10 examples of #AAPI’s rich history of resistance

January 15, 2014
Yew-Rally6111
The Asian American Movement: protesters protest police brutality and racial profiling during the 1970’s (photo credit: Corky Lee). For a far better description of this photo and associated protests than I could provide, please read the fantastic comment from Gavin Huang in the comments section immediately following this post, as well as his post on the subject here.

In the wake of the #AsianPrivilege response hash-tag to #NotYourAsianSidekick and #BlackPowerYellowPeril, it appears as if (among other misguided ideas) there is a prevailing notion out there that, in contrast to other minorities, Asian Americans “lack a history of resistance” (or that we think we do), and that this invisibility and dearth of civil rights history actually confers upon the Asian American community a form of racial privilege.

Putting aside the second half of that assertion regarding privilege for a minute, there’s one other major problem: any argument that relies upon the assumption that Asian Americans lack a history of resistance is patently ahistorical.

Like really, really, really wrong. Like insultingly wrong.

After the jump, here are 10 examples of Asian American’s history of oppression and political resistance.

1. Over half a century of Chinese resistance against anti-Chinese purges and lynching in the West Coast (mid 1800’s through early 1900’s)

A historical cartoon, one of several you can find on the Internet and in books, detailing popular anti-Asian sentiment of the time.
A historical cartoon advocating the lynching of Chinese, one of several you can find on the Internet and in books, detailing popular anti-Asian sentiment of the time.

Frustratingly, few Americans — myself included, until my college years — are aware that 19th century anti-minority violence targeted Asians in addition to other minorities. Jean Pfaelzer’s Driven Out documents the untaught  history of anti-Chinese lynching in California and the Pacific Northwest from 1848 to the twentieth century, and the Chinese community’s storied history of resistance. As California mounted an escalating institutional war against Chinese immigrants — including race-based taxes and anti-immigration legislation — White citizens took to the streets, razing Chinatowns and expelling and murdering Chinese migrants, by the tens and hundreds. From the book jacket: “Chinatowns across the West burned as Chinese miners and merchants, lumberjacks and field-workers, prostitutes and merchants’ wives were violently loaded onto railroad cars and steamers, marched out of town, or killed.”

One (of the many) examples: “In 1887, thirty-one Chinese miners are slaughtered in the ‘Snake River massacre’ at Hell’s Canyon along Oregon’s Columbia River; a gang of white farmers and schoolboys rob and murder the miners, mutilate their bodies, and throw them in the river.”

But contrary to the popular narrative of the unassuming Chinese migrant, “the Chinese fought back — with arms, strikes, and lawsuits and by flatly refusing to leave. When red posters urging the Chinese to refuse to carry photo identity cards appeared… more than one hundred thousand joined the largest mass civil disobedience to date in the United States.” The rest of the book provides detail of these acts of localized resistance (to varying degrees of success), chiefly  through organized labour strikes and on occasion through armed force.

2. Civil disobedience and lawsuits resisting discriminatory laws: Yick Wo v. Hopkins (1886)

The stereotype of the Chinese laundry comes from historical anti-Chinese exclusion from other forms of work. Chinese laundries became one of the few forms of work open to early Chinese migrants, but also became an indirect way of targeting Chinese residents in California with overtly race-neutral discriminatory laws.
The stereotype of the Chinese laundromat comes from historical anti-Chinese sentiment that excluded Chinese laborers from other forms of work. Chinese laundries became one of the few forms of work open to early Chinese migrants, but also became an indirect way of targeting Chinese residents in California with superficially race-neutral discriminatory laws.

