By Guest Contributor: Lakshmi Gandhi (@LakshmiGandhi)
Shortly after the fifteenth anniversary of the 2001 World Trade Center attacks, The Week posted this excellent piece headlined September 12, 2001, which detailed just how terrifying the day after that devastating loss was.
“And while most of us remember with unsettling clarity where we were when we heard that hijacked planes had crashed into the World Trade Center (and later, the Pentagon and a Pennsylvania field), killing nearly 3,000 people,” writes Lauren Hansen, “it might be the next day — September 12, 2001 — that actually marked the beginning of a new era, one in which full-body scans at the airport, color-coded threat levels, slow-burn wars that never really end, and an undercurrent of fear running beneath the mundanity of life became the norm.”
I kept thinking about that line as I watched Wednesday’s episode of Designated Survivor. Aptly titled “The First Day,” viewers were thrown into a world that’s chaotic, violent, and fearful — and ready to pounce on anyone who appears foreign or brown.
By Guest Contributor: Cynthia Wu
I first became aware of Minnesota’s outlier status when I lived there between 2002 and 2006. The Twin Cities are vibrant havens for Native American life. Black heterogeneity invites East Africans and African Americans to commune and code-switch across their differences. The infamous anti-communism among Southeast Asians is absent; refugees of the Vietnam War vote for and run for office as Democrats. Minnesota was the lone dissenting voice to back Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, when Ronald Reagan was swept into the White House following ballot box victories across America’s other 49 states.. Throughout much of America’s history, Minnesota has stood valiantly, if understatedly, in opposition to much of the rest of the country.
I lived in St. Paul, a half block away from either the right or the wrong side of a gentrification line, depending on how one sees it. Three buildings away, a poorly maintained apartment complex crumbled from neglect by its slumlord owner. An equal distance in the opposite direction stood a house that debuted the market with an asking price of over half a million. Just north, one might find an overpass for Interstate 94, which runs through the bowels of the old Rondo neighborhood. Every year, the predominantly African American former residents of Rondo host a festival to remember their beloved space, and to lament its destruction in the 1960s to make way for an increasingly automobile-centered society. Many of them were (and still are) reliant on public transport, yet they lost their homes to make way for our cars. In this and other aspects, Minnesota is typical—its inequities are congruent with those of the country at large.
On July 6, Officer Jeronimo Yanez pulled Philando Castile over during a traffic stop just five miles away from Rondo, in the nearby suburb of Falcon Heights. He had a broken taillight. When Castile reached to present his ID, Yanez panicked and fired five shots into his body in front of his panicked girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter. Castile died shortly thereafter in hospital.
The fact that Castile was African American is significant. Numerous studies, historic narratives and contemporary accounts testify to the existence of police aggression targeted at black people — an unbroken thread stretching from slavery to emancipation to the present day. That Yanez—whom Castile’s companion described as “Chinese” in the video she live-streamed of his killing—is phenotypically Asian is also significant. Days after Castile’s death, Yanez’s name and race – he is Latinx – were revealed to the public. Nonetheless, the questions surrounding race and solidarity between Black and non-Black people of color as raised by Philando Castile’s fatal shooting and its aftermath need some parsing.
By Guest Contributors: Pao Lee Vue, Bee Vang, and Louisa Schein
Last March, Wausau resident Dylan Yang, 16 – who is Hmong American – was found guilty of “first-degree reckless homicide” for stabbing Isaiah Powell, a black Latino boy, then 13, in an altercation that happened in 2015. The case has raised a litany of issues that beg questions of how ongoing racial dynamics impact the Wisconsin justice system. Why might it matter that an overwhelmingly white collection of authorities – from teachers to school administrators, from counselors to cops, from jurors to judges – managed this case involving the death of a black Latino teen at the hands of a Hmong teen? What lies ahead for Dylan who now faces up to 60 years in prison? What is being done to diminish the uneven implementation of the law exemplified by this case?
As the year winds down to a close, these are the top ten political stories that had a major impact on the AANHPI community highlighting the many political issues that have defined the AANHPI community this year. Sadly, many didn’t receive much mainstream media coverage.
How many of these stories were you following this year?
GOP frontrunner Donald Trump has built his political platform on intolerance, Islamophobia, and nativism, but (at least for the moment) we can take heart that it’s mostly bluster. Sure, more than 40% of his supporters would support Japanese American incarceration, and one-third apparently want to bomb Agrabah — the fictional city that Disney’s Aladdin called home — into oblivion. But, as amusing as this national poll’s findings are, we’re still dealing in the realm of hatespeech. Trump may want to limit Muslim and Muslim American travel, but it remains (for the time being) all talk.
In truth, Trump is a distraction from the far more terrifying hatred that has taken hold of this nation. Since 2001, anti-Muslim hate crimes — which victimizes both Muslims and those whom racists mistake as Muslims — have risen 1600%. Since the San Bernardino shooting, those already high rates of hate crimes have further skyrocketed to even more alarming levels: there have been over 40 anti-Muslim bias incidents recorded in America in the last month alone.
We would like to believe that America’s rising nativism is the work of Rightwing extremists. We would like to imagine that middle-of-the-aisle Democrats and Republicans will do their part to push back against the irrational villanization of the Muslim and Muslim American community. But, we learned this week that our elected representatives are, in some ways, worse than the most outspoken of Trump’s supporters. Whereas Trump’s intolerance is all talk, our political leaders recently used the power of their political office to write Islamophobia into law.