Just a reminder on this Indigenous People’s Day that the US military continues to occupy land on Okinawa, a kingdom that was colonized by Japan and subsequently used as a battle site by both Japan and the US until the US eventually started using it as a major base in the Asia-Pacific region.
Beyond horrific incidents such as military exercises gone awry that have led to deaths, US servicemen continue to commit crimes such as theft and sexual violence. There have also been talks of further base construction that would lead to filling in a chunk of the ocean ecosystem Okinawa is known for.
Okinawans are a native group with a unique language and culture (separate from Japan), and have faced waves and waves of colonialism and oppression.
Under French colonialism, Haiti was a worth a fortune in enslaved human beings. From the French slave owners’ perspectives, Haitian independence abolished not slavery, but their property and a source of common-wealth. Unfortunately, history provides us with the exact figures on what their property was worth; in 1825, “France recognized Haitian independence by a treaty requiring Haiti to pay an indemnity of 150 million francs payable in 5 years to compensate absentee slaveowners for their losses” (Schuller, 2007, p.149). The magnitude of these reparations not for slavery, but to former slave owners, plunged Haiti into eternal debt.– Eve Tuck and K. Wayne Yang, Decolonization is not a metaphor (via mahakavi)
chandapw: Go Chris Hayes! Also, he must smell terrible.
I have been gone too long, tumblr-land. I have returned to discuss with you the stupidity of navel-gazing, antiquated racial nationalism and how white supremacy has bled into the brains and hearts of our people, so much so that they can’t even remember history correctly.
To prevent me from burying the lede, I will state this upfront: Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI*) organizations, associations, and institutions, especially the professional ones and the ones with influence or power, need to stop being so goddamned self-absorbed and show solidarity with other communities of color. This post is about a tragic example of that not happening. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the last year, it’s that there’s no such thing as neutral. If Asian American or AAPI groups aren’t standing against white supremacy, they are supporting it. Stop supporting white supremacy.
And now, for some rambling and ranting.
Once upon a time, I wrote a journal article that went something like this: Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders cannot buy political empowerment. Some AAPI leaders have bought wholesale into the Model Minority Myth, and think they can buy political empowerment, but they are wrong. That road leads only to the crumbs of white supremacy and the gluttony of unreformed capitalism for a small elite, none of which do the smallest shit for the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who are struggling the most, nor for all AAPI insofar as creating a society based on justice and free of white supremacy protects us from the sort of not-so-random acts of racist violence and discrimination that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders face daily, whether or not media and AAPI political elites choose to recognize it.
When I wrote that article, however, I didn’t imagine that something like what happened at at the Asian American Journalists Association national convention this week could happen. And what happened was this:
One would think that, in a gathering of all of the most prominent Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have inherent in their job titles the responsibility to report the news, the convention organizers, or the speakers, or the panelists themselves would want to talk about the most important story of the day. Perhaps the most important story of the year. Namely, the dawning realization of non-Black America that police and vigilantes have and are killing unarmed Black women and men even yet now, in the 21st century, as seen now in Ferguson, where a teenager named Mike Brown, just about to start college, was shot six times by a police officer for jaywalking. Regardless of the specifics of what happened between Mike Brown and the police officer, regardless of what the teen was or was not doing before the encounter, the fact remains that there was an unarmed Black teen who said “don’t shoot” and raised his hands in surrender, for which he was shot and killed by a white police officer.
But if one thought that the AAJA, a group of journalists, would talk about the story that has dominated the 24-hour news cycle for the last week, one would be wrong. Gil Asakawa of Nisei Blog reported that he only heard Ferguson mentioned twice by panelists, and agreed with the Maynard Institute’s Richard Prince (to whose article he was responding) that there were, in fact, no official convention events or talks or opportunities to discuss the issue.
Here’s a general digression, for a moment: Look, folks, I realize a professional association convention is a very complicated thing to organize. My wife organized one recently for a professional science association, for an attendance of about the same size as AAJA, and that business is no joke. It takes a long time to find speakers, panelists, and to figure out all the topics to be covered. All these things are planned ahead of time. But if there was some discovery in that scientific field that happened at the same time as the conference, you can bet that every speaker and panelist would be trying to figure out how to link that discovery to their work, and in any case, everyone at the convention would be buzzing about it. You wouldn’t be able to not talk about it.
And yet the exact opposite is exactly what happened at the AAJA conference. Huge news story, only two of many many speakers seem to care.
Oh yeah, they were in D.C., with tons of Ferguson solidarity activism happening immediately around them.
All this is to say, Gil Asakawa needs not not be defensive about Richard Prince calling out the AAJA for their major solidarity fail on this one. I’m not going to link Asakawa’s blog post here, because he doesn’t need to get more clicks, but it’s full of stupid historical untruths, and even worse analysis. Instead, I’ll just summarize and refute his nonsense excuses for you.