Legal and cultural bias in the late 1800’s prevented many Chinese migrants in California from finding work; consequently, many turned to running laundries (stereotypically viewed as “women’s work” and thus disdainful for White laborers) as one of their few avenues for earning a living. In response, San Francisco penned an ostensibly race-neutral law requiring that all laundries not be operated in wooden buildings, a law that would in effect outlaw 95% of the city’s Chinese-owned laundry businesses and drive them out of the city. Yick Wo, who owned a laundry with a legal license for years prior to the passage of the ordinance, refused to close his laundry and further refused to pay the $10 fine; he was consequently imprisoned where he sued for a writ of habeas corpus.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in favour of Yick Wo, deciding for the first time in American history that any law that in administration (if not explicitly in writing) that results in discrimination violates the Fourteenth Amendment. Although the law failed to be applied to reverse subsequent Jim Crow laws of the Deep South, it has been subsequently cited in over 150 Supreme Court cases. According to Pfaelzer, this case served as one of the legal precedents for many of the civil rights cases of the 1960’s.

3. Labor strikes and collective bargaining (late 1800’s to early 1900’s)

Chinese laborers, many of whom were basically indentured servants, work a sugar plantation in Hawaii in the 1900s.
Chinese laborers, some of whom were basically indentured servants while others were classified as “contract laborers”, work a sugar plantation in Hawaii in late 1800’s or early 1900’s.

For most of our early history in the United States, Asian Americans lived in Hawaii and throughout parts of the West Coast, working on farms and plantations on subsistence wages or as indentured laborers. In the wake of Emancipation, plantation overseers were keenly aware of the possibility of labor revolt, and used many of the same tactics employed by slave-owners in the Deep South to keep Asian laborers under control — encouraging illiteracy and pitting workgroups against one another to maximize discord. Nonetheless, Asian workers of many ethnicities, including Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Filipino, organized some of the major strikes of the era.

Ron Takaki recounts in Strangers from a Different Shore:

The most important manifestation of ‘blood unionism’ [unions organized by ethnicity] was the Japanese strike of 1909. Protesting against the differential-wage system based on ethnicity, the strikers demanded higher wages and equal pay for equal work. They noted angrily how Portuguese laborers were paid $22.50 per month while Japanese laborers earned only eighteen dollars a month for the same kind of work. ‘The wage is a reward for services done,’ they argued, ‘and a just wage is that which compensates the laborer to the full value of the service rendered by him… If a laborer comes from Japan and he performs the same quantity of work of the same quality within the same period of time as those who hail from the opposite side of the world, what good reason is there to discriminate one as against the other? It is not the color of skin that grows cane in the field. It is labor that grows cane.’

The Japanese strikers struggled for four long months. The strike involved 7,000 Japanese plantation laborers on Oahu, and thousands of Japanese workers on the other islands supported their striking compatriots, sending them money and food.

Similar strikes were organized by Chinese, Korean, and Filipino-based unions, often either alone or between unions of different ethnicities or racial groups.

4. United States v. Wong Kim Ark (1898)

Wong Kim Ark's legal fight over his citizenship status was a landmark Supreme Court case establishing that citizenship in the U.S. would be based upon place of birth.
Wong Kim Ark’s legal fight over his citizenship status was a landmark Supreme Court case establishing that citizenship in the U.S. would be based upon place of birth.

In the 1800’s, non-White foreign-born migrants — including Asians —  were disallowed from pursuing or obtaining American citizenship based exclusively on race and ethnicity; upon this federal law was built a host of other local and federal laws targeting anyone “ineligible for citizenship”, preventing them from purchasing land or even testifying in court in their own defense. Against this political landscape, Wong Kim Ark, a San Francisco-born son of Chinese immigrants, found himself barred from re-entry into the United States under the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act after an overseas trip.

The Fourteenth Amendment had already been passed establishing American citizenship for “all persons born in the United States and not subject to any foreign power”, however until Wong Kim Ark’s case, it was interpreted as not applying to Asian immigrants or their children (under the “foreign power” qualification). Instead, children of Chinese migrants were seen as inheriting the citizenship of their parents. Wong Kim Ark argued that under the Fourteenth Amendment, he was an American citizen based on his birth on U.S. soil; ultimately the U.S. Supreme Court agreed with him, broadly establishing for the first time in U.S. history the principle of jus soli, a notion derived from English common law which asserts that all citizens derive citizenship from the place of their birth.

