This week during Lauren and I’s presentation, we were granted the opportunity to facilitate a discussion with three students from the Asia American Student Union. Not only did they share their experiences with their development of critical consciousness but their experiences with activism, their heritage and upbringing. I learned a great deal about the Asian American student union and more about the community as a whole. One thing that Niko said that stood out to me is that the Asian American Student Union stands in solidarity with the black community of Baltimore with its recent outbreak of riots and the death of Freddie Gray. Not only did I find this admirable but it made me also realize something that is easy to forget because of the lack of media coverage, but Asian Americans have also been targeted and murdered, like these young black boys, because they are of Asian decent. Niko also made a point of Anti-Blackness and this is not just limited to Black people but also Asian Americans which reinforces this notion of solidarity. We are all minorities, being targeted, for not being of the majority.
This presentation lead me to a TIME magazine article titled “Why Ferguson Should Matter to Asian Americans” and in this article, multiple examples of deaths of Asian Americans at the hands of White people and like Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown’s case, there was no justice.
Vincent Chin (above) was killed by a Chrysler plant superintendent and his stepson, both white, both uncharged in a racially-motivated murder in 1982
Kuanchang Kao was killed by police officers in 1997 who claimed they were “threatened by his martial art moves”
Fong Lee was shot to death in 2006 by police because they thought he was carrying a gun, he was not.
Cau Bich Tran was shot by police officers who believed she was holding a meat cleaver that turned out to be a vegetable peeler in 2003.
Just like Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, John Crawford, Emmet Till and Freddie Gray, these people of Asian descent were targeted because of their ethnicity as, “the other”, the problem. Lives taken based on the murderer’s ignorant fears of the hegemonic images reinforced by their mediums. The fear of the violent, villainous Asian who knows martial arts, the Black thug, the rapist who are the root of all society’s ills.
The article poses a great question, “While Ferguson captures the world’s attention, why do these Asian-American stories remain comparatively unknown?”
Before I continued reading the author’s first answer popped into my head, the “model minority myth.” The rise and success of Asian Americans served the hegemonic purpose of disproving racism as a problem within society and used Asian Americans to condescend Black’s fight for equality against the racist systems oppression. But in the midst of doing so, Asian Americans were themselves living the same experiences of a racist system who put them on a pedestal and knocked them off when it got good and ready.
Asian Americans were aware of this and many of them worked alongside Blacks during the civil rights movement. Japanese-American activist Yuri Kochiyama worked alongside Malcolm X, W.E.B. DuBois urged Blacks to support the 1920s Indian anti-colonial resistance, which he felt was similar to whites’ oppression of blacks.
“This stuff is what I call M.I.H. — missing in history…nfortunately, we have generations growing up thinking there’s no connection [between African-Americans and Asian-Americans]. These things are there, all the linkages of struggles that have been fought together.”- Helen Zia (below) an Asian-American historian and activist
As the article outlines, both Blacks and Asians have experienced racism and discrimination in varying degrees. As history shows, Afro-Asian ties run deep, even deeper then the examples listed. It is important to remember that both ethnic groups are still struggling to overcome barriers of living in a racist society. The solidarity is needed as each group fights for equality and justice because they both are oppressed. If both groups stand and fight together they can be powerful. The fact that this younger generation of Asian Americans of the Asian American Student Union are taking this stance in solidarity will not only motivate others and set an example but is critical in their activism and development of critical consciousness. They are aware of their past, present and future. They understand the parallels in the histories of the two groups, the parallels of their current situations and possibilities for the future. Moreover, they understand the system’s use of the model minority myth to divide the groups and create dissonance among the two to prevent them from prevailing together and they have made a choice to rebel and not conform to that mold.
1. Linshi, Jack (2014). Why ferguson should matter to asian-americans.