Ignorance is privilege

Dear Portland community,

We take this moment to acknowledge the one-year anniversary of George Floyd’s tragic death in Minneapolis, Minnesota. A long, tireless year later, we heard the verdict of the three-count conviction of Derek Chauvin, the White male police officer who knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes and ignored his repeated cries for help. Our hearts go out to the families of George Floyd, as well as Kendra James, Aaron Campbell, Quanice Hayes, Patrick Kimmons — and countless other Black victims’ families who grieve the loss of a loved one at the hands of police brutality.

We also cannot ignore the increase of anti-Asian sentiment and the violent assaults happening throughout the country. Earlier this year, six Asian female spa employees (among eight total victims) were murdered in a hate crime shooting in Atlanta, Georgia by a White male gunman. We grieve deeply for the families of Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, and Yong Ae Yue. Among many Asian-Americans, I continue to live in fear at the continued assaults on our elders and vulnerable citizens. 

In 2020, there were 217 race-related bias crimes reported in Multnomah County, Oregon. Out of the 217 reported victims, 126 were Black, 42 Asian and 18 Latinx. As of March 2021, reports of bias incidents and hate crimes have spiked 366% in Oregon this year, in part because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Multnomah County bias crime report

As of March 2021 – Source: Oregon Department of Justice

  • Race-related reports: 217
  • Black victims: 126
  • Asian victims: 42
  • Latinx victims: 18

It should not be glossed over that hatred, harm and grief persists on a global-scale. As I write this, forced and violent acts of ethnic displacement have resulted from the Israel-Palestine conflict

Addressing privilege and presence of microaggressions

If the combination of all this news seems stressful and complicated, that’s because it is stressful and complicated. Privilege isn’t just about economics. It may be easy and a privilege for some to be able to tune out the loud voices of outrage and protest, while others (particularly those belonging to BIPOC communities) continue to experience frequent acts of violence and societal injustice as a living reality. I urge you NOT to tune out. There are layers of ancestral trauma that exists across all non-White culture that you may not fully understand. DO the act of listening. Ignorance is NOT bliss; ignorance is privilege. 

There is ignorance in believing that racism is not all around us. Racism has been steeped into American culture for so long now that it’s not always so obvious or apparent. In fact, racism often shows up subconsciously in the form of microaggressions. Microaggressions are defined as the everyday, subtle, intentional — and oftentimes unintentional — interactions or behaviors that communicate some sort of bias toward historically marginalized groups. 

I ask you to reflect on your personal experience with racial microaggressions. How and when have racial microaggressions shown up in your life? Are you in the role of the perpetrator, the receiver, the observer or the audience? As the late Black American psychiatrist and educator, Dr. Chester Pierce wrote, “…one must not look for the gross and obvious. The subtle, cumulative mini-assault is the substance of today’s racism.”

“…one must not look for the gross and obvious. The subtle, cumulative mini-assault is the substance of today’s racism.”

Dr. Chester Pierce

Headlines in news and media continue to call attention to the injustices that continue to happen to Black, brown, indigenous, and AAPI communities. Many people are starting to pay attention (a.k.a. being “woke”). We’ve started to become aware of methods in which we can show our solidarity to communities of color, such as protesting with organizations like Black Lives Matter, consciously supporting Asian-owned restaurants, or educating ourselves through historical reading or content that teaches empathetic principles, like how to be “antiracist.” We encourage you to bookmark our Community Resources page and share it with people who may be experiencing racial battle fatigue and could find benefit from these resources.

White supremacy in nonprofit associations 

As a local 30-year old chapter of an over-100-year old arts organization, we acknowledge that AIGA Portland was built upon systems of dominant culture and White supremacy. For example, a commonly used method of voting and decision-making among many nonprofits is Robert’s Rule of Order, a protocol that dates back to before the Civil War.

Roberts Rules in a nutshell: when someone wants to propose a decision, they make a “motion”. Someone else must second that motion. Then the facilitator calls the vote. The motion, the person who presented it, the person who seconded it and the total numbers of votes: yes, no, and abstain, are all recorded. 

This can be a problematic method for making decisions, especially with organizations that claim to serve communities of color, yet lack the actual representation of those communities among its decision-makers. However, simply acknowledging this is NOT action. 

A message for leaders in agencies, business and organizations

I urge you to have difficult conversations among your team. Diversify and bring people of the non-dominant culture, age, gender and race into the conversation and decision-making process. Evaluate how to approach the organizational operations and processes in a manner that is an equitable, welcoming and inclusive safe space for Black, Indigenous and People of Color. The work must be done within and the work should have no expiration date.

In solidarity,

Monica Mo
President | AIGA Portland

About Monica Mo

Monica Mo is a Taiwanese-American multi-disciplinary creative, educator, and President of the AIGA Portland chapter. She is a critical thinker who has a passion for crafting experiences that leave lasting impacts on the user, audience, and community. She brings these characteristics into her leadership role on the AIGA Portland Executive Board. Prior to this role, Monica led strategic planning for the chapter as Vice President, and served three years as Programming Director, producing events such as Career Tools, Design Week Portland, dMob (Design Mob), and much more. Monica is an Assistant Professor, teaching part-time in the Graphic Design program at the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Throughout her career, she has worked alongside a multitude of clients and companies such as Adidas, Downstream, Liquid Agency, Nike, Second Story, Skylight Collective, Swift, Pentagram, and much more.

Graphic designed by Brandon Waybright.
Redaction is a typeface inspired by The Redaction by Titus Kaphar and Reginald Dwayne Betts.

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