Red Table Talk has built its name as a platform unafraid to tackle tough conversations. This week, actress Jada Pinkett Smith, her multi-talented daughter Willow Smith, family matriarch Adrienne Banfield-Norris delved into what’s at the heart of the tension between Black and Asian American communities on the Facebook Watch show. 

The RTT hosts welcomed journalist Lisa Ling and activist and educator Michael Eric Dyson to the table for their insight.

“Often when immigrants from Asia come to this country with nothing, they have this aspiration of being able to achieve some semblance of the American Dream. And what does that look like? It looks white,” Ling said.

Dyson, a professor at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, expressed that a function of white superiority is pitting ethnicities against each other to compete for social standing. Whites remain atop the hierarchy, while Blacks are looked down upon as the lowest on the totem pole, he said.

In 1991, tensions between the two communities flared in California after 15-year-old Latasha Harlins was gunned down by liquor store owner Soon Ja Du, Blavity previously reported. Harlins’ killing, as well as the release of the video recording of the Rodney King assault, gave way to the LA riots.

“Black people have a right to feel hurt and injured by the fact that everywhere in this world to be darker is to be dehumanized,” Dyson began. “Which means we should be especially careful not to reproduce that same hurt to other groups.”

Both of the guests agreed that it was counterproductive for the two communities to be at odds with one another, especially in the midst of a pandemic and among such strenuous levels of social unrest.

“For Black people to be demonizing Asian brothers and sisters with the Wuhan flu, the Chinese flu, who wins? White supremacists,” Dyson said.

Asian American hate crimes in 16 of the nation’s largest cities increased by 145% in 2020, according to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

After a trying year of animus toward the Asian American community, the 47-year-old journalist said she is fed up with the oppressive treatment which has included harrowing assaults on elderly citizens. Ling said she's experienced discrimination as well, with people cursing her children. 

“I have been teased and been on the receiving end of aggressions my entire life, 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,” Ling lamented.

Despite the cultural differences that may divide us, Jada reminded viewers that the key to progress is bigger than having others reciprocate your allyship. It’s about doing the right thing and setting an example.

“I think one of the biggest misconceptions that we have in this fight as a whole is that it's about this reciprocity situation,” she said. “Of course we want to feel as though there’s some kind of an exchange, but at the end of the day what we can’t allow is hate of any kind to exist."

Watch the full episode here