Family conversations: Call On Me, Not the Cops

We’re living during a historic moment of uprisings to end police violence. Black leaders and organizers put a call out for all of us to have conversations about anti-Blackness and police violence with our families and loved ones.

This is one action that we can take that will literally save Black lives. As Asian Americans, we’re being asked to show up and that’s why we wrote this pledge to stop calling the police.

  • Over 2,000 people have signed our Asians for Black Lives Means: Do Not Call the Police pledge.
  • Over 150 people have signed our Call on Me, Not the Cops letter.
  • With community support, 8 letters and counting have been translated into Chinese (Traditional + Simplified), Japanese, Spanish, Tagalog, Urdu, and Vietnamese.
  • Over 32 translators have helped us translate our “Call On Me, Not the Cops” letter to make it accessible in multiple languages.

Our letter “Call On Me, Not the Cops” is not one-size fits all. We appreciate the thought and creativity that Asian Americans from many different backgrounds have put into sharing this message with their loved ones. We’ve seen this as working with parents to translate the letter together to thinking about how they can best connect the context of what’s happening right now with their families’ lived experiences.

Here are a couple of our personal reflections about having this conversation with our own families:

A screen capture of an iPhone screen with the sentence 'Have the cops ever been helpful to you?' translated into Cantonese

Laura – My parents are Chinese immigrants who own a family-run Chinese restaurant after many years of working in other people’s kitchens. It’s really hard for me to speak to my parents about anything, but especially when I don’t know the words in Cantonese. When I spoke to my mom about not calling the cops, I used the Microsoft Translator app. I started by writing “Have the cops ever been helpful to you?” and put the app on speaker to translate for me. My mom said that she never calls the cops because they don’t do anything and they don’t speak Chinese. We talked about how in the past when the restaurant was broken into or vandalized, they filed police reports for insurance and how uncomfortable the process was for them.

My family doesn’t trust the cops because of a language barrier. Imagine if my mom could call someone that actually spoke her language and wanted to help her. Now I share how other immigrants and Black people do not trust the cops and I’m slowly working with my parents to become open about what they can do besides calling the cops should they need help.

A scan of an older color photograph. A white man, a Filipina woman, and a child in between them pose in front of the Golden Gate Bridge, partially obscured by fog.

Turner – I’m mixed race with a Filipina immigrant mom and a white dad. I know I’m not the only Asian American with a white parent or parents. Many of us are mixed race, are adoptees in white families, or have white guardians, step parents, or chosen family. Talking to our white family members about policing can be especially difficult work. For myself, I’ve taken on that responsibility in solidarity with BLM. I know that my proximity to whiteness allows me to be heard over others who are Black, or darker-skinned, or not mixed with white.

Here’s one strategy I’ve used to talk about the recent uprisings:

Like many blue collar workers, my parents have experienced accountability in their jobs that police never face. I asked my parents, “Derek Chauvin, the officer who killed George Floyd, had received 17 complaints against him. Would you still have a job if you had this many complaints?” My mom exclaimed “No way! I wouldn’t have a job anymore.” As a nursing assistant, my mom’s employment is dependent on her ability to keep people safe. By comparing police accountability to their own experiences, I was able to show how unfair and unjust it is that police can commit violence for years without facing repercussions.

It’s never too late to talk to your families about anti-Blackness and policing. Use our letter as a resource to have your own unique conversations and make change.

Image credit: Original image designed by shirien. Follow @shirien.creates on Instagram.

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