Foundation raises $1 billion to fight anti-Asian hate

Real money:

A foundation launched by prominent Asian American business leaders earlier this month said Thursday it has raised more than $1 billion to support Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

The announcement from The Asian American Foundation, or TAAF, came minutes after President Joe Biden signed legislation aimed at curtailing the rise in hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States.

Sonal Shah, the foundation’s president, and TAAF board members were also at the White House, where they briefed administration officials, including domestic policy adviser Susan Rice. They discussed how the foundation plans to spend the $1.1 billion in donations to fight back against hate crimes directed at these communities, according to a statement from the foundation. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris dropped by the meeting to express their support, the foundation said.

Thursday’s news builds on the foundation’s prior announcement that it had raised $300 million from its board members and other donors. More donors have since pledged contributions to its “AAPI Giving Challenge,” an initiative to bring additional funding to Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations that have traditionally been neglected in philanthropy.

“TAFF was founded to close critical gaps of support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and end the longstanding underinvestment in our communities,” said Shah, who previously served as a deputy assistant to former President Barack Obama. ”Today’s historic announcement should send a clear signal to the 23 million AAPIs living in this country that TAAF and our AAPI Giving Challenge partners are here to upend the status quo in favor of a better, brighter future for AAPI communities.”

The Asian American Foundation has said its giving will focus on supporting organizations and leaders measuring and challenging violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders; developing a common data standard that tracks violence and hate incidents; and helping create K-12 and college curriculums that “reflect the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders as part of the American story.”

Members of the foundation’s advisory council, including CNN host Lisa Ling and actor Daniel Dae Kim, virtually joined the White House meeting alongside representatives from donors, including Mastercard and the MacArthur Foundation.

Separately, TAFF is producing a TV special designed to expand support for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The program, called “See Us Unite for Change — The Asian American Foundation in service of the AAPI Community,” will air Friday on multiple channels, including MTV, BET, VH1 and Comedy Central.

Source: Foundation raises $1 billion to fight anti-Asian hate

For immigrants like me, the ‘Great Pretend’ doesn’t work anymore

Good reflective piece:

My journey began 8,290 miles away, in India. I grew up in Mumbai, completed my studies, and first set foot in the United States as a young woman in my 20s. When I boarded that flight to California, I did so with my sister’s advice booming in my head: wear long sleeves to hide the henna ink from a recent wedding. But she was really making a bigger point: hide who you are, because they won’t understand you.

My sister’s advice was jarring but well-intentioned. The truth was, I didn’t even need the warning: already, for months, standing in front of my mirror practicing each night, I’d worked to stifle my Indian accent. It was the start of my journey as a performer –learning when and how to shed my identity, and trying to anticipate when it was safe to let my guard down and reveal my true self. I call it “the Great Pretend.”

I feel lucky that I’ve made America my home for many reasons. I’m blessed because I’ve been embraced by so many American mentors, leaders, colleagues and friends. I’m also blessed because only here would my story be possible. My naturalization ceremony 13 years ago was a deeply emotional experience, a moment of incredible belonging. But like so many immigrants, I have always cherished the fact that America wasn’t just a place but also an idea: unmatched possibilities ever in search of their own perfection, for new and next generations to write.

America, by definition, isn’t a finished product — it’s a high ideal purposefully set just out of reach so we can all, — generation by generation, help to pull the country ever closer to its founding ideals.

And for my daughters’ generation if not for mine, I’ve realized that I have some work to do, myself.

It starts with a confession. For all my years in America, I’ve been acting out “the great pretend” — the code-switching, concealing, and compromising that women like me have subjected ourselves to for decades, voluntarily. After 20 years, I wish I could say this daily ritual of cultural camouflage is gone, but it’s not. My Indian code-switching is now as much a part of my identity as the henna ink I’d once tried to hide from passersby in my new home.

But now I realize how important it is for all of us to shed those masks, to recognize the unique situations and unconscious biases experienced by multi-hyphenated professionals, so that we can all be better, do better and work together better.

The bottom line: empowering others begins by empowering yourself.

“The Great Pretend” doesn’t just encapsulate the actions many immigrants take to avoid making others uncomfortable. It’s the often unconscious and unintended– but nonetheless injurious –interactions with peers and even allies that we let go or let slide because we don’t want to rock the boat.

Act I. A cherished colleague compliments my work and my leadership, by suggesting “it must stem from” my “service-oriented culture.” Another colleague assumes I was skilled at math because I’m Indian. A new acquaintance mentions how “polite” Asian cultures are. And of course, there are the many times I walk into a meeting as a senior executive, and a stranger assumes that my younger and more junior, white male colleague is the senior leader and my boss.

Act II. I am invited to be among the feted at a summit celebrating powerful women. I enter the big ballroom to meet my fellow honorees. I feel instantly like a tiny drop of cocoa in a frothy blonde latté. The organizers have assembled us to celebrate a future which is decidedly female, but the participants are dominantly white and native born. How does this continue to happen in the United States when women of color will outnumber white women 53% to 44% by 2060?

Act III. I’m in a meeting of my peers, discussing a vexing issue, working to form a consensus. We think we’ve arrived at an answer. One of my colleagues invokes the old LIFE Cereal ad: “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” The room erupts in laughter, and I join in too. But in my head, unspoken, all I can think is: Who the heck is Mikey? Growing up in India, television was a once or twice a month luxury, usually a chance to see movies released years before in the United States.

1970s, nostalgic commercial pop culture is lost on me, as it is to many of the 17% of the American workforce who are foreign-born and raised. Isn’t it time our shorthand and colloquialisms evolve to include the nearly one in five workers who have lived something approximating my immigrant experience?

I want Act IV of my story to wrap up the plot with a twist: it’s time to stop acting — acting surprised, acting oblivious, or acting like someone else — to blend in.

Empowering ourselves means ending “the great pretend” and pointing out our perspectives to well-intentioned people—because it’s the only way we will all learn.

Empowering ourselves means incorporating the reality of intersectional identities — among increasingly heterogenous workplaces — into the core human relations and culture-building functions of any organization. Not because it’s politically correct, but because it benefits productivity and morale. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like the mass shooting in Atlanta and the many other recent examples of anti-Asian violence for us to recognize that some life lessons need to be discussed openly — every day. Why? Very simply, because I want my Indian-American daughters to grow up knowing that pretending is never normal. And when the day comes, I don’t want them to wear long sleeves to cover the Henna drawing. I want them to write their story in bold ink the whole world can see and understand. That’s what we owe each other — and that’s what we owe the America we love.

Source: For immigrants like me, the ‘Great Pretend’ doesn’t work anymore

Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

Useful historical reminder:

The pandemic has been responsible for an outbreak of violence and hate directed against Asians around the world, blaming them for the spread of COVID-19. During this surge in attacks, the perpetrators have made their motives clear, taunting their victims with declarations like, “You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China!” and assaulting them and spitting on them.

The numbers over the past year in the U.S. alone are alarming. As NPR has reported, nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians have been reported just in the past year to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

Then came mass shooting in Atlanta last week, which took the lives of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The shooter’s motive has not been determined, but the incident has spawned a deeper discourse on racism and violence targeting Asians in the wake of the coronavirus.

This narrative – that “others,” often from far-flung places, are to blame for epidemics – is a dramatic example of a long tradition of hatred. In 14th-century Europe, Jewish communities were wrongfully accused of poisoning wells to spread the Black Death. In 1900, Chinese people were unfairly vilified for an outbreak of the plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And in the ’80s, Haitians were blamed for bringing HIV/AIDS to the U.S., a theory that’s considered unsubstantiated by many global health experts.

Some public health practitioners say the global health system is partially responsible for perpetuating these ideas.

According to Abraar Karan, a doctor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the notion persists in global health that “the West is the best.” This led to an assumption early on in the pandemic that COVID-19 spread to the rest of the world because China wasn’t able to control it.