The ramifications of the Wong Kim Ark decision on our contemporary notions of citizenship are undeniable.

5. The Chinese boycott of 1905 and other acts of resistance against exclusionary immigration laws. (1880’s – early 1900’s)

From lawsuits to boycotts to "paper son" fraud, Chinese found ways to resist exclusionary immigration laws of the late 1800's and early 1900's. Even small acts of rebellion are noteworthy: here, a detained Chinese immigrant carved graffiti into the walls of Angel Island Immigration and Detention Centre. Poems like these have been instrumental in uncovering the inhumane treatment of aspiring immigrants at the facility during its operation.
From lawsuits to boycotts to “paper son” fraud, Chinese found ways to resist exclusionary immigration laws of the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. Even small acts of rebellion are noteworthy: here, a detained Chinese immigrant carved graffiti into the walls of Angel Island Immigration and Detention Centre. Poems like these have been instrumental in uncovering the inhumane treatment of aspiring immigrants at the facility during its operation.

As mentioned above, the late 1800’s was marked by a series of racist exclusionary immigration laws that targeted Chinese, Japanese, Koreans, Filipinos, and Asian Indians that essentially halted entry migrants from Asian countries for decades; the most famous of these laws is the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act.

Lucy E. Salyer’s Laws Harsh as Tigers documents the “sophisticated and often-successful legal challenges to the enforcement of exclusionary immigration policies”. However one example of the failure of the legal system to overturn exclusionary and intolerant laws was in United States v. Ju Toy (1905) where the U.S. Supreme Court reaffirmed the right of port inspectors to make arguably arbitrary admittance decisions, and even subject potential immigrants to wildly inhumane treatment in the country’s immigration ports (those unaware of the conditions of Angel Island should read up on it). Writes Salyer:

In 1905, within days of the Supreme Court’s decision in Ju Toy, Chinese merchants once again took the offensive, this time turning to economic sanctions to protest American immigration policy. They helped to engineer a boycott of American goods in China…

The boycott brought the United States’ attention to bear upon the Bureau of Immigration’s methods. American merchants, worried that the boycott might ‘ultimately destroy American trade’ in the Chinese empire, joined in the demand that the agency treat exempt Chinese with greater respect and that it refrain from an overzealous enforcement of the laws. Other Americans became embarrassed by stories detailing the harsh methods of the immigration service.

Although a powerful example of Chinese Americans leveraging what economic power they could muster by reaching across the Pacific Ocean to China, the boycott was more symbolic than successful: it did not effectively overturn exclusionary immigration laws or improve conditions for Chinese Americans in America.

Another often-cited example of Chinese resistance to exclusionary immigration laws was the ‘paper son’ phenomenon, which is also well-documented in Salyer’s book.

6. Resistance to Japanese American Internment: Gordon Hirabayashi, Fred Korematsu  and the No-No Boys (1940s – 1990s)

No-No Boys interned at Tule Lake, a photograph taken during the era by Life Magazine.
No-No Boys interned at Tule Lake, a photograph taken during the era by Life Magazine.

Following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, Japanese nationals (remember, foreign-born migrants were not allowed to naturalize at the time) and domestic-born citizens were subjected to curfew and later were rounded up and detained in internment camps throughout America’s West Coast by Executive Order 9066. Contrary to popular opinion, however, many Japanese Americans resisted these racist efforts through whatever means available to them.

Gordon Hirabayashi, a college student at University of Washington, and Fred Korematsu, a welder living in California, refused to comply; Hirabayashi was arrested while Korematsu became a fugitive and went into hiding before being discovered and detained. Both subsequently challenged their convictions in court: the Korematsu case is largely interpreted as applying to relocation and internment, whereas Hirabayashi’s case focused on the constitutionality of the curfew.

