A reading of the original English version of the Letters for Black Lives. Written and edited by the Letters For Black Lives Team. Read by Jerry Won of Dear Asian Americans.
Transcript of the letter below and also available at:
Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie, Grandfather, Grandmother, Family:
We need to talk.
You may not have many Black friends, colleagues, or acquaintances, but I do. Black people are a fundamental part of my life: they are my friends, my neighbors, my family. I am scared for them.
Recently, in Minnesota, a white police officer killed a Black man named George Floyd by kneeling on his neck for almost 9 minutes—ignoring his repeated cries that he was unable to breathe. Two more police officers helped pin Floyd down, while a fourth, Asian officer stood guard and didn't intervene. Floyd is not alone: Already this year, police officers killed Dreasjon Reed in Indiana and Tony McDade in Florida in May, and Breonna Taylor in Kentucky in March. An ex-detective killed Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia in February.
Overwhelmingly, the police haven’t faced consequences for murdering Black people, even when there’s been extensive media coverage. Imagine how many more incidents go unrecorded or unseen.
This is a terrifying reality that the Black people I care about live with every day.
You might be thinking: We are also a minority. We’ve managed to come to America with nothing and built good lives for ourselves despite discrimination, so why can’t they?
I want to share with you how I see things. I am telling you this out of love, because I want all of us, including myself, to do better.
For the most part, when we walk down the street, people do not view us as a threat. We do not leave our homes, wondering whether or not we will return that day. We don't fear that we may die if we're pulled over by the police.
This is not the case for our Black friends.
The vast majority of Black Americans are descendants of people who were sold into slavery and brought here against their will. For centuries, their communities, families, and bodies were abused as property for profit. Even after slavery, the government has not allowed them to build their lives—it has legally denied them the right to vote, get an education, or own homes and businesses. These inequalities are enforced by police and prisons—which can be directly traced back to white slave patrols and plantations. Black people are under a constant threat of violence that continues today. Their oppression has not ended; it has only changed form.
Black people have not only persisted but also persevered against all odds. They’ve been beaten by police, jailed, and killed while fighting for many of the rights that we all enjoy today. Even in an unfair system that pits us against each other, Black organizers helped to end unfair immigration laws and racial segregation for us all.
Though there has been progress, this unfair system is still winning. Throughout these hundreds of years, our government is still killing Black people and getting away with it.
I understand that you’re worried and scared about the looting and property destruction that you are seeing. But imagine how hurt you would be to see other people express more care for replaceable material objects than for the lives of your loved ones. How hurt you must be to protest like this in the middle of a pandemic. Imagine the exhaustion of fighting against the same state violence that your ancestors fought against.
This is why I support the Black Lives Matter movement.
Part of that support means speaking up when I see people in my community—even my own family—say or do things that diminish the humanity of Black people. Our silence has a cost and we need to talk about it.
I am eternally grateful for the struggles you have endured in a country that has not always been kind to you. We have been blamed for bringing poverty, disease, terrorism, and crime. You’ve suffered through a prejudiced America so that I could have a better life.
But these struggles also make it clearer than ever that we are all in this together, and we cannot feel safe until our Black friends, loved ones, and neighbors are safe. The world that we seek is a place where we can all live without fear. This is the future that I want—and I hope you want it, too.
With love and hope,