“The other side of that assumption is, ‘Had this started anywhere else, like in the U.S. or the U.K. or Europe, somehow it would’ve been better controlled, and a pandemic wouldn’t have happened,'” says Karan, who was born in India and raised in the U.S. He has been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to respond to COVID-19.

China’s response was not without fault. The government’s decision to silence doctors and not warn the public about a likely pandemic for six days in mid-January caused more than 3,000 people to become infected within a week, according to a report by the Associated Press, and created ripe conditions for global spread. Some of the aggressive measures China took to control the epidemic – confining people to their homes, for example — have been described as “draconian” and a violation of civil rights, even if they ultimately proved effective.

But it soon became clear that assumptions about the superiority of Western health systems were false when China and other Asian countries, along with many African countries, controlled outbreaks far more effectively and faster than Western countries did, says Karan.

The Twitter Blame Game And Its Repercussions

Some politicians, including former President Donald Trump publicly blamed China for the pandemic, calling this novel coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” They consistently pushed that narrative even after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned as early as March 2020, when the pandemic was declared, that such language would encourage racial profiling and stigmatization against Asians. Trump has continued to use stigmatizing language in the wake of the Atlanta shooting, using the phrase “China virus” during a March 16 call to Fox News.

A report by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), released this month, directly linked Trump’s first tweet about a “Chinese virus” to a significant increase in anti-Asian hashtags. According to a separate report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 U.S. cities increased 149 percent in 2020, from 49 to 122.

“Diseases have often been racialized in the past as a form of scapegoating,” says Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and lead author of the study on Trump’s tweet. Sometimes, it’s to distract from other events that are occurring within a society, such as the early failures of the U.S. response to the pandemic, says Hswen.

Suspicion tends to manifest more during times of vulnerability, like in wartime or during a pandemic, says ElsaMarie D’Silva, an Aspen Institute New Voices fellow from India who studies violence and harassment issues. It just so happened that COVID-19 was originally identified in China, but, as NPR’s Jason Beaubien has reported, some of the early clusters of cases elsewhere came from jet setters who traveled to Europe and ski destinations.

“What you’re seeing in the U.S. is this pre-existing, deep-seated bias [against Asians and Asian Americans] – or rather, racism – that is now surfacing,” says D’Silva. “COVID-19 is just an excuse.”

A Racist History In Global Health

For Karan, though, the problem lies deeper — with the colonialist history of global health systems.

“It’s not that the biases are necessarily birthed from global health researchers,” he says. “It’s more that global health researchers are birthed from institutions and cultures that are inherently xenophobic and racist.”

For example, the West is usually regarded as the hub of expertise and knowledge, says Sriram Shamasunder, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF, and there’s a sense among Western health workers that epidemics occur in impoverished contexts because the people there engage in primitive behaviors and just don’t care as much about health.

“[Western health workers] come in with a bias that in San Francisco or Boston, we would never let [these crises] happen,” says Shamasunder, who is co-founder and faculty director of the HEAL Initiative, a global health fellowship that works in Navajo Nation in the U.S. and in eight other countries.

In the early days of COVID-19, skepticism by Western public health officials about the efficacy of Asian mask protocols hindered the U.S.’s ability to control the pandemic. Additionally, stereotypes about who was and wasn’t at risk had significant consequences, says Nancy Kass, deputy director for public health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

According to Kass, doctors initially only considered a possible COVID-19 diagnosis among people who had recently flown back from China. That narrow focus caused the U.S. to misdiagnose patients who presented with what we now call classic COVID symptoms simply because they hadn’t traveled from China.

“Inadvertently, we [did] a disservice both to patients who need[ed] care and to public health,” says Kass.

It’s reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Kass says. Because itwas so widely billed as a “gay disease,” there are many documented cases of heterosexual women who presented with symptoms but weren’t diagnosed until they were on their deathbeds.

That’s not to say that we should ignore facts and patterns about new diseases. For example, Kass says it’s appropriate to warn pregnant women about the risks of traveling to countries where the Zika virus, which is linked to birth and developmental defects, is present.

But there’s a difference, she says, between making sure people have enough information to understand a disease and attaching a label, like “Chinese virus,” that is inaccurate and that leads to stereotyping.

Karan says we also need to shift our approach to epidemics. In the case of COVID-19 and other outbreaks, Western countries often think of them as a national security issue, closing borders and blaming the countries where the disease was first reported. This approach encourages stigmatization, he says.

Instead, Karan suggests reframing the discussion to focus on global solidarity, which promotes the idea that we are all in this together. One way for wealthy countries to demonstrate solidarity now, Karan says, is by supporting the equitable and speedy distribution of vaccines among countries globally as well as among communities within their own borders.

Without such commitments in place, “it prompts the question, whose lives matter most?” says Shamasunder.

Ultimately, the global health community – and Western society as a whole – has to discard its deep-rooted mindset of coloniality and tendency to scapegoat others, says Hswen. The public health community can start by talking more about the historic racism and atrocities that have been tied to diseases.

Additionally, Karan says, leaders should reframe the pandemic for people: Instead of blaming Asians for the virus, blame the systems that weren’t adequately prepared to respond to a pandemic.

Although WHO has had specific guidance since 2015 about not naming diseases after places, Hswen says the public health community at large should have spoken out earlier and stronger last year against racialized language and the ensuing violence. She says they should have anticipated the backlash against Asians and preempted it with public messaging and education about why neutral terms like “COVID-19” should be used instead of “Chinese virus.”

“Public health people know there is a history of racializing diseases and targeting particular groups,” says Hswen. “They could have done more to defend the Asian community.”

Source: Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

There Is No Rung on the Ladder That Protects You From Hate

Good overview and reminder of the diversity of Asian Americans and how anti-Asian incidents are increasing fear:

The Asian-American experience is a tale of contrast.

We are immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, from more than 20 countries in East, South and Southeast Asia. We speak different languages and eat different food. Some lead America’s most successful companies, like Google and Zoom. Others run small businesses, like Chinese restaurants and spas, which have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. We also have the nation’s largest wealth gap: While some Asians earn household incomes that far exceed the national average, others consistently have the highest poverty rates.

The endless list of disparities and nuances has made solidarity elusive for Asian-Americans, even as activist groups demand that our issues be recognized. While Asian-Americans are the nation’s fastest-growing racial group — now 6 percent of the population — not everyone’s priorities are the same, far from it in some cases, so increasing numbers haven’t led to increasing power, politically or culturally.

The events of the past year — from the former president’s racial slurs to the series of attacks on Asians, leading up to the Tuesday shootings of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at massage parlors in Atlanta — could be uniting people for a new reason: fear.

In a country with hate crimes at their highest level in more than a decade, the professional status that many Asian-Americans enjoy, conferred by competing and succeeding in the most elite educational and professional institutions in America, doesn’t help.

Anna Mok, a Chinese-American executive at the consulting firm Deloitte, who lives in San Francisco and acknowledged that she was in a position of privilege, said hate crimes against Asian-Americans over the last year had prompted friends to urge her to not even go outside for a walk.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that degree of physical vulnerability,” Ms. Mok said.

She added that many other Asian-Americans working for big companies had described similar magnitudes of stress to her: “There’s no buffer, there’s no isolation. No matter how much money one makes, no matter how successful one is, it’s the reality of being an Asian in the U.S.”

Asian-Americans are also becoming the most economically divided demographic in the country. In 2016, their incomes ranged from about $12,000 at the 10th percentile to roughly $133,500 at the 90th percentile, with a median of about $51,000, according to the Pew Research Center. That compares with about $15,100 and $118,000 for whites.

The income disparity is, in part, driven by immigrants, who accounted for 81 percent of the growth in the Asian adult population over the past five decades. Many who arrived under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which gave priority to people with family ties, and after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 were relatively low-skilled workers. Later, the Immigration Act of 1990 brought in a new wave of higher-skilled immigrants under the H-1B visa program, which helped American companies hire foreigners with exceptional skills.

