Asian & Black Solidarity: Our Tied History for Liberation

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By Anissa Durham | Contributing Writer

Hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community are disgusting, unacceptable and morally wrong. Those in the AAPI community have endured a long history of racist attacks, microaggressions and hate crimes.

These experiences are all too common in communities of color.

There are roughly 18 million AAPI adult residents in the United States, last year due to the onset of COVID-19 there has been an uptick in hate crimes. According to recent reports, 12 percent of Asian Americans and 10 percent of Pacific Islanders have experienced hate incidents.

A month ago, a 21-year-old white man shot and killed 6 Asian women and 2 others in a mass shooting in Atlanta, Georgia. This has left the community reeling for answers and demanding racist hate crimes be taken more seriously. While there has been a national outcry of support towards the Asian Americans and Pacific Islander community, some have called on the Black community to speak up.

Last year, after numerous unarmed Black men and women were killed by police, the Black Lives Matter movement ignited with global support. Some in the AAPI community have expressed concerns for similar support, specifically saying the Black community is not doing enough to voice support.

Taking a brief look at history shows just how much the Black community has supported the AAPI community.

In 1868 the 14th Amendment was adopted and guaranteed citizenship to those born or naturalized in the US, granting millions of Black Americans and people of color citizenship. But,

The Chinese Exclusion Act banned Chinese residents from obtaining US citizenship and prohibited Chinese labor migration to the US. Frederick Douglass an abolitionist, writer and formerly enslaved man openly argued for Chinese immigrants to be granted citizenship in 1882.

The fight for the liberation of Black Americans and Asian Americans has almost always been tied together.

In 1899 when the Philippine-American War began, prominent Black leaders supported the Philippine independence. Ida B. Wells and Bishop Henry M. Turner called American colonialism “an unholy war of conquest.”

Black American civil rights leaders, activists and social reformers were often the first to question whether President Truman’s decision to bomb Hiroshima was rooted in white supremacy rather than military necessity.

Malcolm X, a civil rights leader and Yuri Kochiyama, a civil rights activist met in 1963. Their unlikely friendship blossomed into mutual support for Hiroshima atomic bomb survivors and the Black liberation movement. In the book, “Want to Start a Revolution?: Radical Women in the Black Freedom Struggle” Malcolm X addressed survivors of Hiroshima at Yuri Kochiyama’s house.

Photo by Leandro Valentino from Pexels

 

“You were bombed and have physical scars. We too have been bombed and you saw some of the scars in our neighborhood. We are constantly hit by the bombs of racism — which are just as devastating.”

 

 

 

 

In the last few months, anti-Asian violence is gaining national attention, however, this has also perpetuated anti-Black sentiments. Some of the perpetrators of anti-Asian violence have appeared to be Black, thus reducing hate crimes against the AAPI community to Black-Asian conflict.

Latasha Harlins was shot and killed by Korean-born store owner Soon Ja Du, at Empire Liquor in South Central Los Angeles on March 16, 1991. Two weeks prior to her death, four Los Angeles Police Department officers savagely beat Rodney King, they were later acquitted in 1992. The acquittal among many other violent crimes spilled over into the LA riots in 1992, often coined as Black-Asian conflict and/or a Black-Korean conflict.

The truth is, this misconception and infighting between the AAPI and the Black community are rooted in white supremacist behaviors and ideologies. Anti-Asianness and Anti-Blackness are always rooted in white supremacy, regardless of what race you are. The disconnect between both communities has formed as a result of the way conflict and violence are often highlighted first in the media.

Blaming Asian Americans for causing COVID-19 is subscribing to a white supremacist ideology that “others”/immigrants introduce, carry and spread disease in the US. On the other hand, blaming Black people as a whole for anti-Asian hate crimes is subscribing to the white supremacist narrative that Black people are inherently aggressive.

Social media has played an important role in the conversations surrounding support and solidarity for both the AAPI and Black community. But, some Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders feel the Black community should be speaking up even more, on their behalf. When the Black Lives Matter movement erupted in 2020, many in the AAPI community stood in support and solidarity for Black people. The inverse is true today.

After dozens of protests and marches in support of the AAPI community and denouncing hate crimes against them, many Black Americans have stood right there with them. The Black and AAPI community share similar experiences of racism, imperialism, economic exploitation, microaggressions, hate crimes and colorism.

Vilifying Black people for not “doing more” is only perpetuating the existing divisions that have been created as a result of white supremacy. Communities of color can continue to uplift, support and stand in solidarity with each other. Continuing the oppression olympics between people of color does not get us any further in dismantling white supremacist behaviors, attitudes and actions.

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