For Japanese Americans who were interned, many of the men were forced to take an allegiance questionnaire applied to all internees in 1943, asking whether they would be willing to serve the US Army and foresake allegiance to Japan. For many internees, neither question was rational. Regarding the first question, it was unclear whether a “yes” answer would ensure draft into the war; for others, they felt it unfair to expect them to enter into military service after having been forcibly relocated and detained. Regarding the second question, many internees — particularly those born in the U.S. — were confused as how they could forsake allegiance to a foreign power they never had allegiance to in the first place. Men who answered “no” to both questions, despite fears that a negative response would invite harsher treatment through the presumption of anti-American sentiment, were referred to as “No-No Boys”, popularly explored in the book by the same name by John Okada. Their fears were justified: most “No-No Boys” were subsequently detained in federal prison.

Although the legality of internment was upheld by the Supreme Court in both instances, Hirabayashi and Korematsu’s charges were ultimately vacated in the 1980’s through a series of coram nobis cases simultaneous to a nationwide movements by Asian Americans to seek redress and reparations for internees. These activists eventually earned an apology and reparations from the federal government for surviving internees, but only 50 years after the camps closed.

(Correction: an earlier version of this post incorrectly summarized that the charges were overturned, not vacated. This outcome is significant because it does not set a precedent that future mass internment would be unconstitutional. Thanks Sean Miura for the catch!)

7. The Asian American Movement (1960’s – 1970’s)

The radical Asian American Movement of the 1960's and 1970's was interested in many forms of community activism and anti-racist action.
The radical Asian American Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s —  a distinct radical social movement from other efforts of the time — was interested in many forms of community activism and anti-racist action.

The 1960’s was a busy era for civil rights, but Asian Americans are typically unseen in those struggles, often because the second wave of Asian American immigration arrived following the passage of the 1965 Immigration Act. However, for Asian American descendants of laborers who entered the country prior to exclusionary immigration practices, America was their home and the fight for civil rights struck a nerve.

Two of the most well-known Asian American names in the civil rights movement of the 1960’s are Richard Aoki and Yuri Kochiyama, both children whose families were interned during World War II. While many often cite the relationship between these two figures and their work with the Black Panther Party, that fact that they were iconic civil rights workers in their own right is less well-cited. Both worked tirelessly on a number of social justice campaigns, including protests against the Vietnam War, the detainment of political prisoners (e.g. Mumia Abu-Jamal), as well as the fight for reparations for World War II internees. Regarding their work with the Black Panther Party, both Aoki and Kochiyama served as bridges between the African American community and the wholly distinct Asian American Movement emerging at the time.

In particular, Kochiyama’s dedication to multi-ethnic radical work was a central tenet to her activist philosophy: the building of inter-ethnic bridges between disparate racial and ethnic communities through shared experiences. In Legacy to Liberation: politics and culture of revolutionary asian pacific america, Diane C Fujino writes about Kochiyama:

The third theme that emerges from Yuri’s practice is an opposition to polarization. She is a master bridge builder. To counter the creation of artificial boundaries that separate groups, Yuri actively works to connect social issues, movements, and communities…. What Yuri understands in a dialectical way is the [Asian American Movement] brings out the best in people, who in turn, enhance their own humanity by working in the movement for justice.

And later in her own words, Yuri Kochiyama says:

I think today part of the mission would be to fight against racism and polarization, learn from each other’s struggle, but also understand national liberation struggles — that ethnic groups need their own space and they need their own leaders. They need their own privacy. But there are enough issues that we could all work together on… We could all fight together and we must not forget our battle cry is that ‘They fought for us. Now we must fight for them!’

Although among the most well-known of the Movement’s participants, Aoki and Kochiyama were hardly the only Asian Americans working tirelessly on social justice during the 1960’s and 1970’s. Spanning the political spectrum of the Left from progressivism to socialism, a large number of Asian Americans (particularly Asian American youth) created countless groups focused on grassroots community work, including the Red Guard Party and I Wor Kuen. Taken together, the work of the era is referred to as the early Asian American Movement. Movement members not only worked on Asian-specific efforts (particularly in elevating the plight of local Chinatown residents by hosting free clinics and other similar sorts of events), but they also helped advance many larger social justice causes of the era through inter-ethnic bridge-building.