Many Asian immigrants have higher levels of education than native-born Americans, which is largely why they settle in at the top of the income ladder. At the same time, Asians at the bottom of the ladder have lower education levels.

In nearly a dozen conversations this past week with scholars, activists and historians, the sadness and grief around this inflection point was clear — as was the recognition of how starkly divided two professional paths for Asian immigrants in this country have been.

The Asian-American story has been a complicated narrative. There are the restaurant workers and massage therapists nested in metropolitan enclaves, but there are also the high achievers attending elite schools who end up in well-compensated careers. Often one generation of immigrants in service jobs raises the next generation of corporate strivers. In this moment, though, as the population grows, the groups are becoming increasingly isolated from one another.

In the aftermath of a summer of protests for racial justice and increasing awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, corporate employees of color, including Asians, are demanding equity and inclusion, which would put an end to a white-dominated culture. The workers in spas and nail salons don’t have the luxury to even think about that; they are more vulnerable to the whims of their white clientele. In a nation already divided by politics, religion and income, here is a community divided within itself.

But the “kung flu” pandemic — the xenophobic language, fueled by President Donald J. Trump, that added hate crimes to a deadly disease and the rest of the list of things for Asian-Americans to fear this past year — may be gradually bringing people together.

Last year, reported hate crimes against people of Asian descent in New York City jumped 833 percent from 2019. Nearly 3,800 hate incidents, which range from name-calling to assault, against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has collected data for the last year. (The number could be higher because not all incidents were reported.) Sixty-eight percent of those incidents were reported by women.

As the country reeled from the all-too-familiar scenes of mass shootings in Atlanta, especially killings that may have targeted people because of their race and gender, some scholars recalled an earlier death. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American, was beaten to death by two white men at a time of rising tensions over Japanese dominance in the auto market. The killers, who insisted the attack was not racially motivated, were sentenced to three years of probation.

The fact that the men did not serve jail time sent tremors through Asian communities. Activists formed civil rights groups to protest.

We know that the Vincent Chin murder really did help communities across different ethnic groups come together,” said Nancy Yuen, a sociologist at Biola University in California.

Yet for decades, policymakers and government leaders have historically treated Asian-Americans as if they were invisible. That was in part because of the diverse makeup and smaller size of the group, which made it challenging to gain influence and attention. Ellen Wu, a history professor at Indiana University, said Asian-Americans had to compile data just to prove that they were minorities who suffered from issues like discrimination. Being recognized has been an uphill battle ever since.

The shared pain and disrespect could finally be giving Asians grounds for solidarity — and a platform to be visible. On Twitter, the hashtag #stopasianhate went viral, and all over the country, crowds gathered in the streets this past week, lighting candles for the Atlanta victims and holding signs proclaiming “Asian Lives Matter.”

Asian-American professionals in journalism, medicine and technology reflected on a year of swelling anxiety and pain from microaggressions. On my social media feeds and in conversations, fellow Asian-Americans recounted being chastised by a white person at a grocery store to keep a distance, enduring a road-rage encounter that felt ambiguously racist and being ignored by a worker at a store who was happy to help white shoppers. For Asian-American women, the nature of the Atlanta attack sparked a conversation about racism and sexism — times they had heard men yell lines like “Me so horny” while walking down the street.

Doctors who were usually booked full with appointments found that their calendars were empty, which tracks with the broader trends of how discrimination has manifested in the past year like patients refusing medical care from doctors and nurses of Asian descent. Some doctors even reported verbal abuse by their patients.

Stop AAPI Hate, the organization documenting reports of Asian hate incidents, noted sharp upticks in verbal harassment, shunning and physical assaults over the last year.

For those working remotely during the pandemic, who could mostly stay home and felt less vulnerable, their fear began to manifest when they saw photos posted online of Asian elders — people who looked like their parents — beaten to a pulp. Ms. Mok, the Deloitte executive, moved to San Francisco in January from Palo Alto, Calif., to be closer to her father, who is 88 and lives alone there.

“My own sense of helplessness when I told him, ‘Please don’t go out, not even to get your newspaper,’ was very difficult for me to handle,” Ms. Mok said.

Ms. Wu said she had noticed unity in the last year even among Asian activists who usually butted heads. She mentioned groups that have been fighting fiercely over the future of affirmative action in higher education. Both sides published statements condemning Mr. Trump’s racial slurs about Asians spreading the coronavirus.

“There’s something about the Covid issue and the anti-Asian hate issue that presents this common denominator, a point of convergence,” Ms. Wu said. “There is a certain baseline where, across the board, there does seem to be recognition and fear that bad things are happening to people of Asian ancestry, undeniably.”

Jo-Ann Yoo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, a nonprofit network of community groups, has spent the last year producing videos about small Asian-American businesses hit hard by the pandemic and speaking at rallies and news conferences about hate crimes against Asians.

It has been devastating and infuriating, Ms. Yoo said. But she is hopeful, in a way, that the year of increasing attacks and now the violence in Atlanta will begin to bridge the class divide by creating a dialogue among people of Asian descent. The victims at the spas, like the 16 percent of Asian workers in the service industry, had to leave home to make a living during the pandemic.

When most people are vaccinated and white-collar workers are fully back out in the world — commuting, stopping for coffee and heading to offices — the way the world has changed in the past year could further force solidarity: Any Asian could be targeted.


Sullivan: When The Narrative Replaces The News

Valid points by Sullivan on the media’s responsibility to provide context and background to hate crimes and incidents, including comparative data between groups and perpetrators:

There’s a reason for this shift. Treating the individual as unique, granting him or her rights, defending the presumption of innocence, relying on provable, objective evidence: these core liberal principles are precisely what critical theory aims to deconstruct. And the elite media is in the vanguard of this war on liberalism. 

This isn’t in any way to deny increasing bias against Asian-Americans. It’s real and it’s awful. Asians are targeted by elite leftists, who actively discriminate against them in higher education, and attempt to dismantle the merit-based schools where Asian-American students succeed — precisely and only because too many Asians are attending. And Asian-Americans are also often targeted by envious or opportunistic criminal non-whites in their neighborhoods. For Trump to give these forces a top-spin with the “China virus” made things even worse, of course. For a firsthand account of a Chinese family’s experience of violence and harassment, check out this piece.

The more Asian-Americans succeed, the deeper the envy and hostility that can be directed toward them. The National Crime Victimization Survey notesthat “the rate of violent crime committed against Asians increased from 8.2 to 16.2 per 1000 persons age 12 or older from 2015 to 2018.” Hate crimes? “Hate crime incidents against Asian Americans had an annual rate of increase of approximately 12% from 2012 to 2014. Although there was a temporary decrease from 2014 to 2015, anti-Asian bias crimes had increased again from 2015 to 2018.” 

Asians are different from other groups in this respect. “Comparing with Black and Hispanic victims, Asian Americans have relatively higher chance to be victimized by non-White offenders (25.5% vs. 1.0% for African Americans and 18.9% for Hispanics). … Asian Americans have higher risk to be persecuted by strangers … are less likely to be offended in their residence … and are more likely to be targeted at school/college.” Of those committing violence against Asians, you discover that 24 percent such attacks are committed by whites; 24 percent are committed by fellow Asians; 7 percent by Hispanics; and 27.5 percent by African-Americans. Do the Kendi math, and you can see why Kendi’s “White Supremacist domestic terror” is not that useful a term for describing anti-Asian violence.

But what about hate crimes specifically? In general, the group disproportionately most likely to commit hate crimes in the US are African-Americans. At 13 percent of the population, African Americans commit 23.9 percent of hate crimes. But hate specifically against Asian-Americans in the era of Trump and Covid? Solid numbers are not yet available for 2020, which is the year that matters here. There’s data, from 1994 to 2014, that finds little racial skew among those committing anti-Asian hate crimes. Hostility comes from every other community pretty equally. 

