This weekend we witnessed an event that many of us haven’t seen in our lifetimes: a white supremacist march, with participants holding torches and swastikas akin to Nazi rallies of the 1930s in Germany and brandishing hundreds of automatic and semi-automatic weapons, in Charlottesville, Virginia. And, we heard a tepid response from our president, who until today, could not summon the courage or conviction to identify the marchers for who they were—the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis and other white supremacists—or to denounce their actions or their hate.
A3PCON condemns this past weekend’s hate speech and acts of hate violence, including the killing of Heather Heyer and the injury of many others at the hands of James Alex Fields, a young man with strong affinity toward Neo-Nazis, who ploughed into a crowd of counter protesters with his Dodge Challenger. We also want to call attention to President Trump’s actions over the weekend. Not only did he first assign blame to “many sides,” despite the lack of evidence of violence by counter protesters, he stated in an interview with Fox News over the weekend that he is considering a pardon for Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Maricopa County, Arizona, who was recently convicted of criminal contempt for defying a judge’s 2011 court order to refrain from racially profiling Latinos during patrols and turning them over to federal immigration authorities. We are not and should not be surprised by the President’s words and his possible future actions. He has a long history of making racist remarks and engaging in actions that cause harm to communities of color.
We in the Asian Pacific Islander community in Southern California need to stand up to hate and stand against words and deeds of policymakers and political figures who support—or fail to condemn in the strongest language possible—individuals and groups who seek to foment hate and advance divisive policies. Going about our daily lives as if nothing has happened is not an option.
We have a lot on our plate right now. Some members of the API community have chosen to align themselves with white nationalists or their policies. We see opposition to efforts to welcome refugees or create sanctuary cities, we have witnessed a fight against affirmative action (supported by the Trump administration), and we see condemnation of disaggregated data. We have to fight back. As a coalition of forty member organizations that seeks to advocate for the rights and needs of our community and for those who come from low-income, immigrant, refugee and other vulnerable communities, we must not stay silent. We have to promote policies that help, not hurt, our communities and other communities of color. Each and every day.
Fifty-one years ago, University of California sociologist Thomas Petersen coined the pernicious term “model minority” to describe Asian Americans in the New York Times Magazine. In the piece, Petersen assigned the moniker specifically to Japanese Americans not simply because of their economic attainment, but because they did not demand increased civil rights as “problem minorities” had. Many in our community seem to wear that term as a badge of honor rather than seeing it for what it is—an effort to divide our communities and quiet our voices.
It’s past time we threw off the model minority armor, thought to shield us from second class citizenship, and raise our voices against policies and policymakers who seek to further hate in all of its forms: anti-blackness, anti-immigrant, Islamophobia, antisemitism and homophobia. It’s now time to become problem minorities who advocate in multiracial coalitions for justice for women, for people of color, for trans folks, for all of us targeted by men in white hoods who may carry torches or weapons, but will no longer hold our silence.
Manjusha P. Kulkarni, Esq.
A3PCON Executive Director