Several informants said that many Asian Americans embraced “honorary whiteness” and, therefore, any kind of Asian American organizing must be anti-racist. If that’s true, then what does it look like to assert Asian American-ness authentically, expansively, and progressively? It should come as no surprise that this work is already happening. After all, no amount of model minority framing can erase the fact that “Asian American” began as a political identity. The historical basis for being Asian American is twofold: a rejection of labels like âOriental, gook, Jap, etc., and their roots in war and imperialism, and a fundamental commitment to interracial solidarity. In reality, there were no Asian Americans before the Civil Rights, Black Power and antiwar movements. And those of us who dedicate our lives to combating white supremacy today are authentically Asian American.
ChangeLab has put out a 70+ page report chronicling the many ways in which AAPI social justice advocates must improve coalition building and the multiple challenges AAPI justice advocates face in the community and abroad. This report is frank, riveting, and a call to arms for racial justice advocates to build coalitions across marginalities pointing to the increased need to recognize the intersections of class, language, immigration status, gender, and sexual orientation in creating strong organizations for change. The author writes: “Many informants argued for greater inclusion not for the sake of demographic representation, but because Asian American experiences hold promise for opening up new and productive ways of thinking about race and white supremacy. These individuals said that Asian American stories of migration, criminalization, hate crimes, poverty, and other racial justice issues remained largely off the radar of many racial justice leaders, to the detriment of the overall movement” (p. 21). Additionally, “This idea that the inclusion of more Asian American voices could broaden the racial justice movement’s analytical scope came up several times, on issues of poverty, worker justice, immigration, and criminalization” (p. 23). Coalition building is not without its barriers, the report argues. Battling the model minority myth, disorganization within ALL racial justice communities, lack of resources, color-blond racism, AAPI communities distancing themselves from race, and a lack of understanding that AAPI issues are Black and Latin@ issues and that the battles are about structural racism, not just AAPI racism. Ultimately, “Overcoming barriers to solidarity demands new language to talk about Asian American identity, one that reflects authentic experiences with war, displacement and migration, criminalization, racialized violence, and poverty. There is a need to tell more stories of these experiences, and to make Asian American resistance more visible. In addition, the movement needs more ways to build genuine relationships among the most dispossessed people of color, to amass an experiential, and not just theoretical, basis for solidarity. One way to approach this is through conversations about historical trauma and resilience” (p. 47). There is a message to be taken away by any AAPI researcher in how they conceptualize AAPI peoples and their educational struggles. The diminishing of Us vs. Them, the intersections of identity as critical to progress, and the acceptance that AAPI people are a racialized people are all integral to forwarding an educational agenda of equity. Critical thought and praxis is important to continuing the battle for equity within AAPI communities and for all people of color in the U.S. and this report gives us some new motivation to work towards a new understanding of AAPI people holistically. How can we start (and continue) to engage people who are not AAPI but share similar experiences? How can we integrate and empower youth? How can we agitate and educate in the work we do? How do we say what we need to say in a way that people understand and can take action? Reading this report is a good start.