The best data I’ve found for 2020, the salient period for this discussion, are provisional data on complaints and arrests for hate crimes against Asians in New York City, one of two cities which seem to have been most affected. They record 20 such arrests in 2020. Of those 20 offenders, 11 were African-American, two Black-Hispanic, two white, and five white Hispanics. Of the black offenders, a majority were women. The bulk happened last March, and they petered out soon after. If you drill down on some recent incidents in the news in California, and get past the media gloss to the actual mugshots, you also find as many black as white offenders.

This doesn’t prove much either, of course. Anti-Asian bias, like all biases, can infect anyone of any race, and the sample size is small and in one place. But it sure complicates the “white supremacy” case that the mainstream media simply assert as fact. 

And, given the headlines, the other thing missing is a little perspective. Here’s a word cloud of the victims of hate crimes in NYC in 2020. You can see that anti-Asian hate crimes are dwarfed by those against Jews, and many other minorities. And when you hear about a 150 percent rise in one year, it’s worth noting that this means a total of 122 such incidents in a country of 330 million, of which 19 million are Asian. Even if we bring this number up to more than 3,000 incidents from unreported and far less grave cases, including “shunning”, it’s small in an aggregate sense. A 50 percent increase in San Francisco from 2019 – 2020, for example, means the number of actual crimes went from 6 to 9

Is it worse than ever? No. 2020 saw 122 such hate incidents. In 1996, the number was 350. Many incidents go unreported, of course, and hideous comments, slurs and abuse don’t count as hate “crimes” as such. I’m not discounting the emotional scars of the kind of harassment this report cites. I’m sure they’ve increased. They’re awful. Despicable. Disgusting.

But the theory behind hate crimes law is that these crimes matter more because they terrify so many beyond the actual victim. And so it seems to me that the media’s primary role in cases like these is providing some data and perspective on what’s actually happening, to allay irrational fear. Instead they contribute to the distortion by breathlessly hyping one incident without a single provable link to any go this — and scare the bejeezus out of people unnecessarily. 

The media is supposed to subject easy, convenient rush-to-judgment narratives to ruthless empirical testing. Now, for purely ideological reasons, they are rushing to promote ready-made narratives, which actually point away from the empirical facts. To run sixteen separate pieces on anti-Asian white supremacist misogynist hate based on one possibly completely unrelated incident is not journalism. It’s fanning irrational fear in the cause of ideological indoctrination. And it appears to be where all elite media is headed.


Asian-Americans Are Being Attacked. Why Are Hate Crime Charges So Rare?

Interesting analysis of some of the challenges:

On a cold evening last month, a Chinese man was walking home near Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood when a stranger suddenly ran up behind him and plunged a knife into his back.

For many Asian-Americans, the stabbing was horrifying, but not surprising. It was widely seen as just the latest example of racially targeted violence against Asians during the pandemic.

But the perpetrator, a 23-year-old man from Yemen, had not said a word to the victim before the attack, investigators said. Prosecutors determined they lacked enough evidence to prove a racist motive. The attacker was charged with attempted murder, but not as a hate crime.

The announcement outraged Asian-American leaders in New York City. Many of them protested outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office, demanding that the stabbing be prosecuted as a hate crime. They were tired of what they saw as racist assaults being overlooked by the authorities.

“Let’s call it what it is,” said Don Lee, a community activist who spoke at the rally. “These are not random attacks. We’re asking for recognition that these crimes are happening.”

The rally reflected the tortured public conversation over how to confront a rise in reports of violence against Asian-Americans, who have felt increasingly vulnerable with each new attack. Many incidents have either not led to arrests or have not been charged as hate crimes, making it difficult to capture with reliable data the extent to which Asian-Americans are being targeted.

That frustration erupted on a national scale this week after Robert Aaron Long, a white man, was charged with fatally shooting eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday night.

Investigators said it was too early to determine a motive. After Mr. Long’s arrest, he denied harboring a racial bias and told officials that he carried out the shootings as a form of vengeance for his “sexual addiction.”

The Atlanta shootings and other recent attacks have exposed difficult questions involved in proving a racist motive. Did the assaults just happen to involve Asian victims? Or did the attackers purposely single out Asians in an unspoken way that can never be presented as evidence in court?

Soh: Attacks on Asian-Americans reveal a strange racial double standard

While I agree that having heirarchies–ethnic, racial, religious etc–are unhelpful, my sense of Canadian media coverage is that anti-Asian attacks have received extensive and appropriate coverage as race-based attacks.

Not sure why the Globe would publish an op-ed focussed on the US without mentioning similarities and differences with Canada. :

The surveillance-camera video is horrifying to watch. In broad daylight, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, was slammed to the ground while on a morning walk in San Francisco; he never regained consciousness. In Oakland, a man attacked a 91-year-old man, a 60-year-old man, and a 55-year-old woman in Chinatown. Nearly two dozen violent incidents in the area have been recorded in recent weeks.

These incidents are just part of a recent and unfortunate trend, particularly during the Lunar New Year. In a Pew Research Center study conducted last July, about 30 per cent of Asian-American adults said they have experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or race since the pandemic began.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been blamed for stoking anti-Chinese resentment. He repeatedly referenced the “China virus,” the “China plague” and the “Kung Flu” while in office, holding the country responsible for the pandemic.

And yet, as these crimes continue, there has been a failure to see these attacks as racially motivated. Mr. Ratanapakdee’s homicide, for instance, is not being prosecuted as a hate crime. It wasn’t until Hollywood actors spoke up that media attention was drawn to these incidents, with Daniel Wu and Daniel Dae Kim offering a US$25,000 reward for information. That led to the arrest of 28-year-old Yahya Muslim, who is not facing hate-crime charges.

Being level-headed about emotional subjects is never a bad approach, as it prevents us from jumping to conclusions about unclear events or any legal concerns. But in this case, what is the likelihood that multiple victims, targeted randomly, just happened to all be Asian? If an alarmingly high number of people belonging to another visible-minority group had been violently assaulted and murdered, would anyone doubt that the attacks were racially motivated?

It feels like a double standard. And it can feel, broadly speaking, as if racism against Asians is not taken as seriously as racism against other groups. Take, for example, a job listing posted by a Bay Area tech company recently, which explicitly sought “non-Asian” applicants. Or consider the debate on affirmative action sparked most recently by the case of Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard; in 2019, a federal judge ruled against Asian-American applicants who believed they had been systematically discriminated against by university admissions officials, and who sought a race-neutral process.

That’s where it can feel like obsessions with race are erecting a bizarre racial hierarchy – one in which apparently only white perpetrators can commit racist or hateful acts, and one where discrimination against certain groups counts less or hurts less than discrimination against others.

Because the general economic success of Asian diasporic communities in Canada and the U.S. is dissonant with the narrative that societal white privilege limits and is hostile to visible minorities, we are too often stripped of any progressive clout afforded to “people of colour.” In the eyes of some, we are being recategorized as “white.” From this ideological view – one I disagree with – it isn’t possible to be racist toward white people.

Further complicating this lack of logic is the history of strained relationsbetween Asian and Black communities in the U.S., most notably between protesters and Korean business owners in the Rodney King riots. Asian-Americans have been long held up as an example of successful assimilation, and by doing so, they become used to dismiss the genuine concerns of Black Americans, pitting one group against another.

But protecting racial groups is not a zero-sum game; ensuring the safety of one does not need to come at the expense of another. We can identify racist acts while advocating that they should not be used to justify retaliatory harassment or prejudice against others.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been asked whether I think claims of Sinophobia have been overblown to forward an agenda of race-baiting. In short: No. Because I am often mistaken as having a different Asian ethnicity, it’s been amusing and sad to see what some will say in my presence, only to furiously backpedal their opinions once I tell them that I’m a Canadian of Malaysian-Chinese descent.

