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Lisa Ling and Jada Pinkett Smith talk 'animosity' between Black and Asian Americans

The two women addressed the friction between Black and Asian communities on the latest "Red Table Talk."
/ Source: TODAY

During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, TODAY is sharing the community’s history, pain, joy and what’s next for the AAPI movement. We will be publishing personal essays, stories, videos and specials throughout the entire month of May.

Lisa Ling and Jada Pinkett Smith are addressing the "animosity" between Black and Asian Americans on the latest episode of Facebook Watch's "Red Table Talk."

Ling, an award-winning journalist, and her fellow guests, renowned scholar Michael Eric Dyson and author Min Jin Lee, joined Pinkett Smith and her co-hosts, Willow Smith and Adrienne Banfield-Norris, for a candid conversation about the longstanding tensions between the two communities.

The group began by acknowledging that immigrants arriving in the U.S. quickly learn about the country's racial hierarchy. "They recognize this structure where whites are at the top and Blacks are at the bottom," said Ling.

"But everyone is being dehumanized because everyone is trying to rise up that ladder," she added.

Dyson, who writes frequently about Black history and Black culture, said Black people know acutely how terrible it feels to be "injured" by racism. "Which means we should be especially careful not to reproduce that same hurt to other groups," said the scholar.

Lisa Ling, Jada Pinkett Smith on "Red Table Talk"
Lisa Ling and Michael Eric Dyson joined the ladies of "Red Table Talk" to discuss the longstanding "animosity" between Asian and Black Americans.Red Table Talk

Ling pointed out that neither Black nor Asian Americans gain from discord between their communities.

Dyson agreed, adding that such negativity only plays into the hands of white supremacists.

"For Black people to be demonizing Asian brothers and sisters with the ‘Wuhan Flu,’ the ‘Chinese Flu,’ who wins? White supremacists. So it pits us against each other," he said.

Smith chimed in to add that "pitting minorities against each other" is one sure way for white racists to achieve "domination."

The program kicked off by acknowledging the shocking surge in anti-Asian violence in the U.S. since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.

Ling later opened up about how the rise in hatred against Asians has affected her and her family.

"I have been teased and been on the receiving end of aggressions my whole life," Ling told the others at the table. "But over the last year, the level of vitriol and just the hatred that is expressed has been really unnerving — even people wishing harm on my own children because we brought the coronavirus to this country."

Even worse was that "so many of our Asian elders and mothers and children are being attacked so senselessly for no reason," she added.

Pinkett Smith told the group that "Red Table Talk" reached out to Black and Asian American viewers, who talked openly about why their communities don't get along.

One Black viewer, speaking in a pre-recorded selfie video, shared her negative opinion of Asian Americans, who, she said, were racist and rude. Why should she care about violence against Asians, she asked, when Asians don't care about the struggles of Black Americans?

Dyson said the viewer spoke honestly and probably had experienced negative interactions with individual Asian Americans. But he lamented that she had stooped to stereotyping an entire community.

"I would say this to Black people: When we say this (about Asian Americans), white folk been saying that forever about us," said Dyson, who then listed off a litany of stereotypes about Black people.

"I understand your pain," he added, "but don't draw conclusions based on your limited sample size because white folk have been doing that forever. Jim Crow is based on that. White supremacy is based on that."

The group later talked about it being everyone's responsibility to get to know people of other races — and to stop believing stereotypes.

"If you want an Asian person to speak to you, have you ever spoken to them?" asked Dyson.

"I would say the same thing to Asian people who have a myopic view of Black people," Ling said, adding, "I do think it's incumbent upon all of us."