But perhaps the most influential impact of the Asian American Movement was that it introduced to mainstream America — for some it was for the first time — the notion of the Asian American as a radical activist.

8. College Campuses: Asian American Studies and other work (1960’s – present)

One of the lasting campaigns to come out of the Asian American Movement of the 1960's and 1970's is the fight for Asian American Studies. This mural is at Rutgers University.
One of the lasting campaigns to come out of the Asian American Movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s is the fight for Asian American Studies. This mural is at Rutgers University.

Born out of the Asian American Movement of the 1960’s was a struggle that continues even now: the fight to bring Asian American Studies to college campuses.  Through 1980’s and 1990’s, countless schools found Asian American students organizing together into groups to create or protect Asian American studies and other ethnic studies programs. Where they have been successful, Asian American studies programs have been flourishing, contributing to the ongoing shaping of the Asian American identity as well as educating successive generations of young Asian Americans on our history. I, myself, am a product of Cornell University’s Asian American Studies program, and my classes on the subject have fundamentally shaped who I am today. Critically, on virtually every college campus where  Asian American studies exists, they are a product of the work of student activists.

Both at schools where Asian American studies have been implemented, and at schools where the fight is ongoing, on-campus student groups that came together to promote Asian American Studies remain, not only to protect ethnic studies programs — a fight that is more critical than ever in the wake of state legislation banning such programs in Arizona and California among others — but also to champion other community efforts, both campus-wide and throughout the country. At Cornell, as a student, the group I was part of staged protests to raise awareness about sexual assault against Asian female students, and later worked to address Asian American mental health on-campus. In the 1990’s,  Asian American student groups in California organized for better worker rights for Asian garment workers. At Yale, the fight to implement an Asian American Studies programs remains a primary interest of the undergraduate Asian American political student group. Beyond the  immediate interests of the Asian American community, Asian American student and associated community groups have widely organized across a number of issues, including in support of affirmative action, to fight the end the war in Iraq, and to allow gays to serve in the military.

Write Diane C. Fujino and Kye Leung in Legacy to Liberation (somewhat mournfully):

Given the socio-political climate, what does it mean to be radical in the 1990’s? The revolutionary fervor that characterized the 1960’s and 70s, with its militant actions and socialist and/or revolutionary nationalist ideology, has dissipated. And while revolutionaries continue to be active in the 1990s, the overall nature of the social movements has changed. Today, the radical wing of the Asian American Movement is chracterized by groups that critique racism and capitalism and seek to transform social institutions, but do not actively work to build a radical working-class movement or to create a socialist state. Still these groups can be identified as radical because their analysis of society and their practice are rooted in systemic oppression, namely, capitalism, imperialism, racism, sexism and heterosexism.

9. Justice for Vincent Chin (1980’s – 1990’s)

The murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 energized the Asian American community across ethnic boundaries to seek justice in his death.
The murder of Vincent Chin in 1982 energized the Asian American community across ethnic boundaries to seek justice in his death.

In 1982, just two months before I was born, a young Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was brutally beaten to death after his bachelor party by two White men — Michael Nitz and Ronald Ebens — who mistook him for Japanese and blamed him for the recent lay-offs in the Detroit auto industry in which they worked.  Despite stalking him from the strip club where Chin got into a verbal altercation with the two men to a nearby McDonald’s, cornering him in the parking lot, and fatally beating him while shouting “it’s because of you little motherfuckers that we’re out of work”, Nitz and Ebens received no jail time, 3 years probation and an insulting $3,000 fine from the state.

Led by feminists and community activists Helen Zia and Liza Chan, the Asian American community in Detroit and around the country were galvanized to stage street protests seeking justice for Vincent Chin. These efforts resulted in federal hate crime charges being filed against Ebens and Nitz, however despite initial convictions against Ebens, the ruling was overturned in appeal. A civil lawsuit also failed to win damages from Ebens and Nitz. In effect, Ebens and Nitz went unpunished for their hate crime.