Gil’s first excuse is that the conference was planned months ago, to which I say, see above.
Gil’s second excuse is that Asian Americans** just don’t protest. Seriously. What, you think my summary is inaccurate? Fine, this is what he says:
When I think about it, there haven’t been many instances of Asian Americans protesting and marching as a group. Individuals have been involved in political activism – some high-profile Japanese Americans were involved in the civil rights movement, for instance, and marched alongside black leaders (and even with the Black Panthers, though it turns out, as an FBI informant). There were protests during the era that established Asian American studies in universities. And there were protests after the Vincent Chin murder in 1982, arguably a pivotal moment when an “Asian American” identity came together.
But there weren’t mass protests when Japanese Americans were rounded up and sent to concentration camps during World War II.
Wow. Just wow. No AAPI protesting or marching as a group? He seems to have forgotten the 70s and 80s entirely. It wasn’t just college kids, dude. And way to go promoting those unproven potential jacketing of hero Richard Aoki. I guess if you can’t even show solidarity to your own folks, what hope is there for you? Sorry, this excuse is just too factually incorrect and nonsensical for me to continue any further with.
Gil’s third excuse, Asian American cultural values keep us from public displays of anger. Has this guy actually ever been around other AAPI? What is this Model Minority nonsense? Asian Americans get angry all the time. Individually, I could write all sorts of funny examples. But collectively, come on. No one would know who Cesar Chavez was if it wasn’t for Pilipino farmworkers organizing first, and then pushing the reluctant Chavez to strike Delano farms. Those farmworkers were some angry folks, and publicly. Asian American kids and elderly got into brawls with SFPD trying to stop them from evicting the residents of I Hotel. I’ve personally yelled my voice gone alongside other AAPI at living wage marches, rallies against racist ballot propositions, rallies against tuition hikes, protests against occupation and apartheid.
There is no excuse that Gil can give, no amount of hand-wringing and “I hope we aren’t as bad as we look” that he can pantomime that explains why AAPI journalists (journalists!) couldn’t even issue a statement in solidarity with those reporters in Ferguson who were being arrested for doing their jobs, as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists has done. Better yet would have been a statement supporting those residents of Ferguson who were also trying to exercise their own First Amendment rights (the assembly part; it’s not just about the press, you know).
There is no excuse.
This is not how AAPI build solidarity. This is not how anyone builds solidarity. Asian Americans, and especially our journalists, need to be telling these stories. First, because it is morally right, and justice demands it. White supremacy in America is white supremacy, and like Voldemort, must be called by its true name. But even for those who want to be selfish, who think they can get away with playing Model Minority and that racism will never catch up to them, even they must recognize that when something happens to AAPI, whether we have built actual and meaningful coalitions, whether we have stood with others when they needed us to, that will determine if anyone else covers our story, joins our cries for justice, stands with us.
This is a fail, and the Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists who have not been covering the story in Ferguson should all be ashamed. As for the rest of us, we should be pushing those who claim to represent us, in the media world, in other professional arenas, in the halls of money and power, to recognize the fact that white supremacy exists, and that we all suffer for it. We suffer from it now when it is strengthened by the attacks on the freedom of Black Americans, we suffer from it when our Black and Brown brothers and sisters are racially profiled, and we suffer from it when we, ourselves, with no one left to stand with us, become the ones facing down the sinister barrel that is racism in America.
UPDATE: The same day that this post was written, AAJA did put out a statement. It is here. I’ll let you all judge for yourselves whether that makes up for the previous booming silence.
*UPDATE 2: Someone has very helpfully pointed out that I carelessly used AAPI and Asian American interchangeably. There are so many issues with the misuse of AAPI as an inter-ethnic coalition of solidarity, and I definitely respect the need to *not* participate in the using of Pacific Islanders as a way to bolster too often-Asian American dominated groups and narratives. Perhaps AAJA is one such organization, I do not know, but AAJA purports, in their own words, to represent both Asian American and Pacific Islander journalists, so this narrative is in play here. I am skeptical, however, given that AAJA decided to exclude PI from the name of their organization. In any case, I apologize for my previous use of the terms interchangeably, and have edited this post accordingly. The only way the hope of an AAPI coalition works is when those in positions of relative power/privilege, namely Asian Americans, keep the realities of Pacific Islanders in mind any time they decide to us AAPI.
** Asakawa talks in terms of Asian Americans, not AAPI.
Image description: All six space shuttle main engines from Endeavour’s STS-134 and Atlantis’ STS-135 missions sit in test cells inside the Engine Shop at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. For the first time, all 15 shuttle main engines are in the shop at the same time, being prepped for shipment to NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, where they are being repurposed for use on NASA’s next generation heavy lift rocket, the Space Launch System.
Photo by NASA.