For those who remain skeptical, I’d ask how they would feel if people who shared their racial ancestry were being violently targeted and terrorized, and then made to feel that their concerns weren’t legitimate, especially during a time of the year that would normally be celebratory. Acknowledging where the coronavirus originated can be done without blaming or discriminating more widely against people of Asian descent.


Appeals Court Rules Harvard Doesn’t Discriminate Against Asian American Applicants

Of note (will be appealed to SCOTUS where, given Trump appointments, may be overturned):

A federal appeals court in Boston has ruled Harvard doesn’t intentionally discriminate against Asian American applicants in its admissions process.

The panel of judges upheld a federal district court’s decision from last year, teeing up a possible case in front of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Circuit Judge Sandra Lynch, who wrote Thursday’s decision, agreed with the lower court that “the statistical evidence did not show that Harvard intentionally discriminated against Asian Americans.”

Students for Fair Admissions, an advocacy group, first filed its lawsuit in 2014, saying that Harvard’s race-based considerations for applicants discriminated against Asian American students in process.

“Today’s decision once again finds that Harvard’s admissions policies are consistent with Supreme Court precedent, and lawfully and appropriately pursue Harvard’s efforts to create a diverse campus that promotes learning and encourages mutual respect and understanding in our community,” a spokeswoman for Harvard told NPR.”As we have said time and time again, now is not the time to turn back the clock on diversity and opportunity.”

Proponents of ending race-based considerations at U.S. universities were unfazed by Thursday’s decision and plan to bring the case to the Supreme Court, according to Edward Blum, the conservative strategist behind SFFA.

Blum said in a statement to NPR member station GBH that he plans to ask the Supreme Court to end the consideration of race in admissions at Harvard and all other universities.

The question of how much race should be a factor in college applicants is a hotly contested one. President Trump’s administration has challenged colleges on using race in admissions policies, claiming such practices violate federal law. Last month, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Yale University, saying its policies violate the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Yale has said the lawsuit is “baseless.”

Wen Fa, an attorney with the Pacific Legal Foundation, which filed an amicus brief in the Harvard case, said Asian Americans are harmed by the school’s admissions rules.

“The Supreme Court’s intervention is needed so that universities comport with” federal law, Fa said.

Stella Flores, an associate professor of higher education at New York University, said she hopes the court will rely on decades of research and data that show the benefits of such policies. Race is but one factor within the broad and “holistic admissions policy” at Harvard and other schools, she said.

Flores and Fa say the new conservative majority of the Supreme Court makes predicting whether the justices will take up the case difficult.

The court has previously decided on similar questions. It upheld race-based admissions policies in the 2003 case Grutter v. Bollinger, as well as the 2013 and 2016 Fisher v. Univ. of Texas at Austin decisions.

In Grutter, the justices were asked to determine whether the University of Michigan Law School’s use of racial preferences in student admissions violates the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment or Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In the 5-4 Grutter opinion, Justice Sandra Day O’Connor said race-based admissions policies should be for a limited time only, Fa said.

That phrasing may be enough for the current court to take up the case, he said.

Source: Appeals Court Rules Harvard Doesn’t Discriminate Against Asian American Applicants

‘Overlooked’: Asian American Jobless Rate Surges But Few Take Notice

A reversal from pre-COVID. Canadian data by visible minority group shows some comparable trend with respect to income but less so for most Asian groups:

The coronavirus pandemic is taking a heavy economic toll on Asian Americans.

From Vietnamese nail salons to Cambodian donut shops, Asian-owned businesses have struggled. And Asian American workers have gone from having the lowest unemployment rate in the country to one of the highest.

Jerry Raburn lost his job at a mortgage servicing company in Southern California in March, just six months after he started.

“The business decreased dramatically, and based on seniority, I was let go,” said Raburn, who came to the U.S. from Thailand when he was 8 years old.

He now shares a single room with his mom, brother and sister in another family’s house.

“Everything just went downhill,” Raburn said. “I’m still unemployed, unfortunately, and I’ve been looking.”

David Canlas, who is from the Philippines, also lost his job consulting for software startups when the pandemic struck.

“Right now, nobody has start-up capital,” Canlas said. “Nobody has the budget to go hire a consultant. Nobody even feels comfortable for me to come into their office.”

The spike in Asian American unemployment stands out, even amidst the widespread misery of the pandemic.

A year ago, the jobless rate for Asian Americans was 2.8% — lower than that of whites, Blacks or Latinos. But Asian American unemployment soared to 15% in May, and it was still 10.7% in August — well above the rate of 7.3% for whites and the Latino rate of 10.5%. Only African Americans had a higher jobless rate of 13%.

While disparities in employment among Latinos and African Americans have garnered headlines during the pandemic, Asian American job losses have attracted less notice.

“Asian Americans are absolutely overlooked,” said Marlene Kim, an economist at the University of Massachusetts, Boston. “People have the sense that Asians are fine. That they’re a model minority. That they have good jobs and are doing OK.”

Geography explains some of the newfound challenges. Asian Americans are concentrated in places like New York and California, where the virus has taken a heavy toll.

Occupation also plays a role. Nearly a quarter of the Asian American workforce is employed in industries such as restaurants, retail, and personal services such as nail salons.

“Those industries have been hard hit by the pandemic and they traditionally employ many Asian Americans,” said economist Donald Mar of San Francisco State University.

Asian Americans also worry about discrimination, and say President Trump hasn’t helped with his provocative labeling of what he has repeatedly called the “Chinese virus.”

Paul Ong of UCLA noted that Chinatown in Los Angeles suffered an earlier and deeper drop in foot and vehicle traffic than the city’s other commercial neighborhoods.

“People are avoiding these areas in part because of this myth that somehow Asian Americans are tied in with the spread of the coronavirus,” Ong said. “Certainly that is untrue and unfair. But there’s no question that it gets reflected in the impact on the ethnic economy.”

That can be a real problem for Asian Americans who are new to the country or have limited English skills. In ordinary times, the social and economic networks of an immigrant community can open doors and provide opportunity. But Ong warned over-reliance on those networks can be a trap during a crisis like the pandemic.

“If you’re in an ethnic sector and all the restaurants are facing the same problem of being shut down, your opportunity to find work is minimal if not non-existent.”

Raburn has filed numerous online job applications since he was laid off by the mortgage servicing company, even though he finds the process soul killing.

“You don’t talk to a person,” he said. “It makes me not ever want to look for jobs again. But I have to look for a job.”

Raburn is also attending community college, and said his younger brother recently landed a job at Home Depot. Events have tested but not yet beaten his immigrant family’s hope for a brighter future.

“Life is hard in any country,” Raburn said. “I believe America will get better.”

Source: ‘Overlooked’: Asian American Jobless Rate Surges But Few Take Notice

Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All

Good long and reflective read:

The face of Tou Thao haunts me. The Hmong-American police officer stood with his back turned to Derek Chauvin, his partner, as Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neck for 8 minutes and 46 seconds and murdered him.

In the video that I saw, Tou Thao is in the foreground and Chauvin is partly visible in the background, George Floyd’s head pressed to the ground. Bystanders beg Tou Thao to do something, because George Floyd was not moving, and as he himself said, he could not breathe.

The face of Tou Thao is like mine and not like mine, although the face of George Floyd is like mine and not like mine too. Racism makes us focus on the differences in our faces rather than our similarities, and in the alchemical experiment of the U.S., racial difference mixes with labor exploitation to produce an explosive mix of profit and atrocity. In response to endemic American racism, those of us who have been racially stigmatized cohere around our racial difference. We take what white people hate about us, and we convert stigmata into pride, community and power. So it is that Tou Thao and I are “Asian Americans,” because we are both “Asian,” which is better than being an “Oriental” or a “gook.” If being an Oriental gets us mocked and being a gook can get us killed, being an Asian American might save us. Our strength in numbers, in solidarity across our many differences of language, ethnicity, culture, religion, national ancestry and more, is the basis of being Asian American.

