Tuesday night’s devastating mass shooting of eight innocent people, six of whom were Asian women, is heartbreaking for the victims’ families and for the AAPI community. It culminated after a year of increased anti-Asian hate, violence, and harassment. Indeed, over this past year, AAPI women reported 2.3 times as many hate incidents as AAPI men, according to Stop AAPI Hate. It is no surprise then that a country that boxes an entire community into either a model minority or perpetual foreigner – and that fails to recognize the intersection of racism, misogyny, and xenophobia – has a difficult time classifying this as a hate crime.
But make no mistake, this isn’t a recent phenomena. The U.S. has a long history of racism and violence against the AAPI community and Asian immigrants, much of which has been erased from our textbooks or rarely taught in school curriculums, including:
The massacre of Chinese mineworkers in the late 1800s, where reports of 25-50 Chinese Immigrants were killed by white men in Rock Springs, Wyoming, due to a misguided belief that job scarcity was the fault of the Chinese Immigrants;
The Page Act of 1875 which prevented Asian women from immigrating to the U.S. because they were perceived as sexually immoral;
The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which effectively excluded Chinese immigrants from entering the country and prevented Chinese Immigrants already in the country from ever becoming U.S. Citizens;
The Geary Act of 1892 which required Chinese immigrants to carry IRS certification at all times, and if were caught without this piece of paper, were sentenced to hard labor and deportation;
The Japanese Internment Camps during WWII, where over 120,000 Japanese-Americans were incarcerated, most of whom were U.S. Citizens or Legal Permanent Residents.
These moments in our history are a direct reflection of white supremacy, and an example of how and why our current systems continue to be steeped in white supremacy. Adding to this erasure is the cross-movement building between the AAPI and Black communities in the 19th and early 20th centuries, and during the Civil Rights Movement, including local examples; and the erasure of the cross-movement building between the AAPI and Latinx communities in the fight for farm-worker rights in the 1960’s, where Larry Itliong led the movement shoulder-to-shoulder with Cesar Chavez. These histories are also rarely taught--perhaps because they offer models of how BIPOC communities and allies can unite to combat and topple structural racism—-a true fear of white supremacy.
We would be remiss if we did not name the intersections at play here. This was an act of racism, but this violence is also emblematic of the criminalization of sex workers and highlights the urgent need to decriminalize sex work. This act is emblematic of xenophobia at large, at the targeting of those who are too often “othered” in this country. This act is a direct representation of violence against women, and in this case, the common and incredibly harmful fetishization and stereotype of AAPI women--a direct result of the combination of white supremacy and U.S. Imperialism.
Our hearts are with the families in Georgia, with the AAPI women who too often exist in the shadows. They are our siblings, neighbors, parents, caregivers, friends. Our ask to you in this moment is to continue to educate yourself on the grasp that white supremacy has on our society, to reflect on what you can do to be a co-conspirator in the fight to abolish racism, white supremacy, and all oppression, and to not ask your AAPI acquaintances for emotional labor at this time. We will continue to fight so that all of our communities can live their lives with dignity and free from violence.
We leave you with this meditation by Jess X Snow "In The Future Our Asian Pacific Elders Are Safe” Meditation Portal."
The quotes in the meditation video are:
“The time has come for us to re-imagine everything. We have to do what I call visionary organizing … We have to see every crisis as both a danger and an opportunity.” — Grace Lee Boggs
“If the world we live in had the imagination to create the police, prisons, and other systems that harm our communities, then the world we need is one where we have the imagination for safety that doesn’t rely on white supremacy, anti-Black racism, police, or any other system of oppression. Safety starts with us.” — Terisa Siagatonu