As an Indian-American woman who finds it important to regularly talk about the impact of race in our daily lives, Baltimore City fits me well. Yet, in a city where race pervades all discussions about improving Baltimore, when will Asian and Latino voices be welcomed into the fold? When provided space, our voices are relegated to “special forums,” perpetuating the foreignness of Asian and Latino experiences.
Baltimore racial talk traditionally focuses on black/white interactions, which is a necessity to understand this city, but we are becoming increasingly diverse. We need to reconfigure how we discuss race to make the dynamic impact on our local systems and policies that we seek. For example, while 41% of patients served at Johns Hopkins Hospital identify as black, almost 12% of faculty and 28% of students at John Hopkins School of Medicine identify as Asian or Pacific Islander (i.e. Indian, Chinese, Filipino, and numerous other API identities). With such a large proportion of non-black or white faces managing the care of our community, we should acknowledge the relative privilege we each bring to vulnerable spaces, such as hospitals.
My audacious idea is for us as neighbors and social justice advocates to not only welcome, but actively engage non-black or white faces into our discussions about race. The best way for us to truly understand the legacy of slavery in current social policies is to add the voices of immigrants, refugees, and other non-black or white Americans to our racial conversations. This will require every individual of every shade to be inclusive about the language used when discussing privilege and disparity; reach out to all communities of color as neighbors; and acknowledge that the traditional black/white dichotomy restricts us from actualizing our social justice goals.