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In terms of the Black Lives Matter movement with George Floyd and Breonna Taylor (along with many more) last summer, performative activism was on the rise. Included in this performative activism is the term boba liberalism. What exactly does this mean?

According to The Quad, boba liberalism refers to “Asian Americans who identify as liberal, but who do so in a performative manner that values adjacency to whiteness rather than authentic solidarity toward their ethnic origins.” As of now, a lot of boba liberalism is incredibly anti-Black, especially now with the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans. Instead of solidarity, we have a lot of Asian Americans focusing on the hate crimes being committed by Black people, but they also ignore the amount of Asians who attended the resurrection at the Capitol. They choose to ignore Black people’s problems but are posting about Asian American hate crimes since it is now trending (and trendy).

Redmond said that boba liberalism is “just empty calories; all sugar, no substance.” It is a surface-level approach in terms of activism. Boba liberals are proud of being Asian and participate in the culture, but stay silent when it comes to speaking about issues that do not benefit them.

Some common trends of boba liberals are:

  1. Subscribing to ideologies of white, American liberalism
  2. Highlighting your own ‘Asianness’ to feel credible when speaking on behalf of all Asians (even though the Asian American experience is incredibly diverse and it varies)
  3. Depending on capitalist consumables (like boba itself) to signify your own ‘Asianness.”

Boba liberalism also falls into the category when speaking about the model minority myth. Thus, this term holds up the culture of anti-Blackness in the Asian community. Boba liberals do not really make any deep connection to politics or deeper social issues unless it has to do with them. For instance, the recent attack in Philadelphia resulted in many anti-Black comments, such as “BLM right?” It is frustrating to see how anti-Black Asian American people can be, especially when it comes to how boba liberalism is basically benefiting white people. 

While a lot of topics in boba liberalism are important to discuss (ex: fox eye trend, Asian representation in media, cultural appropriation), this performative activism is incredibly exclusive. Yes, anti-racism should also include Asian lives, but it becomes a problem when you also rely on Black people to do the heavy lifting. When Asian Americans are complaining that Black people are not helping them during the recent surge of hate crimes, it is racist. Not to mention that these incidents have been happening since before quarantine in the United States, but Asian Americans were not speaking about it before. Now that it’s trendy, they expect others to help them when they have stayed silent for so long.

Diane Nguyen

Drexel '21

Diane Nguyen is a Drexel University senior from Boston, Massachusetts. As a Global Studies major and Criminal Justice and Chinese double-minor, she is interested in human rights, specifically immigration and environmental law. She also hopes to volunteer for the Peace Corps and be a part of a nonprofit organization that helps child sex trafficking victims recover from their trauma.
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