All of us live within the concentric circles of context that are economic, historical, cultural, and political, in which particular Discourses are at play that shape and inform our beliefs, language, actions, and identities. We must attend to the ways in which language is used to construct narratives, to engage in particular actions, and to develop individual identities. This language-in-use creates our institutions, our relationships, and our world and is not simply descriptive; it is political as the words we choose position us and others in ways that celebrate, marginalize, or erase. We must become more critical of these Discourses and interrogate them—who is helped; who is harmed? While we are influenced by the various discursive communities in which we are situated, we can choose to accept or resist these influences; we have the power to change or eliminate particular Discourses as we decide to disrupt, rather than be shaped by racist ideas, language, and actions.
Response to Anti-Asian Rhetoric and Violence
Violence and threats of violence towards Asians and Asian Americans have increased over the past months. While news of horrific events such as the Atlanta-area mass shootings of eight people, including six Asian women, is prevalent in headlines, we also acknowledge the multiple, verbal and physical assaults members of our Asian communities have endured daily. Rather than viewing the increased racism and xenophobia as acts of individuals, we must acknowledge the systemic structures of racism in our society. Without such acknowledgment, we cannot effectively acknowledge and work to eradicate this problem.
We invite all members of our community of students, teachers and colleagues to join us in purposeful and concrete actions to dismantle white supremacy, patriarchal and imperialist structures, and perspectives that manifest as anti-Asian actions.
As educators and researchers, we must create spaces in our classrooms to directly confront the erasure of Asians and Asian Americans in the narratives of the United States and the essentializing and false narratives of the “model minority” and notions of “threat” that white supremacy has attached to many Asian identities. We affirm the power associated with one’s ability to take ownership of their identities and create the narratives of their lived experiences. We will work as a community to elevate the voices of Asians and Asian Americans, make clear their diverse experiences, and interrogate inequitable systems, institutions, and structures that silence and oppress Asians and Asian Americans. Further, we will make clear in our curricula and in our teaching the cultural, linguistic, historical, geographic diversity within the limiting label of “Asian American.”
Unfortunately, the history of Asian and Asian Americans as relayed in U.S. classrooms has been one of exclusion and invisibility. If taught at all, there is only a limited focus on Chinese immigration in the 19th century, their role in building the transcontinental railroad, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, and the incarceration of people of Japanese ancestry, including American citizens, during World War II. American history reinforces the narratives that Asians and Asian Americans were helped or saved by the U.S. Who creates these narratives and who tells them, matters. Why don’t we hear of Wong Kim Ark, Grace Lee Bogs, May Chen, Ibrahim, Chowdry, Silme Domingo and Gene Vierres, Executive Order 9066, Frank Emi, Gidra, the International Hotel Struggle, Larry Ithliong, Fred Korematsu, Yuri, Kochiyama, Kiyoshi Kuromiya, Corky Lee, Martha and Berda Lum, Patsy Mink, Peter Yew/Police Brutality Protests, Ai-jen Poo, Jung Sai—Garment Worker Strike, Kinku Sen, Ronald Takaki, Philip Vera Cruz, Yick Wo v Hopkins (1886), and Merle Woo?
We must work together to disrupt the mythologies and untruths that are perpetuated as the dominant culture creates the single stories that are used to define others. It is time to take up Ronald Takaki’s different mirror and uncover the histories and realities of racialized and marginalized groups in the U.S. As Wayne Au and Yoe Monamine remind us, the time is now to disrupt what is—the silence, as well as the dangerous single stories that are currently told based on our racial identities and work toward what could be, a more just world that embraces the rich complexities of our individual and collective narratives.
“The time has come again to fight for Asian Americans and for Asian Americans to fight. In doing so, we need to remember that the enemy is white supremacy, the enemy is the myth of the model minority, the enemy is anti-Blackness, the enemy is imperialism, the enemy is settler colonialism, the enemy is environmental racism. It is a fight that requires solidarity — not just solidarity among Asian Americans, but with all communities battling for racial justice. It is a fight that requires us to teach and learn about each other, together, in struggle.”
Our work continues.Resources and Information on Anti-Asian Rhetoric and Violence