asia is less talked about compared to the West, but it’s still prevalent here, albeit sometimes more subtle: The racism of Indonesian people towards Papuans, the prejudice against dark-skinned people in China, to the worshipping of light skin color in India and other parts of Asia.

In a lot of Asian countries, having a darker skin color means you from a lower societal status. You’re uneducated. If you are black, you are scary. You are dirty.

Ironically, one of the things that introduced us to the notion of diversity, that black people are just like us, is American culture.

Young people in a lot of developing countries see America as the beacon of culture. Sports, movies, music, it’s amazing how American culture has impacted my life and career. Hell, I’m writing this in American English.

For me, American culture was the headlights that illuminated my limited view of the world. It subtly tells me that it’s okay to be black, and black people can achieve anything in life. We saw examples of that too!

Michael Jordan, Kobe, Shaq, LeBron, Serena Williams, Aretha Franklin, Tupac, Alicia Keys, Michael Jackson, Dr. Dre, Jimi Hendrix, Denzel Washington, Chuck Berry, Prince.

We watched them flying on TV and listened to them shredding on the internet (or cassette tape, depends on how old you are). They made us understand a little bit more about black culture. They planted the seeds to eradicate the ignorance we unintentionally grew up with. They were our heroes.

Then I learned about racism in America.

I learned about the history of how black people have been vilified, victimized, and tyrannized for 400 years. The agonizing history of human slavery and the Civil War, the tale of times when it was unimaginable for people with different skin colors to share seats on buses, and the fight for freedom of colored people in the United States.

From there, I learned about other names and read about how they paved the way for the heroes aforementioned.

Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, Maya Angelou, Harriett Tubman, Angela Davis. I wish to learn more.

They are the giants that have fought and sacrificed their lives to fight injustice, unfairness, and oppression. They are the fighters who pave the way for black people to not only have the rights to sit in front of the bus, but also to be seen as equals in life, art, and the pursuit of happiness.

Then in these couple of years, I learned other names I wished I never knew.

God, I wished I never had to know their names. Not because I don’t want to care, but because I wished what happened to them, never happened.

Tamir Rice, Trayvon Martin, Philando Castile, Sandra Bland, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Botham Jean, Eric Garner, Freddie Gray, Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, and many others.

These are the names of our black friends who have fallen victim to systemized racism and brutal prejudice. The casualty of the exploding time-bomb of failure in education and empathy amongst the community. The stories in which happy endings are snatched away by a dreadful and gruesome plot twist, with a damning last line: “I can’t breathe.”

If you’re an American with a heart, no matter your race or political affiliations, I’m sure you’d agree that this is not exactly the America you want.

No, this is not a post about bashing America and how “America sucks! Everything is fucked!” – On the contrary, this is a statement of how I believe that America will come together in the end. This is a vote of confidence that America will work together to solve police brutality.

This is the American Dream of an outsider.

There’s a quote from Mr. Rogers that I’ll always remember:

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’”

Fred Rogers

In the world of 24-hours media where sensationalism and outrage are the core, you have to look a little harder.

Fortunately, there are still helpers everywhere.

If you can, strive to be one of the helpers. The world needs it more so than ever.

If you’re not an American and are not in the thick of it right now, there are other ways to contribute. If you have a black friend, reach out to them.

Donate to the cause. Make a statement on social media. Show your support.

Overall, I believe this is the first step of healing for America. I might be wrong, and there’s a huge chance that I am wrong. But I’m willing to put my faith in humanity, and how everyone will eventually come together for the right cause.

I’m willing to put my bet that America will get stronger, more united, and more understanding once they got to the other side. If this is a pipe dream, so be it. All I know is “abandon hope” is the message of villains.

I want to see a future where America keeps sharing the spirit of diversity. The idea that whatever your skin color is, you can be a hero.