November 25, 2014

Letter: Asian Americans must stand in solidarity with fellow students of color

Yesterday’s announcement that the UChicago Electronic Army did not hack a student’s Facebook account only serves as a distraction from the real stories of other students who live in fear of being targeted by racist threats. Until now, Asians have remained on the sidelines while black and Latin@ minorities have been expected to carry the burden of pressuring the administration to enact racially equitable policies. However, as part of our mission to promote dialogue on issues involving Asian Americans, PanAsia Solidarity Coalition would like to encourage all Asian-American students as well as Asian organizations on campus to stand in solidarity with those who have been victims of racism. When it comes to racial injustices that center upon non-Asian people of color, Asian Americans tend to see events such as those happening in Ferguson and the anti-discrimination petition as isolated incidents that do not concern them. This apathy overlooks the experiences of many Asian immigrants, especially Southeast Asians, who are just as likely to experience poverty and police brutality. The reality is that Asian Americans, even those who may feel that they are better off than other minorities, are still affected by a greater systemic trend that hinders them in subtler, though no less harmful, ways.

Despite the belief that Asians are a “model minority,” Asians still face a bamboo ceiling that perpetuates a wage gap, among other injustices. Despite having higher education levels than their white peers, Asians are still prevented from reaching executive positions relative to whites. Despite the fact that Asians comprise a sizable portion of the U.S. population, Asians still have far lower representation in mainstream TV shows and movies than other races. Despite the notion that Asian may be “the new white,” Asians still experience discrimination such as disproportionate bullying at schools and a widespread fetish, also known as yellow fever, that reduces Asians to an exotic other. As minorities, Asians cannot remain neutral in the fight against racism—neutrality only strengthens the oppressors, placing Asians on the losing side by default.

Unity among people of color is an ideal that is often dismissed due to horizontal aggressions: acts of racism between minorities. About a month ago, various Asian-American social media platforms circulated a YouTube video where a black tour guide used expletives against the residents of San Francisco’s Chinatown. The myth that Asians are pitted against other people of color is further propagated through the fabrication of controversial stories, such as the false headline claiming that Asians were supposedly suing Harvard for its affirmative action admissions procedures. This trend drives a wedge between Asians and other people of color, and redirects the blame from those who are benefiting from systemized oppression to those who are presented as the “model minority,” forever foreign and forever apart. If Asians remain complacent and detach themselves from racial issues, they will keep on being used as a shield by those who have the privilege of being white in a society where skin is a marker of status.

We cannot allow ourselves to implicitly perpetuate the idea that Asian-Americans serve as an example minority that black people and Latin@s should strive to imitate. We should also take care that discussions about race among minorities never devolve into an Oppression Olympics where people endlessly argue how their oppression is greater than that of others. Cooperation among all minorities is the key to overthrowing the status quo, which will become all the more important as American society becomes more diverse.

Asians are often stereotyped as meek and submissive, which creates the illusion that it is part of their culture to remain silent in political issues. However, history shows that Asian Americans are far from quiet and instead have used their voices to partner up with black, Chican@, and Native American activist groups to liberate themselves from the effects of racism. Although those interracial relations have frayed over time, it is still possible to forge those alliances once again and build a unified coalition that stands in true solidarity against all forms of oppression.

--PanAsia Solidarity Coalition