The Black And Asian Civil Rights Connection: Past And Present

One of the most common ways conservatives usually attack African Americans?is to use a technique called ?the model minority myth.? They point to successful Asian-American communities and note how they overcame discrimination and racism to become successful — and they did it without ?blaming the White Man.?

This distortion is perpetuated throughout conservative organizations like the Tea Party, which is?known to use minorities to speak out against President Obama and anyone who supports him. It’s a shrewd but effective technique used for charging up their base and creating friction between minorities.

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Asian and Black relations are extremely strained in certain areas. After the L.A. riots following the Rodney King beating in 1992, many in the local black communities came to clash with Asian store owners. The underlying resentment was already present in those areas, like vapors from gasoline.

As many Asian store owners found success selling goods in black neighborhoods, they also did not consider themselves as ?a part? of the community. They invested their money into closed Asian communities. Now I’m not blaming the business owners who lost their livelihoods in the riots. However, I will say that if people don’t think you care about them, they are less likely to care about you when your investment is trouble.

A more recent flashpoint in race relations between Asians and African Americans?happened recently in New York City. Last November NYPD Officer Peter Liang shot and killed an unnamed black man, Akai Gurley, in the staircase of a housing project. Peter Liang’s indictment by a grand jury drew the ire of many Asian Americans.? There was a WhiteHouse.gov petition demanding the reversal of Liang’s indictment. The petition has generated more than 120,000 signatures. Many Asians Americans felt it was unfair for an Asian American police officer to be indicted in light of the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases, where white police officers went free after killing unarmed black men.

One supporter, Doug Lee, said this to Salon:

??This is a vicious attack on the family, and this is a vicious attack on the Chinese community.?




But there is hope for future relations between the Black and Asian Communities. CAAAV Organizing Asian Communities is a grass roots organization based in New York City. It was founded in the 1980s as the Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence. The group has been very active in its support of Gurley’s family and their fight for justice. The group felt that Officer Liang deserved to be indicted and encouraged other Asian Americans to support the decision as justice served. Writer and CAAAV board member Esther Wang wrote:

?We can’t call for justice when an Asian person is harassed, targeted or killed by the police and then act to protect an Asian police officer when they’re the ones who?ve killed.?

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Asians4BlackLives was formed last year after the non-indictments of the police officers involved in the deaths of both Eric Garner and Michael Brown. Oakland area activist Jennifer Phung told Salon:

?As Asian Americans, we enjoy many rights that were fought for and won by Black liberation movements. Today, we too have the power to stand on the side of justice. We can create harmony by building strong relationships between Black and Asian communities and standing together for Black Lives. Which side are you on??

The group’s participated in it’s first protest as it joined with #blacklivesmatter in a shut down of the Oakland police department. Talk about jumping right into the deep end. Here’s some video from that protest.

Mrs. Phung was referring to the civil rights movement of the 1960’s and how many Asian organization joined Black organizations in their struggle against Jim Crow and discrimination. Asian Americans have a very similar history to African Americans. After slavery, many Asians were lured to American with false promises, finding themselves being transported into abusive labor camps on the same ships that were used to transport African slaves. The bond between these two communities is one of shared blood, sacrifice, and perseverance in the face of outright oppression.

Finally I leave you with a few excerpts from a brilliant essay titled ?The Black Power Movement and The Asian American Movement? by Evelyn Chen.

?During the 1960s, some of the most prominent advocates for Civil Rights were members of the African American community. However, what is perhaps lesser known are the Asian Americans that aided them and took inspiration from their struggles. One such individual is Yuri Kochiyama, who describes the impact that Malcolm X had on the Asian American Movement, in his views of self-determination and of knowing one’s history and how it relates to politics of the present (Kochiyama 131). One of the greatest aims of the Asian American Movement has been to reclaim a sense of the history of Asians in America and determine a culture that is neither Asian nor specifically American. Many of the early ideals of self-determination and rejection of assimilation came from ideologies espoused by the Black Power Movement and its participants. Another often-overlooked fact is in the effect of the Civil Rights Act of 1964: in declaring discrimination by the government, small businesses, and public facilities a federal law, legislators did not distinguish between ethnicity. Many of the laws which are commonly taught in secondary school history classes highlight the effect that these laws had in black history, but in a time where the Asian American community is seeking its own roots, it is important to remember that many of the battles fought for equality and fair treatment are the same battles.

In a time where Asians still find themselves looking down upon blacks, and are often pitted against one another in stereotypes like the ?model minority,? it is crucial to remember that it is not always as easy as it looks to determine what is the truth. So many histories are shared between peoples who often feel that they lack anything in common, and it is ignorance to these differences that will drive us apart. In determining Asian American identity, one must have a sense of history. Only by knowing where we have been will we be able to understand where we are and where we are going. It is impossible to look upon history as an isolated set of circumstances that apply to one ethnic or racial group: oppression is multifaceted and affects many people, and only by working together can racial and cultural oppression be overcome. When we come to understand that fact, we will realize that despite skin color, language, or culture, a shared history makes us all more alike than we think.?

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