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Asian American Center and Carolina Asia Center host event on improving race relations

<p>Screenshot from “Anti-Blackness and Alliance: A Series on Asian-Black Race Relations”, a year-long series co-hosted by the Asian American Center and Carolina Asia Center on Tuesday, March 31, 2021.</p>
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Screenshot from “Anti-Blackness and Alliance: A Series on Asian-Black Race Relations”, a year-long series co-hosted by the Asian American Center and Carolina Asia Center on Tuesday, March 31, 2021.

The Asian American Center and Carolina Asia Center co-presented their most recent event of a yearlong series called “Anti-Blackness and Alliance: A Series on Asian-Black Race Relations” on March 31.

Ji-Yeon Jo, director of the Carolina Asia Center, said she hopes this series can help create a space for showing solidarity, countering racial injustice and violence and improving racial relations in the country.

The AAC intends to introduce a wide variety of speakers, academics and activists in this series to discuss the complex interracial connections and discourse between Asian American and Black communities, according to their website.

Nitasha Sharma, who hosted the event, is the director of graduate studies in the department of African American studies at Northwestern University. At the event, Sharma encouraged the responsibility that Asian Americans have in being active participants in racial discourse, through both education and the acknowledgment of problems of complicity.

“Whatever our conglomeration of identities are in our access to privilege and lack of privilege — whatever it is — circumscribes our ability to navigate institutions and what institutions are there for you,” Sharma said. 

Sharma covered three main points before opening the discussion to the audience:

  • Responsibility and accountability of Asian Americans in thinking about and being participants in racial discourse in the United States
  • The positions of Asian Americans in the economic, political and cultural spheres of the nation
  • How the positions of Asian Americans in the nation’s spheres are informed by a global approach

Sharma then posed questions to the audience, such as, “How do you understand the racial positions of Asians in the U.S.?”

After asking questions, Sharma spoke on the position of Asian Americans in racial discussions, which is based on a hierarchical system or left out of these discussions entirely. 

“One thing that makes my perspective a little different is that there are no innocent subjects,” she said. “Everybody is accountable, and that's why I don't only shame or berate or chastise Asian Americans for our lack of political engagement with issues of race and racism.” 

Sharma ended the discussion by speaking on educating and informing more people on systemic racial issues. With proper education, she said she hopes fewer Asian Americans will feel guilty due to lacking awareness. 

“I don't want us to come from a place of guilt,” she said. “I think coming from a place of unknowing is good because we should all be students, but guilt is not always generative.” 

This event is a part of an ongoing series co-presented by the AAC and the Carolina Asian Center. You can find more information about the event series here.

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