About the author and the Alliance of Chinese Americans San Diego (ACA) Scholarship: Ms. Amy Wang is a recipient of the ACA Scholarship. She is currently a junior at Westview High School (San Diego, CA). This article is a part of her work within the ACA Scholarship programs. The views and opinions expressed belong solely to the author, and do not represent those of ACA and its members. ACA Scholarships are established to encourage API youth’s involvement and awareness in community events.
In the last year, the veneer of civility surrounding the idea that racism is something that no longer exists, was torn away completely. For many Americans, it was a shock to see just how deeply certain problems ran. For both Black and Asian Americans, however, headlines about hate crimes, and systemic discrimination were the symptoms of a long-festering problem with the racism of our country.
While both government entities and public figures have denounced waves of visible anti-AAPI rhetoric and action as anti-American, American actions overseas and at home have shown that such behavior is a pattern, and not an anomaly. What is also important to remember is that Covid was not the only reason for the beginning of this movement—even before the pandemic heated xenophobic and sinophoboic feelings, the US has had a long history of discriminating against Asian Americans, particularly in the internment of Japanese Americans, the Chinese Exclusion Act, etc.
Similarly, police brutality against African Americans is not a new topic in the U.S. While societal awareness of racism has never been completely rose-tinted, the national events that coincided with the pandemic have shown us just how volatile the issue can be, despite the progress we have made as a nation in terms of racism.
In particular, the Black Lives Matter movement was one at the forefront of the calls for change in 2020. Protests, both violent and eruptive, were organized all over the country in 2020, after the death of George Floyd, who suffocated under the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin. Calls for changes to policing, for reforms to governmental persecution of Black men, and for an uprooting of the systematic redlining and discrimination against Black Americans, brought issues of racism to a heightened level of scrutiny.
But what is BLM? While the phrase may seem self-explanatory, and is deeply imbedded in our social consciousness after a summer of unrest, in quantitative terms, the movement is a community-driven push for change which was first started in July of 2013, after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin in February of 2012. The movement itself is no coalition of organizations, and has no tightly-organized structure of power. Instead, BLM is decentralized. There is no one leader, or board of directors. As a whole, however, the BLM network is one that focuses on local progress over a centralized national directory.
At times, this looseness of structure has led to confusion, especially when specific activists have made statements that were attributed to the “Black Lives Matter” movement as a whole. The words themselves are more of a political rallying cry, though they do at times refer to the activist organization, the Black Lives Matter Network. At the same time, it has often been a broad label, used to describe both online and physical protests, and a new push for a focus on racial inequality. In every interaction with the rallying cry, however, it has been and will remain important that we do not generalize one person’s words as representative of a whole.
In the same way, violent attacks against Asian American elderly has similarly led to a call for the preservation of Asian Lives, in the form of the Stop Asian Hate movement, which surfaced after an uptick in assaults and hate crimes against Asian Americans.
The slogan “Stop Asian Hate” itself is one that was used at anti-Asian-violence rallies held in response to Covid-related racism against Asian Americans. Many rallies also occurred in the wake of a mass shooting that occurred at three Atlanta spas in which eight people were killed, six of whom were women of Asian descent. However, the movement first began to gain traction after attacks against Asian American elders. Other incidents as well have led to similar waves of protests, particularly in bigger cities. Mass gatherings were organized, in order to show community solidarity with victims of attacks, and to generate awareness of the problem.
Still, for both the BLM and SAH movements, a national prominence and awareness has faded, as we have moved on into 2022. While problems of police brutality and anti-Asian sentiment because of the pandemic remain, they have settled into endemic problems, as if out of sight out of mind, really applies to matters of human equality.
While Black and Asian communities have at times been at odds, theoretically, the Stop Asian Hate movement is one that has goals that align well with those of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Asian American experience is not one that overlaps significantly with that of Black Americans. Some have tried to exploit this difference and to sow divisions between these two minority groups, but it is important to remember that both the Stop Asian Hate movement and the Black Lives Matter movements were catalyzed by brutal violence against minority groups. Black and Asian Americans have always deserved to feel at home in the US, even if the US has not always been a place of safety for everyone.
In this way, the two are remarkably similar—both are grassroots movements that are rising up to combat the suffering of their respective communities. Although the Black and Asian American community has not always existed in complete harmony, it is important to remember the struggles that we share against racial injustice. If Black lives do not matter, Asian lives would not matter, and vice versa.