Asian Americans’ long history of challenging stereotypes has often overlooked the ways in which capitalism forges racial identity.
In his May 2014 commencement speech to Yale’s Asian-American alumni, jazz musician and Harvard professor Vijay Iyer said, “To succeed in America is, somehow, to be complicit with the idea of America — which means that at some level you’ve made peace with its rather ugly past.”
He was referring to the upward mobility of large numbers of Asian Americans, which, he argued, came at the expense of other people of color.
A few months later, this sentiment was echoed by the online forum ChangeLab, which announced a new social media campaign,#ModelMinorityMutiny, designed to identify and reject the insidious construction of Asian Americans as a “good” minority, a designation that has been used as a means to justify and perpetuate racism against blacks in particular.
These statements have been part a growing push among younger Asian Americans to name and decry the participation of Asians as a racial group in white supremacy. This line of inquiry, which has sharpened in the wake of the high-profile, black-led protests against police violence, has so far resulted in several ongoing discussions and at least a few powerful shows of on-the-ground solidarity in the aftermath of Ferguson under the banner #Asians4BlackLives.
New York-based organizations like CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities and DRUM – South Asian Organizing Center have mobilized small demonstrations explicitly in support of black families affected by police brutality in Queens and Manhattan. On the opposite coast, the Oakland-based group Seeding Change launched an online “Selfie Action” in April to collect photos of Asian Americans holding signs declaring their support for the indictment of Chinese-American NYPD officer Peter Liang, who had shot and killed 25-year-old Akai Gurley during an unauthorized vertical patrol in East New York.
Written by Jennifer Pan