Just three months after opening on Broadway, “Allegiance” — which tackles Japanese American incarceration with a story inspired by the childhood of actor George Takei — announced it will end its Broadway run with its final performance on February 14, 2016. Late last year, I reviewed “Allegiance” and found it “poignant and timely”.
So, I’m on a roll this week, posting about why I believe we — as Asian Americans, as Americans, and as moral human beings — have a responsibility to stand up against the growing tide of Islamophobia that has swept this nation and flooded social media with stories of fearful Muslims facing disgusting forms of harassment.
On Monday, I connected this country’s remembrance of Pearl Harbour with the anti-Japanese xenophobia that followed, and urged readers to see the similarities between racist fears of World War II and today’s Islamophobia. On Tuesday, I reacted to GOP front-runner Donald Trump’s announced proposal to ban all Muslim travel with my comparison between Trump and noted turn-of-the-century Sinophobic race-baiter, Denis Kearney. Again, I urged readers to parallel the era’s anti-Chinese hatred with today’s intolerance of our Muslim American neighbours. Both of these post went pretty viral this week, and thanks to you, readers, for that!
Yesterday, GOP frontrunner Donald Trump announced his most extremist position to-date. Coincident with the 74th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbour which led to unprecedented mass imprisonment of thousands of American citizens based on race, Trump’s presidential campaign released a press statement “calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States”. In a press statement that is thin on specifics as to what exactly Trump means by this suggested policy, he says:
“[I]t is obvious to anybody the hatred is beyond comprehension. Where this hatred comes from and why we will have to determine. Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.
In later interviews, Trump has failed to make it clear whether he plans to restrict travel for all Muslims, including foreign visitors and tourists, or if his plan focuses on immigration. Trump has not specified how his proposal would impact Muslim American citizens who leave the United States with the intent to re-enter their country of citizenship. He has also not elaborated on how he would implement his policy — a religious litmus test for freedom of movement — except to have border agents interrogate all incoming travelers with regard to their religious affiliation and to turn away all who self-identify as Muslim.
It is also worth noting that Islam is the world’s second largest religious group, and one quarter of the world’s Muslims are South and Southeast Asian. A ban on all Muslim travel would have significant impact on the AAPI community, including (among others) Pakistani-, Bangladeshi-, Indonesian-, and Malaysian American people.
Sadly, the Asian American community is already all too painfully familiar with this kind of identity-based policy of national exclusion. In 1882, the federal government passed its first immigration law banning the travel of members of an entire race of people based solely on our shared identity. We called it the Chinese Exclusion Act.
Whether it is Donald Trump’s verbal caricature of overseas Chinese businessmen, or Jeb Bush’s proclamation that when it comes to “anchor babies” the issue is “more related to Asian[s]”, or Carly Fiorina’s lamentations over the “industry” of Chinese women having babies in the United States, one thing has become clear: the Right-wing of American politics is now firmly entrenched in a platform of anti-immigrant nativism filtered through the lens of sinophobia. Much of that xenophobic rhetoric comes in the form of railing against undocumented immigrants, whom Trump characterized in his campaign announcement speech as “criminals”, “rapists” and “murderers”.
Two thirds of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) are foreign-born according to the Center for American Progress’ State of Asian America report released last year, and 40% of America’s immigrants currently call an Asian country the place of their birth. Of those approximately 10 million foreign-born AAPIs, 1.3 million (or 1 in every 8) are undocumented immigrants. These numbers also suggest that currently, approximately 1 in every 9 undocumented immigrants is AAPI. Those numbers are on the rise: over the last decade, the overall Asian undocumented population has doubled, with the undocumented population originating from India, South Korea and China having grown by as much as 300%. Considered alongside evidence showing that undocumented immigration from Mexico has slowed in recent years, Asian Americans are now the fastest growing undocumented population in America leaving one National Journal reporter to suggest that “someone tell Donald Trump that he’s picking on the wrong immigrants.”
Oh, hell no.
Less than an hour after Donald Trump ejected Univision reporter Jorge Ramos from a press conference in Iowa, the buffoonish moppet-topped businessman turned presidential hopeful adopted broken English (and possible stereotypically Asian r/l slurring) in a campaign speech (video after the jump). Trump was apparently trying to mimic Japanese or Chinese businessmen.
Earlier, in that same press conference where Ramos later went on to openly confront Trump on his anti-Latino rhetoric, Trump also suggested that undocumented immigrant gang members had sparked riots in Ferguson, referred to Asia as a “country”, demanded an apology from Megyn Kelly for asking questions relevant to feminism, and promised to immediately expel all undocumented immigrants from the American soil with an invitation for “good ones” to return.