Nontheless, Vincent Chin’s murder has been a flashpoint event for the contemporary Asian American movement, demonstrating in stark detail the need for collaborative work between multiple Asian American ethnic communities in combating anti-Asian racism. For post-1965 Asian Americans, Chin’s murder was a devastating reminder that the consequences of complacency on this issue could be fatal, and that the justice system is imperfect. Mr. Chin’s life, and the injustices that occurred in the wake of his killing, are still remembered today.

10. Contemporary digital activism (1990’s – present)

An image from one of the many street-level protests of Abercrombie & Fitch in the early 2000's, organized through online efforts.
An image from one of the many street-level protests of Abercrombie & Fitch in the early 2000’s, organized through online efforts.

Throughout the last twenty years, Asian Americans have situated ourselves at the forefront of digital technology, and have been creatively repurposing the Internet as a political and community organizing tool.

Before Facebook, enterprising Asian Americans built one of the first social networking sites on the Internet: AsianAvenue.com. Later, Asian Americans capitalized on forum/message board technology to improve the platform upon which to discuss our racial identity. Prior to the invention of the word “blog”, Asian Americans built blogs (including this one) to further facilitate racial discourse and community organizing. Two months ago, Asian American feminist Suey Park sparked a massive Twitter debate on Asian American feminism and identity with #NotYourAsianSidekick. To date, the second largest Google hangout (i.e. the largest not organized by President Obama) ever was organized by Asian Americans in remembrance of the 30 year anniversary of the murder of Vincent Chin.

Although some might consider this all online talk, Asian American leveraging of the Internet has had real-world implications. On-the-ground and community efforts (many conducted by these and other fabulous non-profit organizations) are greatly facilitated by Internet word-of-mouth via Asian American online outlets; in the early 2000’s, Asian Americans demonstrated for one of the first times the power of online connectivity for grassroots organizing when it used Internet forum boards and blogs to coordinate simultaneous nation-wide protests of Abercrombie & Fitch stores for selling racist anti-Asian t-shirts. Similar demonstrations since then have been organized by Asian Americans through the Internet, all in the spirit of ongoing resistance to racism, sexism, and other oppression.

Conclusion

Asian Americans have a long and rich history of resistance, including but not limited to the examples cited above. Get your learn on before going out in public suggesting otherwise.

Note: I apologize that this post has had an unintentional Chinese American focus; this reflects the spread of my personal collection of Asian American books, and should not be interpreted as an indication that examples outside of the Chinese American experience do not exist or are not worth noting.

Books Used To Write this Post (i.e. Things I Pulled Off My Shelf in Rage):

This list of Asian American resistance is not comprehensive and shouldn’t be taken as such. Have your own favourite example of Asian American political resistance? Please add them in the comments below to continue the discussion!

  • KIMMY GOT

    Oh, sorry, Jenn. I spelled yr name wrong in my last comment. My apology!
    Kimmy.

  • @CF,

    Thank you for your comment and your wonderful additions to this conversation. I also have Sucheng Chan’s book but, reflecting an emotional bias more than anything else — it was my first APIA textbook, always gravitate towards Takaki for my primer on APIA history. Chan’s book is nonetheless also phenomenal and possibly slightly better stylistically as a quick reference.

    Your point on Filipino American importance when it comes to labor organizing is worth emphasizing, and is one of the great examples of an Asian American ethnicity using tools available to them to advocate for better rights, not only for themselves but later in building a coalition across racial and ethnic boundaries. For me, the struggle of Filipino agricultural workers is best illustrated in Carlos Bulosan’s “America is in the Heart”, which deals with that history from a first-person autobiographical perspective (as I’m sure you know). I would be among those who would argue that Filipino worker participation in the 1940’s and onward was key in shaping the modern labour rights movement.

