Calling in All AAPI: Now is the Time for Thick Solidarity
We acted as though the concessions were victories, and we stepped out of the way. We abandoned our Black and Brown allies. Allies who stood for us and with us in our fights. Yet we tapped out. We started believing the lies of white supremacy and the model minority myth, and stood silent while Black lives continued to be stolen— and sometimes we stole those lives with our own hands.
Now is not a time to be silent, now is not the time for politeness, and now is not the time to be a model minority. Now is the time to examine our warts— our complicity in the perpetuation of white supremacist ideologies. We must not just take a stance against racism; we must take action to be anti-racist. Not just today, but every day. We, as individuals and as a community, must dedicate ourselves to a thick approach to solidarity.
Roseann Liu and Savannah Shange describe thick solidarity as “a kind of solidarity that mobilizes empathy in ways that do not gloss over differences but rather pushes into the specificity, irreducibility, and incommensurability of racialized experiences. Thick solidarity is based on the radical belief in the inherent value of each other’s lives despite never being able to fully understand or fully share in the experience of those lives” (190).
Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities do have a history of solidarity with Black and Brown communities. Yellow Peril stood in solidarity with the Black Power Movement. Yuri Kochiyama advocated for Asian Americans to link ourselves to the struggle for Black liberation. Larry Itliong and the thousands of other Filipino farmworkers in the Agricultural Workers Organizing Committee joined Cesar Chavez’s National Farmworkers Association to demand fair wages and safer working conditions. The media have intentionally obfuscated these histories with incidences of anti-Blackness within the AAPI community. While we continue the tradition of cross-cultural solidarity work of our ancestors, we must also claim those within the community that perpetuates anti-Blackness and commit violence against Black people. We must claim them, and call them in, so we can be more than allies. It’s about time we show up as accomplices to fight against white supremacy. We must call in racism within our community and educate ourselves and each other on the harmful consequences of the internalization and perpetuation of white supremacy. We must celebrate our solidarity work while not letting it obscure the work that we have yet to accomplish.
Growing up as a Chinese American, I heard many elders in my community invalidate the systemic racism Black people face with, “Well, we were enslaved too.” This simple statement creates a false equivalent. Suggesting the Coolie trade and African Chattel slavery are equal perpetuates the idea that Asian and African American economic mobility should be measured on the same plane. Asserting a sameness between these two exploitative labor systems erases massive differences in the scale and scope of the Transatlantic slave trade injustice. Insisting that 40 years and 750 thousand bodies were transported during the coolie trade is equivalent to 246 years, and 12 million enslaved Africans were victims of the Transatlantic slave trade. Historian, author, and activist Vijay Prashad explains: “This is not to say that we don’t feel the edge of racism (both as prejudice and as structural violence), but we do so in a far less stark sense than do those who are seen as detritus of U.S. civilization” (6).
These comparisons create flimsy connections that promote division between our communities. The racism we experience as AAPIs should not be dismissed, we must hold space to process it, but that shouldn’t take precedence over showing up Black lives.
Accountability is uncomfortable, but turning away from that discomfort makes us complicit in the violence Black people experience on a daily basis. Calling for thick forms of solidarity is not new; it is not original. It is part of our history as AAPI. This history is firmly rooted in Black Agrarianism and the quest for Black self-determination. A majority of the methods we have used in our personal quest for liberation were conceived by Black people. Our liberation is intertwined with the liberation of those who are most oppressed by our institutions, those being Black trans women. We must fight to protect those in the most urgent need first.
We are not free until the most oppressed people in society are free. We are not merely assisting in someone else’s fight. We must take a stance and have skin in the game. Then take a step toward Black liberation and self-determination. And then take another step. And another. And Another.
Call in your family members. Call in yourself. Call in your City Council to abolish the police.
Visit https://defund12.org/ for information to email government officials and council members on the reallocation of police budgets to education, social services, and dismantling racial inequality in your city.
Overachiever Magazine was started by Rehana Paul in October of 2018 to give a platform to all Asian women, non-binary people, and other gender minorities.
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