On March 16, a series of mass shootings occurred at three massage parlors in Atlanta. Eight people died, six of whom were Asian women. In the following days, people marched against racism and to remember the victims. Injustices against Asian Americans have been taking center stage in our public discourse. Hashtags like #EndAsianHate have prompted individualized discussions on instances of xenophobia and racism that have existed long before the recent media attention.
In some of the attacks against Asian-Americans, the assailants have been Black, leading to a barrage of Anti-Blackness to be tied with calls of justice. While many Black activists showed their support, there’s still a conversation to be had about the ties between the Black and Asian communities and what can be done to build solidarity between them.
On our very campus, experiences of Asian hate have permeated the culture of the Niner Nation. "When you're known for your characteristics, then you're being labeled as nothing. You're that characteristic, not a peer." President of the Asian Student Association, Benjamin Huang, explained how his experiences formed his political activism. "Being Asian, we're seen as quiet and submissive, and you get reduced down to that. If you see something happening to someone and choose not to call it out, you may forget it. One of my main goals is to plant the seed for people to simply do better. It's the bare minimum."
Amidst these recent tragedies regarding the Asian community, many look at the solidarity between the Black and Asian communities. In order to do this, we need to understand comparative racialization. Comparative racialization is how society treats racialized communities compared to one another. There are many commonalities in the struggles of communities of color, but their experiences are not the same and shouldn't be compared directly. Black people have worked to educate society on the Black experience when it comes to knowledge on injustice, pushing us to the forefront of media. This has led many in the Asian-American community to pressure others, especially Black Americans, to speak on the violence against them. It is important to note, however, that hypervisibility does not automatically equal privilege. Notable sociologist Tamara K. Nopper said, "there is a way where Black people are expected to be responsible for showing up for everybody. There has been a discussion about whether this is a fair expectation."
Looking at varying statistics from the Pew Research Center, systemic racism disproportionately affects African-Americans the most. Anti-Blackness is a staple in many non-Black cultures, and this has created a lot of the tension we see today between communities of color. In Black and Asian communities, the model minority myth attributes many fraught relations between them. Yes, the model minority myth is harmful towards Asian-Americans, but when framed in the larger context, the effects of this myth harms Black people as well and in a way that often invalidates their fight. It creates a monolith from the Asian-American community. It frames an argument that the centuries of racism, beginning with African people's enslavement, can simply be overcome with hard work.
During the presidency of Donald Trump, communities of color faced increased sentiments of hate. With a president who refused to denounce white supremacists on a public stage and created a platform against Mexican immigrants, the message was clear: hate would not be punished. People of color suffered due to the consequences of Trump's behavior. According to a Stop AAPI Hate report, there has been a 150% rise in anti-Asian violence since 2019. This rise is directly connected to former President Donald Trump, who repeatedly and incorrectly used racialized terms to connect Asians to the Coronavirus. Unfortunately, the conversation often does not address Trump or white supremacy as the problem, but it misattributes the issue to Black-Americans. The narrative of Black-Asian hostility continues to further the divide between the communities. There is a significant need for unity between the two communities, and this cannot happen without first understanding that the strategy is to divide.
Many of the responses to these incidents created pushes for harsh carceral punishment. Communities rightfully want to see punishments for those who harm. The difficulty around this conversation, however, lies in how disproportionality the justice system targets Black-Americans. Is it possible to punish without harming another group of people? "This is something abolitionists are thinking of, and they are very concerned about people living in a world free of harm," said Nopper. "Very few abolitionists I know say that there will never be harm in the future, but how do we minimize the possibility of harm? If people are robbing people, why is that happening? If you aren't getting paid well, if rent is so high, if the cost of food is so high, these things happen more. We have to call for the state to solve some of these issues first- the root of the problem."
Talking about the strained relationship between the Black and Asian community is difficult, and solutions may not be immediately clear-cut. Addressing Anti-Blackness, Xenophobia, and the history of pain is a great way to build understanding. By re-imagining the coalition's new ways and focusing on the common target, white supremacy, we can start building solidarity between our communities.