    Thank you also for your writing on the Ghandar Party, which as you said is a powerful illustration of how Asian American activism took a global/international perspective even as early as the 1910’s, and continues to today. It’s also a much-needed tangible example of South Asian resistance in America to oppression. On that topic, I would add also the more recent examples of South Asian organization to protect South Asians and Muslims in America from “retaliatory” (i.e. unjustified) hate crimes in the last twenty years.

  • @Ben

    I would be really interested in your post on that! Driven Out is one of my favourite, virtually uncited books on my shelf. I bought the book on a whim, and was shocked not necessarily by the history documented in the book but rather how well documented the history is while being completely untaught in your typical classroom. Even when we are taught about the anti-Chinese sentiment of the era, we are not exposed to the depths of the sentiment as we can see in the book.

  • @ Ann, DJ and Kimmy – thank you very much for reading!

  • Thank you Jenn!
    And sorry for misspelling your name.

  • Jenn

    Yes the depth of the sentiment and the resulting barbarity (and it was extremely barbaric) are what I found disturbing. Equally disturbing is the absence of consciousness about it in mainstream narratives.

    There is also another aspect to that history which is all but forgotten – the experiences of Chinese migrants to the new world on coolies ships. Even though most of the Chinese who came to the US were not coolies, US sailors and shipping companies were heavily involved in transporting coolies to Latin America. Considering that some of these firms had been involved in the transatlantic slave-trade, it is no surprise that abuse on these transports was the norm. Some survival rates were around one-third – although that is an off-the-top-of-my-head figure, death rates were extremely high.

    Here’s the post; http://benefsanem.blogspot.com/2013/08/driven-out-asian-american-holocaust.html

  • AC

    Look! This post made it over to metafilter where the model minority myth is in full effect. Said one of the commenters
    “Somehow I don’t think the author of this piece is going to be supportive of action against the ways that Asian Americans suffer under public policy now: college admission policies which discriminate against them radically because other minorities are more desirable, and a tax policy biased to high marginal rates on earned income, which makes them pay far more of their share of general government versus whites (who have relatively more capital income) and other minorities (who have low income across the board and pay little tax).”

    Link

  • Corky Lee

    @ Jenn & Gavin, thanks for posting photo of 1975 police brutality. However, the image shown was not the one on the front page of the NY Post. One that did appear is an individual protester with his forehead bloodied between 2 police officers. That is on view until 2/23/14 @ Interference Archive, http://www.interferencearchive.org.

    A further piece of activism will take place on May 10th, 2014 when I will attempt to convince at least 145 AAPI’s into a “flash mob” type event in Golden Spike Nat’l Park, about 85 miles northwest of Salt Lake City, Utah.

  • Hi AC –

    Thanks for the heads-up, and that’s quite a bit of presumption on the part of this commenter! Unfortunately the link you provided does not work so I’m posting my response here.

    For anyone who may be reading this post coming from metafilter, I support affirmative action and I am an economic progressive who does not support a flat tax. Regarding affirmative action, I support it with the caveat that affirmative action be applied in a way that promotes the entry of non-East Asian minorities into college: this group is disproportionately and vastly underrepresented in higher education because college admissions boards do not ethnically stratify their Asian category and there are many non-East Asians (e.g. Southeast Asians like Vietnamese, Cambodian, Hmong, etc) who are economically depressed. This is among the many reasons why I do not support a flat tax.

    My larger bone of contention is that either of these examples are “how Asians struggle under public policy” right now. There are plenty of examples of how Asian Americans are struggling under public policy — these examples depend upon the stereotype that all Asian Americans struggle because we are doing well economically so have access to college or all of us are earning high incomes. Some Asian Americans are, but not all Asian Americans — most Asian American ethnicities are struggling under the same public policy problems that plague other minorities. Even in these two examples, one is extrapolating the experiences of East Asian groups (specifically, Chinese/Japanese/Korean) over all Asians.

