Asian Americans Need A Voice in National Debate
Editor’s Note: Russell Jeung is a professor of Asian American Studies, San Francisco State University
As we approach the Presidential election, much is on the line. Our nation’s health, our economy, racial justice, climate change. And while we might get distracted by which candidate is getting the edge over the other, we must remember that this debate is bigger than two individuals on a stage. This debate involves all of us.
As Asian Americans, we have a voice in this national debate as well. Like so many others, we believe in building an inclusive, multiracial democracy where people are treated with empathy and dignity. During the multiple crises we face now, this vision for our country is more important than ever to fight for, and we are committed to that fight alongside Black, Indigenous and people of color leaders.
The COVID-19 pandemic has claimed the lives of more than 200,000 people in the United States. We all mourn that loss, and we also know that communities of color have been hit especially hard. Black Americans are dying at three times the rate of white Americans. In California, the Asian American fatality rate is three times the overall population.
We should all have what we need to stay safe and healthy, but today, one’s zip code, language ability, race, or income can result in radically different health outcomes. The pandemic has made these divisions even more stark, and the only way to fix it is to make sure we are all addressing the inequities we see in everyday life.
Throughout the pandemic and the multiple crises we have faced, Trump has used racism to try to cover up his own failures. When he botched his response to coronavirus, he stirred up centuries-old anti-Asian racism to scapegoat Chinese and Asian Americans. This racist rhetoric has trickled down to our everyday lives and is taking its toll on Asian Americans’ daily lives. Since the pandemic began, and consequently the targeting of Asian Americans as the cause of the pandemic, incidents of racism and discrimination against the AAPI community have escalated. Between March 19, 2020 and September 30, 2020, the Stop AAPI Hate reporting centerhas received a total of 2,727 self-reported incidents of discrimination and hate against Asian Americans across the U.S.
As Asian Americans, we won’t stand for this sowing of hate, fear, lies, and division. We won’t let this administration pit us against each other when we all deserve safety, health, and economic protections. We won’t let politicians try to discredit racial justice protests when serious, longstanding and lethal injustice continue to threaten and take Black lives in communities across this country. We will not be distracted from the gap that continues to grow during this pandemic between the rich and the rest of us as a multiracial essential workforce continues to put their lives on the line to care for and serve others.
As Asian Americans, we choose solidarity. We choose to join the fight with other communities because we have greater power to achieve justice when we join together. We know that the challenges we face as Asian Americans, whether the health and economic impacts of COVID-19 or the anti-Asian racism that has re-surged during this time, are intertwined with the struggles of communities of color. Right now, the Black Lives Matter movement is at the crux of our collective struggle to preserve democracy and uphold justice in this country, and we must all support the movement’s efforts and demands if we have any hope of creating a just, multiracial society.
The struggle for justice is why I support reparations for African Americans. Solidarity leads me to endorse Proposition 16 and reinstate affirmative action in California. Collective power has obtained Ethnic Studies in the California State University system.
As Maurice Mitchell of the Movement for Black Lives told Asian American advocates on a Black Lives Matter call in June, white supremacy is a form of solidarity, and we must create a solidarity that is stronger than it, stronger than any of us individually, in order to defeat it and create the power to transform all of our lives. That is the work that we are committed to as we make critical choices this November and fight over the long-term, even over generations, to create the world we want to see.