Let me go back in time to a time being repeated today. Even if I no longer remember how old I was when I saw these words, I have never forgotten them: Another American driven out of business by the Vietnamese. Perhaps I was 12 or 13. It was the early 1980s, and someone had written them on a sign in a store window not far from my parents’ store. The sign confused me, for while I had been born in Vietnam, I had grown up in Pennsylvania and California, and had absorbed all kinds of Americana: the Mayflower and the Pilgrims; cowboys and Indians; Audie Murphy and John Wayne; George Washington and Betsy Ross; the Pledge of Allegiance; the Declaration of Independence; the guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness; all the fantasy and folklore of the American Dream.

Two immigration officers interrogate Chinese immigrants suspected of being Communists or deserting seamen at Ellis Island.

Two immigration officers interrogate Chinese immigrants suspected of being Communists or deserting seamen at Ellis Island.
Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Part of that dream was being against communism and for capitalism, which suited my parents perfectly. They had been born poor to rural families, and without much formal schooling and using only their ingenuity and hard work, had become successful merchants. They fled communist Vietnam in 1975, after losing all of their property and most of their fortune. What they carried with them–including some gold and money sewn into the hems of their clothes–they used to buy a house next to the freeway in San Jose and to open the second Vietnamese grocery store there, in 1978. In a burst of optimism and nostalgia, they named their store the New Saigon.

I am now older than my parents were when they had to begin their lives anew in this country, with only a little English. What they did looms in my memory as a nearly unimaginable feat. In the age of coronavirus, I am uncertain how to sew a mask and worry about shopping for groceries. Survivors of war, my parents fought to live again as aliens in a strange land, learning to read mortgage documents in another language, enrolling my brother and me in school, taking driver’s-license examinations. But there was no manual telling them how to buy a store that was not advertised as for sale. They called strangers and navigated bureaucracy in order to find the owners and persuade them to sell, all while suffering from the trauma of having lost their country and leaving almost all their relatives behind. By the time my parents bought the store, my mother’s mother had died in Vietnam. The news nearly broke her.

Somehow the person who wrote this sign saw people like my mother and my father as less than human, as an enemy. This is why I am not surprised by the rising tide of anti-Asian racism in this country. Sickened, yes, to hear of a woman splashed with acid on her doorstep; a man and his son slashed by a knife-wielding assailant at a Sam’s Club; numerous people being called the “Chinese virus” or the “chink virus” or told to go to China, even if they are not of Chinese descent; people being spat on for being Asian; people afraid to leave their homes, not only because of the pandemic but also out of fear of being verbally or physically assaulted, or just looked at askance. Cataloging these incidents, the poet and essayist Cathy Park Hong wrote, “We don’t have coronavirus. We are coronavirus.”

Looking back, I can remember the low-level racism of my youth, the stupid jokes told by my Catholic-school classmates, like “Is your last name Nam?” and “Did you carry an AK-47 in the war?” as well as more obscene ones. I wonder: Did Tou Thao hear these kinds of jokes in Minnesota? What did he think of Fong Lee, Hmong American, 19 years old, shot eight times, four in the back, by Minneapolis police officer Jason Anderson in 2006? Anderson was acquitted by an all-white jury.

Confronted with anti-Asian racism from white people, the Hmong who came to the U.S. as refugees in the 1970s and 1980s were often resettled in diverse urban areas, some in dominantly Black communities where they also confronted racism. “Stories abounded within our community of battery, robberies and intimidations by our Black neighbors,” Yia Vue wrote recently. “Hmong people live side by side with their African-American neighbors in poorer sections of town, with generations of misunderstanding and stereotypes still strongly entrenched on both sides.” Yet when Fong Lee was killed, Black activists rallied to his cause. “They were the loudest voices for us,” Lee’s sister Shoua said. “They didn’t ask to show up. They just showed up.”

Unlike the engineers and doctors who mostly came from Hong Kong, Taiwan, China and India–the model minority in the American imagination–many Hmong refugees arrived from a rural life in Laos devastated by war. Traumatized, they were resettled into the midst of poverty and a complicated history of racial oppression of which they had little awareness. Even the Hmong who condemn Tou Thao and argue for solidarity with Black Lives Matter insist that they should not be seen through the lens of the model-minority experience, should not be subject to liberal Asian-American guilt and hand-wringing over Tou Thao as a symbol of complicity. Christian minister Ashley Gaozong Bauer, of Hmong descent, writes, “We’ve had to share in the collective shame of the model minority, but when have Asian Americans shared in the pain and suffering of the Hmong refugee narrative and threats of deportation?”

Like the Hmong, the Vietnamese like myself suffered from war, and some are threatened by deportation now. Unlike many of the Hmong, a good number of Vietnamese refugees became, deliberately or otherwise, a part of the model minority, including myself. The low-level racism I experienced happened in elite environments. By the time I entered my mostly white, exclusive, private high school, the message was clear to me and the few of us who were of Asian descent. Most of us gathered every day in a corner of the campus and called ourselves, with a laugh, or maybe a wince, “the Asian invasion.” But if that was a joke we made at our own expense, it was also a prophecy, for when I returned to campus a couple of years ago to give a lecture on race to the assembled student body, some 1,600 young men, I realized that if we had not quite taken over, there were many more of us almost 30 years later. No longer the threat of the Asian invasion, we were, instead, the model minority: the desirable classmate, the favored neighbor, the nonthreatening kind of person of color.

Or were we? A couple of Asian-American students talked to me afterward and said they still felt it. The vibe. The feeling of being foreign, especially if they were, or were perceived to be, Muslim, or brown, or Middle Eastern. The vibe. Racism is not just the physical assault. I have never been physically assaulted because of my appearance. But I had been assaulted by the racism of the airwaves, the ching-chong jokes of radio shock jocks, the villainous or comical japs and chinks and gooks of American war movies and comedies. Like many Asian Americans, I learned to feel a sense of shame over the things that supposedly made us foreign: our food, our language, our haircuts, our fashion, our smell, our parents.

What made these sentiments worse, Hong argues, was that we told ourselves these were “minor feelings.” How could we have anything valid to feel or say about race when we, as a model minority, were supposedly accepted by American society? At the same time, anti-Asian sentiment remained a reservoir of major feeling from which Americans could always draw in a time of crisis. Asian Americans still do not wield enough political power, or have enough cultural presence, to make many of our fellow Americans hesitate in deploying a racist idea. Our unimportance and our historical status as the perpetual foreigner in the U.S. is one reason the President and many others feel they can call COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or the “kung flu.”

The basis of anti-Asian racism is that Asians belong in Asia, no matter how many generations we have actually lived in non-Asian countries, or what we might have done to prove our belonging to non-Asian countries if we were not born there. Pointing the finger at Asians in Asia, or Asians in non-Asian countries, has been a tried and true method of racism for a long time; in the U.S., it dates from the 19th century.

It was then that the U.S. imported thousands of Chinese workers to build the transcontinental railroad. When their usefulness was over, American politicians, journalists and business leaders demonized them racially to appease white workers who felt threatened by Chinese competition. The result was white mobs lynching Chinese migrants, driving them en masse out of towns and burning down Chinatowns. The climax of anti-Chinese feeling was the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first racially discriminatory immigration law in American history, which would turn Chinese entering the U.S. into the nation’s first illegal immigrant population. The Immigration and Naturalization Service was created, policing Chinese immigration and identifying Chinese who had come into the U.S. as “paper sons,” who claimed a fictive relation to the Chinese who had already managed to come into the country. As the political scientist Janelle Wong tells me, while “European immigrants were confronted with widespread hostility, they never faced the kind of legal racial restrictions on immigration and naturalization that Asian Americans experienced.”

American history has been marked by the cycle of big businesses relying on cheap Asian labor, which threatened the white working class, whose fears were stoked by race-baiting politicians and media, leading to catastrophic events like the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. The person who wrote that sign I remember seeing as a child, blaming the Vietnamese for destroying American businesses, was simply telling a story about the yellow peril that was always available for fearful Americans.