    For me, I prefer to think of the primary public policies that plague Asian Americans as ones that do not depend upon the myth that all Asian Americans are economically high-achievers: things like voting rights, immigration reform, healthcare access, etc. While college admissions and progressive/flat tax issues are important, they are not central to the narrative of all Asian Americans: any assumption otherwise is a strong internalization of the Model Minority Myth.

  • Hi Corky,

    Thank you for the clarification on the picture. Is the caption okay or would you like to add further attribution (to a site/archive or a more detailed caption)? Like I said, big fan of your work (and enjoyed spending a little time with you at the Marvels & Monsters opening in NYC last year, although you may not remember) and want to make sure the attribution is appropriate.

    As for the flashmob, this sounds very exciting. Is there any way that you need bloggers like myself to get involved?

    Cheers,
    -J

  • Mark G. Chen

    This should be mandatory reading for Asian teens. While I knew some of the mentioned incidents quite a few were surprised. In a country where power and rights are only given to those that fight for them, Asians have to unit and become a force.

    Good job!

  • Thank you for your comment, Mark! To be honest, I think Takaki’s “Strangers From a Different Shore” should be mandatory reading for all teens, Asian or otherwise! 🙂

  • Iris

    What about Filipinos. Are we not Asian enough?

  • Hi Iris,

    Thanks for your comment and for reading! As I wrote in the post above, this list is not intended to be comprehensive, and due to the biases of my shelf and the literature in general ended up drawing strongly from the Chinese American experience. This is not intended to say that there are no examples from other Asian American ethnicities. Indeed, the Filipino American community has a rich and storied association with the evolution of the modern labour movement in America, which I referred to above. In addition, several of the later examples are NOT intended to be ethnicity-specific, since they brought together multiple Asian American ethnic communities under causes common to the pan-Asian identity. Regardless, as I wrote above, this post is intended to be a prompt for further conversation, and I invite you and other users to add your own favourite examples of AAPI resistance in the comments section, as many have already done.

    Also, to be honest with you, I am a little disconcerted by the observation that you didn’t see sufficient representation of Filipino Americans in this list, and you immediately concluded that I felt that Filipinos are “not Asian enough”. Seems a fairly large, fairly inflammatory, leap.

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  • Don't be pedantic: Listen to those debating you not just for places to attack, but also where you might learn and even change your own opinion. Repeatedly arguing the same point irrespective of presented counterfacts will now be considered a violation of this site's comment policy.
  • Respect the humanity of all groups: To elevate the quality of debate, this site will no longer tolerate (racial, cultural, gender, etc.) supremacist or inferiority lines of argumentation. There are other places on the internet where nationalist arguments can be expressed; this blog is not those places.
  • Don't be an asshole: If you think your behaviour would get you punched in the face outside of the internets, don't say it on the internets.
  • Don't abuse Disqus features: Don't upvote your own comments. Don't flag other people's comments without reasonable cause. Basically, don't try to game the system. You are not being slick.

Is your comment not approved, unpublished, or deleted? Here are some common reasons why:

  • Did you sign in? You are required to register an account with Disqus or one of your social media accounts in order to comment.
  • Did your comment get caught in the spam filter? Disqus is set to automatically detect and filter out spam comments. Sometimes, its algorithm gets over-zealous, particularly if you post multiple comments in rapid succession, if your comment contains keywords often associated with spam, and/or if your comment contains multiple links. If your comment has been erroneously caught in the spam filter, contact me and I will retrieve it.
  • Did a comment get flagged? Comments will be default be published but flagged comments will be temporarily removed from view until they are reviewed by me.
  • Did you not play nice? You may have gotten banned and a bunch of your comments may have been therefore deleted. Sorry.

I monitor all comment threads, and try to address comments requiring moderation within 24-48 hours. Comments that violate this comment policy may receive a warning and removal of offensive content; overt or repeat violations are subject to deletion and/or banning of comment authors without warning.

I reserve final decision over how this comment policy will be enforced.

Summary:

Play nice and don't be a jerk, and you'll do just fine.