Dear Fellow Asian Americans: Speaking Out
Chloe Sow (United States)
Dear Fellow Asian Americans,
In this ongoing war between the police and Black people, we may not feel that we are involved in any way. When Asians came to America in the 1860s, yes, slavery had already started back in 1619. We were not part of the start of prejudice or racism against African Americans in the United States, and we, like Black people, have also suffered discrimination.
Coming from Malaysia, I am an Asian American only because I was born here. My family was never directly influenced by the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese Internment Camps, or other historical events against Asian Americans. Sometimes, I find it hard to relate to America's history simply because my family wasn't in America until a few decades ago.
However, that does not mean that I—that we—have no part in events like George Floyd's death. Yes, Derek Chauvin, the man who placed his knee on George Floyd's neck, was a white man. However, the bigger picture shows something entirely different. Out of the four policemen involved, two were Asian American. And the shop that called the police on George Floyd? It was owned by an Asian American, too.
Sometimes, I feel that we may assume that “serious” racism only happens between Black and white people. But the truth is, racism is a problem that impacts all of us, not just in America, but around the globe, and the recent events of COVID-19 further prove why.
Asian Americans were targeted because of others' racial bias, and it wasn't just in America, it was around the globe. There were more than 1,500 cases of discrimination directed at Asian Americans in America, consisting of physical attacks, verbal abuse, derogatory language in the media, political statements, and more. But this discrimination was also happening in Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia, India, Sri Lanka, Africa, South Korea, Malaysia, Japan, Indonesia, France, and many other places.
The experiences that Asian Americans have endured in the past year could lend an inside perspective. Why? Because the fear and tension we have felt can lend us empathy for what many African Americans feel every single day of their lives.
Right now, Asian American communities need to speak out instead of lying low.
In 1982, a man named Vincent Chin was beaten in Detroit by white men who thought that he was Japanese. Later, the white men received minimal punishments. In 2007, 18-year-old Chonburi Xiong, a Hmong teenager who lived in Detroit, was shot 27 times in his home by white policemen. His community fought back, and in 1975, 27-year-old Peter Yew underwent a harsh beating during the protests. There is something wrong with our police system, and we need to take action to fix it.
One of the things that we often forget is how Black communities and Asian communities have stood up for each other before. In 1968, the Third World Liberation Front, formed by the Black Student Union and other ethnic student groups at San Francisco State University—including Asians—demanded a radical change in admission practices. The group led a month-long strike to pressure the university’s administration to respond to their demands, which resulted in several beatings and arrests of students of color and, eventually, the establishment of a Department of Ethnic Studies. In addition, in 1978, Black people called for the U.S. to accept Indochinese refugees, paying for a full-page advertisement in The New York Times.
Although we have been split apart because of the color of our skin, in reality, we should be working together to fight discrimination. At this critical moment, we must reflect on our actions and support one another, because as much as we stand with America as it progresses in good times, we must stand with America when it struggles, too.
Another Asian American
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Gurung, Prabal. “Perspective | Prabal Gurung: It's Time for Asian Americans to Shed the 'Model Minority' Myth and Stand for George Floyd.” Washington Post, 5 June 2020, https://www.washingtonpost.com/nation/2020/06/05/prabal-gurung-its-time-asian-americans-shed-model-minority-myth-stand-george-floyd.
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