The reality was that downtown San Jose in the 1970s and 1980s was shabby, a run-down place where almost no one wanted to open new businesses, except for Vietnamese refugees. Today, Americans rely on China and other Asian countries for cheap commodities that help Americans live the American Dream, then turn around and blame the Chinese for the loss of American jobs or the rise of American vulnerability to economic competition.

It is easier to blame a foreign country or a minority, or even politicians who negotiate trade agreements, than to identify the real power: corporations and economic elites who shift jobs, maximize profit at the expense of workers and care nothing for working Americans. To acknowledge this reality is far too disturbing for many Americans, who resort to blaming Asians as a simpler answer. Asian Americans have not forgotten this anti-Asian history, and yet many have hoped that it was behind them. The slur of the “Chinese virus” has revealed how fragile our acceptance and inclusion was.

In the face of renewed attacks on our American belonging, the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang offered this solution: “We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our Americanness in ways we never have before … We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need.” Many Asian Americans took offense at his call, which seemed to apologize for our Asian-American existence. Yang’s critics pointed out that Asian Americans have literally wrapped themselves in the American flag in times of anti-Asian crisis; have donated to white neighbors and fellow citizens in emergencies; and died for this country fighting in its wars. And is there anything more American than joining the police? Did Tou Thao think he was proving his belonging by becoming a cop?

None of these efforts have prevented the stubborn persistence of anti-Asian racism. Calling for more sacrifices simply reiterates the sense that Asian Americans are not American and must constantly prove an Americanness that should not need to be proven. Japanese Americans had to prove their Americanness during World War II by fighting against Germans and Japanese while their families were incarcerated, but German and Italian Americans never had to prove their Americanness to the same extent. German and Italian Americans were selectively imprisoned for suspected or actual disloyalty, while Japanese Americans were incarcerated en masse, their race marking them as un-American.

Asian Americans are caught between the perception that we are inevitably foreign and the temptation that we can be allied with white people in a country built on white supremacy. As a result, anti-Black (and anti-brown and anti-Native) racism runs deep in Asian-American communities. Immigrants and refugees, including Asian ones, know that we usually have to start low on the ladder of American success. But no matter how low down we are, we know that America allows us to stand on the shoulders of Black, brown and Native people. Throughout Asian-American history, Asian immigrants and their descendants have been offered the opportunity by both Black people and white people to choose sides in the Black-white racial divide, and we have far too often chosen the white side. Asian Americans, while actively critical of anti-Asian racism, have not always stood up against anti-Black racism. Frequently, we have gone along with the status quo and affiliated with white people.

And yet there have been vocal Asian Americans who have called for solidarity with Black people and other people of color, from the activist Yuri Kochiyama, who cradled a dying Malcolm X, to the activist Grace Lee Boggs, who settled in Detroit and engaged in serious, radical organizing and theorizing with her Black husband James Boggs. Kochiyama and Lee Boggs were far from the only Asian Americans who argued that Asian Americans should not stand alone or stand only for themselves. The very term Asian American, coined in the 1960s by Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee and adopted by college student activists, was brought to national consciousness by a movement that was about more than just defending Asian Americans against racism and promoting an Asian-American identity.

Asian-American activists saw their movement as also being antiwar, anti-imperialism and anticapitalism. Taking inspiration from the 1955 Bandung Conference, a gathering of nonaligned African and Asian nations, and from Mao, they located themselves in an international struggle against colonialism with other colonized peoples. Mao also inspired radical African Americans, and the late 1960s in the U.S. was a moment when radical activists of all backgrounds saw themselves as part of a Third World movement that linked the uprisings of racial minorities with a global rebellion against capitalism, racism, colonialism and war.

The legacy of the Third World and Asian-American movements continues today among Asian-American activists and scholars, who have long argued that Asian Americans, because of their history of experiencing racism and labor exploitation, offer a radical potential for contesting the worst aspects of American society. But the more than 22 million Asian Americans, over 6% of the American population, have many different national and ethnic origins and ancestries and times of immigration or settlement. As a result, we often have divergent political viewpoints. Today’s Asian Americans are being offered two paths: the radical future imagined by the Asian-American movement, and the consumer model symbolized by drinking boba tea and listening to K-pop. While Asian Americans increasingly trend Democratic, we are far from all being radical.

What usually unifies Asian Americans and enrages us is anti-Asian racism and murder, beginning with the anti-Chinese violence and virulence of the 19th century and continuing through incidents like a white gunman killing five Vietnamese and Cambodian refugee children in a Stockton, Calif., school in 1989, and another white gunman killing six members of a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin in 2012. The murder of Vincent Chin, killed in 1982 by white Detroit autoworkers who mistook him for Japanese, remains a rallying cry. As do the Los Angeles riots, or uprisings, of 1992, when much of Koreatown was burned down by mostly Black and brown looters while the LAPD watched. Korean-American merchants suffered about half of the economic damage. Two Asian Americans were killed in the violence.

All of this is cause for mourning, remembrance and outrage, but so is something else: the 61 other people who died were not Asian, and the majority of them were Black or brown. Most of the more than 12,000 people who were arrested were also Black or brown. In short, Korean Americans suffered economic losses, as well as emotional and psychic damage, that would continue for years afterward. But they had property to lose, and they did not pay the price of their tenuous Americanness through the same loss of life or liberty as experienced by their Black and brown customers and neighbors.

Many Korean Americans were angry because they felt the city’s law-enforcement and political leadership had sacrificed them by preventing the unrest from reaching the whiter parts of the city, making Korean Americans bear the brunt of the long-simmering rage of Black and brown Angelenos over poverty, segregation and abusive police treatment. In the aftermath, Koreatown was rebuilt, although not all of the shopkeepers recovered their livelihoods. Some of the money that rebuilt Koreatown came, ironically, from South Korea, which had enjoyed a decades-long transformation into an economic powerhouse. South Korean capital, and eventually South Korean pop culture, especially cinema and K-pop, became cooler and more fashionable than the Korean immigrants who had left South Korea for the American Dream. Even if economic struggle still defined a good deal of Korean immigrant life, it was overshadowed by the overall American perception of Asian-American success, and by the new factor of Asian capital and competition.

This is what it means to be a model minority: to be invisible in most circumstances because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, like my parents, until we become hypervisible because we are doing what we do too well, like the Korean shopkeepers. Then the model minority becomes the Asian invasion, and the Asian-American model minority, which had served to prove the success of capitalism, bears the blame when capitalism fails.

Not to say that we bear the brunt of capitalism. Situated in the middle of America’s fraught racial relations, we receive, on the whole, more benefits from American capitalism than Black, brown or Indigenous peoples, even if many of us also experience poverty and marginalization. While some of us do die from police abuse, it does not happen on the same scale as that directed against Black, brown or Indigenous peoples. While we do experience segregation and racism and hostility, we are also more likely to live in integrated neighborhoods than Black or Indigenous people. To the extent that we experience advantage because of our race, we are also complicit in holding up a system that disadvantages Black, brown and Indigenous people because of their race.

Given our tenuous place in American society, no wonder so many Asian Americans might want to prove their Americanness, or to dream of acceptance by a white-dominated society, or condemn Tou Thao as not one of “us.” But when Asian Americans speak of their vast collective, with origins from East to West Asia and South to Southeast Asia, who is the “we” that we use? The elite multiculturalism of colored faces in high places is a genteel politics of representation that focuses on assimilation. So long excluded from American life, marked as inassimilable aliens and perpetual foreigners, asked where we come from and complimented on our English, Asian immigrants and their descendants have sought passionately to make this country our own. But from the perspective of many Black, brown and Indigenous people, this country was built on their enslavement, their dispossession, their erasure, their forced migration, their imprisonment, their segregation, their abuse, their exploited labor and their colonization.

