Model Minority Retort

TW: racial violence. Please care for yourself the best way you know how.


In 1492/

Columbus sailed the ocean blue. /

But remember in 1521/

So did Magellan/

I write this now as an act of allyship with our beloved Indigenous community who are standing tall with the Standing Rock tribe.

First, an acknowledgement. No, I don’t mean the usual land acknowledgement done before an arts event where a spokesperson stands onstage, acknowledges the original stewards of the land on which the arts event will take place, then not truly include the work of Indigenous people. This post begins, as does each day that dawns for me in my journey as an ally, with my acknowledgement of my privilege.

I acknowledge the Indigenous culture from which I was born.

I acknowledge the practices and cultural beliefs of the 110 different tribes that originate in the Philippines.

I acknowledge my being part of the majority of Filipinos who were afforded great privilege in this world by becoming part of the Christian supremacy.

I acknowledge the numerous forms in which this privilege allows me to eat, to be housed, to be considered and uplifted in ways other Indigenous communities around the world will never experience.

I am part of the model minority.

This means that while the media will paint us as resilient people while being drowned in yet another typhoon, the same media will depict a tribe on a Canadian Indigenous reservation as clueless and weak while being systematically poisoned by their water.

I am writing this to my fellow ‘model minorities’ to shake off the yoke of the bystander.

The ‘smart’ Chinese accountant.
The ‘economical’ Pakistani entrepreneur.
The ‘hard working’ Filipina caregiver.
The ‘cooperative’ Latino banker.

I ask you to learn well the fact that Indigenous communities, including those in the Philippines are being aggressively displaced due to mining interests by countries such as Canada. This displacement and the environmental fallout from these mining expeditions contribute to the widespread devastation of these so-called ‘natural disasters.’

What we are seeing at Standing Rock is connected to our very experiences as brown people: our collective diaspora, our separation and displacement from our own families.

Being labeled as model minorities allows us to not be the white guys in the sheets burning crosses, it keeps us safe from being the Black person being lynched, but we end up being the assholes who stitch and launder those sheets after the deed is done.

So rather than give the usual empty land acknowledgment, I am asking you take action.

Learn well all the ways in which water is used as a tool for genocide against brown and Black people.

Speak up when you hear racist bullshit. Bigots need to be called out from all sides, both from white and brown allies.

Write your MP to take action to give Indigenous communities the drinkable water they deserve.

Learn how you can support Indigenous people taking radical action against future environmental disasters such as the Dakota Access Pipeline in the States and the dirty tar sands in Canada.

Remember it was the water that delivered the disaster of colonization.
It is the water that is dividing us from our families.
It is the absence of water that will kill us.
It is the uncontrolled water that will drown us.
But, with the help of you, fellow ally, it is the water that will connect us in solidarity against genocide.

Learn more here and here.


You ask me why I do not stand for the national anthem.
And my answer is
Because brown and Black people are on their knees, begging please, Canadian flags at their feet
Because the colour has been raped off of our skin to a polite beige
You ask me why I do not sing Oh Canada!
And my answer is
Because I am too busy crying Oh Zambia! Oh Peru! Oh Chile! Oh Philippines!
Oh countries that would speak for themselves if it weren’t for Canada’s dick in their mouth in search of minerals
In search of brown women to care for their elderly
In search of young children to buy
In search of OFWs who will praise our nation for dry land to stand on, when it was Canada who flooded their village in the first place.
Because our police would rather send a bullet through the chest of a Black person than allow Indigenous women to walk safely
Because over 100 Attawapiskat people in one year chose death
over a contaminated glass of water
$28 heads of cabbage
Over another night in a broken shack
Because the diaspora rips my tongue in two
Because brown women are rocking white babies to sleep
Because brown babies’ faces are being eaten away by dirty water
This water dirty with the fake tears of our Prime Minister.

Catherine Hernandez

Catherine Hernandez is playwright, performer and award-winning author. She is the author of M is for Mustache: A Pride ABC Book (Flamingo Rampant) and Scarborough (Arsenal Pulp Press). She is the Artistic Director of b current performing arts.

Read all posts by Catherine Hernandez

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