Eight years ago amid the heat of a Detroit summer, legendary Chinese American scholar-activist Grace Lee Boggs sat in her Eastside home with a small group of Black, white, and Asian American activists to discuss the changing racial dynamics in the city and the nation. At the age of 99, she had a lifetime of experience to reflect upon. For most of her life, Grace had established her reputation as a movement organizer in the Black community, in partnership with her husband, Jimmy Boggs, a Black autoworker from the Jim Crow South.
By her eighties and nineties, however, Grace began to speak more directly to and about Asian Americans, as she did in her home on that day in the summer of 2014. “I think when you’re an Asian American, you’re not regarded as very significant,” she said. “But I think we have to change our thinking about that.”
This was, to the best of my knowledge, the final recorded address Grace made to any grouping of people before she entered hospice care. Today—June 27th, 2022, and 107 years to the day Grace Lee Boggs was born above her family’s restaurant in Providence, Rhode Island—I want to reflect on the dual challenge she presented to us in that address in 2014. Why did she choose this moment to condemn the dismissive attitude toward Asian Americans? How was she calling for us—Asian and non-Asian alike—to “change our thinking”?
I’m really excited to present the newest episode of Reappropriate: The Podcast, wherein guest Juliet Shen (@juliet_shen) of Fascinasians and I tackle the question “what is AAPI feminism?” It’s a great conversation that talks about identity, movement-building, gender & sexuality (including interracial relationships), and our role models. I hope you will take an hour to watch the podcast through YouTube above, listen to the audio only version using the mp3 player below, or download the podcast through the iTunes store.
Note: In this podcast, I use the word “crazy” a couple of times in a manner that could easily be seen as reinforcing the ableist stigma of the word as negative. I want to draw attention to this because I first want to apologize to any listeners who are offended by my use, and also to underscore that this is a personal language habit I have been actively working on for many months. In the podcast, we talk about always being self-reflective and aware of our internalized -isms as well as conscious and deliberate about everything we do; I think this is a perfect example of what we were talking about and am disappointed in myself for the usage of this word. I think activism and advocacy is always a learning process, and I am certainly not perfect when it comes to challenging my own issues. So, yes, you will hear me slip-up a couple of times in this podcast and use an ableist term, and for that I apologize.