A Proud Moment for Myself
I've been more active on IG and following a ton of new people. AsianAmerican creators, underwater photographers, WOC travel bloggers, POC outdoors, etc. WHY? Because I am curating a support system that reminds me that I my voice is needed and I'm not alone in this journey to change the mainstream.
One day I decided to message a fellow IG shark lover who's making a documentary about shark finning in Indonesia. We are on the same page. Shark Finning needs to stop. I am an environmentalist too. I love the ocean and all the scary cool creatures in it.
However, I AM SO DAMN TIRED OF SEEING BROWN ASIANS BEING THE PICTURE OF BLAME.
May 25th After seeing a brown Asian girl next to a dead shark..... Here was my message to the storyteller: " I agree with your message. I'm an environmentalist, avid scuba diver, etc. This also happens to be one of my favorite sharks that I've never seen in the wild yet. On the other hand, can we talk about this photo? I feel like it shames low income brown skinned Asians, who as you imply do not have awareness about sharks.... I feel like low/middle income countires get a lot of blame/ shamed for doing the best they can with the resources they have."
Her response: " Hello I can understand why it maybe seem that way (even though you're the only person so far who got that impression from the photo) but it's clear to me you haven't seen any of my work or messages, or posts, because if you had you'd know I have more respect for the fishermen here than my own country. The awareness I'm referring to is for the first world people buying products from this trade...which is why I'm advertising tickets for a film in which that fishery is featured"
My response: " Sorry for seeming hostile or if it seems like I was attacking you. That was not my intention and was hoping to invite you into a conversation about southeast Asian countries an their citizens being misunderstood and blamed for the shark trade industry. Which we both agree started because of the demand from western countries.
I am probably the only person to say this because eco-colonialism is still an underresearched topic and not mainstream.
If the message you want to convery is targeted at westerners who buy the product, then I think a picture of people who buy the products or people having the products in their house as decoration would suffice rather than the same/over used/ typical Asian child to illustrate your message"
FAST FOWARD to June 7th. SHE GOT THE MESSAGE and posted about how fishers here in Indonesia. It's their livelihood, food, their ancestors' work, etc. A light bulb went off. (FINALLY) She also posted Americans in Florida taking a HUGE shark out of the ocean for entertainment.
She never replied to my last message, but she got the message.....that's all that matters.
THE POINT of all this:
I successfully planted a seed.
Someone on IG with over 100k followers which includes literally all the people I admire for their shark and conservation work (Sea Shepherd, PADI, Coral Triangle Center, Subadiver Life) has FINALLY understands. She has now realized that social justice and true representation of the problem needs to be shifted.
It's all too easy & inadequate to blame/showcase Southeast Asians as the problem for shark finning industry. BUT let's be real. We need to target the ones who are making thousands of dollars off of the basically slave labor of fishers.
People are now commenting and applauding her for her social justice attitude now. You're welcome my friend. You're welcome.
I may not be the one making a profound documentary, but I made the shift from targeting low-income brown skinned Asians.