If Hmong experiences fit more closely with the failure of the American Dream, what does it mean for some Asian Americans to still want their piece of it? If we claim America, then we must claim all of America, its hope and its hypocrisy, its profit and its pain, its liberty and its losses, its imperfect union and its ongoing segregation.

To be Asian American is therefore paradoxical, for being Asian American is both necessary and insufficient. Being Asian American is necessary, the name and identity giving us something to organize around, allowing us to have more than “minor feelings.” I vividly remember becoming an Asian American in my sophomore year, when I transferred to UC Berkeley, stepped foot on the campus and was immediately struck by intellectual and political lightning. Through my Asian-American studies courses and my fellow student activists of the Asian American Political Alliance, I was no longer a faceless part of an “Asian invasion.” I was an Asian American. I had a face, a voice, a name, a movement, a history, a consciousness, a rage. That rage is a major feeling, compelling me to refuse a submissive politics of apology, which an uncritical acceptance of the American Dream demands.

But the rage that is at the heart of the Asian-American movement–a righteous rage, a wrath for justice, acknowledgment, redemption–has not been able to overcome the transformation of the movement into a diluted if empowering identity. In its most diluted form, Asian-American identity is also open to anti-Black racism, the acceptance of colonization, and the fueling of America’s perpetual-motion war machine, which Americans from across the Democratic and Republican parties accept as a part of the U.S.

My presence here in this country, and that of my parents, and a majority of Vietnamese and Hmong, is due to the so-called Vietnam War in Southeast Asia that the U.S. helped to wage. The war in Laos was called “the Secret War” because the CIA conducted it and kept it secret from the American people. In Laos, the Hmong were a stateless minority without a country to call their own, and CIA advisers promised the Hmong that if they fought along with them, the U.S. would take care of the Hmong in both victory and defeat, perhaps even helping them gain their own homeland. About 58,000 Hmong who fought with the Americans lost their lives, fighting communists and rescuing downed American pilots flying secret bombing missions over Laos. When the war ended, the CIA abandoned most of its Hmong allies, taking only a small number out of the country to Thailand. The ones who remained behind suffered persecution at the hands of their communist enemies.

This is why Tou Thao’s face haunts me. Not just because we may look alike in some superficial way as Asian Americans, but because he and I are here because of this American history of war. The war was a tragedy for us, as it was for the Black Americans who were sent to “guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem,” as Martin Luther King Jr. argued passionately in his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam.” In this radical speech, he condemns not just racism but capitalism, militarism, American imperialism and the American war machine, “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today.” In another speech, he demands that we question our “whole society,” which means “ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation and the problem of war are all tied together.”

Little has changed. The U.S. is still a country built on war and for war. This is why “Vietnam,” meaning the Vietnam War, continues to haunt this country, stuck in a forever war. And this is why Tou Thao’s face haunts me. It is the face of someone who shares some of my history and has done the thing I fear to do when faced with injustice–nothing. Addressing Tou Thao, the poet Mai Der Vang, also Hmong, wrote in her poem “In the Year of Permutations”: “Go live with yourself after what you didn’t do.” Thao was “complicit in adding to the/ perpetration of power on a neck … Never truly to be accepted/ always a pawn.” While the life of a Hmong-American police officer descended from refugees is different from that of a stereotypical model-minority Chinese-American engineer or a Vietnamese-American writer like me, the moral choices remain the same. Solidarity or complicity. Rise against abusive power or stand with our back turned to the abuse of power. If we as Asian Americans choose the latter, we are indeed the model minority, and we deserve both its privileges and its perils.

Our challenge is to be both Asian American and to imagine a world beyond it, one in which being Asian American isn’t necessary. This is not a problem of assimilation or multiculturalism. This is a contradiction, inherited from the fundamental contradiction that ties the American body politic together, its aspiration toward equality for all, bound with its need to exploit the land and racially marked people, beginning from the very origins of American society and its conquest of Indigenous nations and importation of African slaves. The U.S. is an example of a successful project of colonization, only we do not call colonization by that name here. Instead, we call successful colonization “the American Dream.” This is why, as Mai Der Vang says, “the American Dream will not save us.”

“Asian Americans” should not exist in a land where everyone is equal, but because of racism’s persistence, and capitalism’s need for cheap, racialized labor, “Asian Americans” do indeed exist. The end of Asian Americans only happens with the end of racism and capitalism. Faced with this problem, Asian Americans can be a model of apology, trying to prove an Americanness that cannot be proved. Or we can be a model of justice and demand greater economic and social equality for us and for all Americans.

If we are dissatisfied with our country’s failures and limitations, revealed to us in stark clarity during the time of coronavirus, then now is our time to change our country for the better. If you think America is in trouble, blame shareholders, not immigrants; look at CEOs, not foreigners; resent corporations, not minorities; yell at politicians of both parties, not the weak, who have little in the way of power or wealth to share. Many Americans of all backgrounds understand this better now than they did in 1992. Then, angry protesters burned down Koreatown. Now, they peacefully surround the White House.

Demanding that the powerful and the wealthy share their power and their wealth is what will make America great. Until then, race will continue to divide us. To locate Tou Thao in the middle of a Black-Hmong divide, or a Black-Asian divide, as if race were the only problem and the only answer, obscures a fatal statistic: the national poverty rate was 15.1% in 2015, while the rate for African Americans was about 24.1% and for Hmong Americans 28.3%.

The problem is race, and class, and war–a country almost always at war overseas that then pits its poor of all races and its exploited minorities against each other in a domestic war over scarce resources. So long as this crossbred system of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation remains in place, there will always be someone who will write that sign: Another American Driven Out of Business by [fill in the blank], because racism always offers the temptation to blame the weak rather than the powerful. The people who write these signs are engaging in the most dangerous kind of identity politics, the nationalist American kind, which, from the origins of this country, has been white and propertied. The police were created to defend the white, the propertied and their allies, and continue to do so. Black people know this all too well, many descended from people who were property.

My parents, as newcomers to America, learned this lesson most intimately. When they opened the New Saigon, they told me not to call the police if there was trouble. In Vietnam, the police were not to be trusted. The police were corrupt. But a few years later, when an armed (white) gunman burst into our house and pointed a gun in all our faces, and after my mother dashed by him and into the street and saved our lives, I called the police. The police officers who came were white and Latino. They were gentle and respectful with us. We owned property. We were the victims. And yet our status as people with property, as refugees fulfilling the American Dream, as good neighbors for white people, is always fragile, so long as that sign can always be hung.

But the people who would hang that sign misunderstand a basic fact of American life: America is built on the business of driving other businesses out of business. This is the life cycle of capitalism, one in which an (Asian) American Dream that is multicultural, transpacific and corporate fits perfectly well. My parents, natural capitalists, succeeded at this life cycle until they, in turn, were driven out of business. The city of San Jose, which had neglected downtown when my parents arrived, changed its approach with the rise of Silicon Valley. Realizing that downtown should reflect the image of a modern tech metropolis, the city used eminent domain to force my parents to sell their store. Across from where the New Saigon once stood now looms the brand-new city hall, which was supposed to face a brand-new symphony hall.

I love the idea that a symphony could have sprung from the refugee roots of the New Saigon, where my parents shed not only sweat but blood, having once been shot there on Christmas Eve. But for many years, all that stood on my parents’ property was a dismal parking lot. Eventually the city sold the property for many millions of dollars, and now a tower of expensive condominiums is being built on the site of my parents’ struggle for the American Dream. The symphony was never heard. This, too, is America.

So is this: the mother of Fong Lee, Youa Vang Lee, marching with Hmong 4 Black Lives on the Minnesota state capitol in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. “I have to be there,” she said. She spoke in Hmong, but her feelings could be understood without translation.

“The same happened to my son.”

Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist and a University Professor at the University of Southern California

Source: Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype. And It Creates Inequality for All