A Solidarity Feared by U.S. White Capitalist Power: Afro-Asian Movements Rising!

Excerpt No. 6 from The Executed God –

(click on above image, for full photo of Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence)

My publisher, Fortress Press, has agreed to allow me to post segments of the forthcoming new edition of my book, The Executed God: The Way of the Cross in Lockdown America (now just out). These posts will be altered a bit for appearing here at my website, with some deletions and even additions made here. Please know that these advance postings will look a bit differently, and have the benefit of context, when read within the argument of the whole book.(photo above right, “Asian Solidarity with #Ferguson:” Seeding Change – A Center for Asian-American Movement Building)

Among rising movements and organizations that are challenging the immigrant repression and military policing in the U.S. are radical community movements by organizing Asian-Americans. They are forging new links of solidarity with Black and Latino and Latina groups – this being, in fact, rooted in a long historical tradition of organizing (recall Filipino activist Larry Itliong’s crucial role with Cesar Chavez).

If you and I don’t know this, it is not only because of anti-black racism in Asian-American communities, but also especially due to the fear of white mainstream media and power-holders which tremble in the face of Afro-Asian organized resistance. Recall how the White House registered its worry about Martin Luther King Jr.’s anti-Vietnam War speech at Riverside Church: “. . . it was Martin going off with the Hanoi Hawks.”[1] In this area, whether the U.S. government was dealing with the Black Panthers, the Young Lords or anti-Vietnam War protestors – or worse, their unity – they even were vigilant about “overthrow” of its rule. (Kenneth O’Reilly, Racial Matters: The FBI’s Secret File on Black America, 1960-1972New York: Free Press, 1991, 301.)

I write here of this white fear of white power elites in order to challenge the white repression of emergent Afro-Asian coalitions and solidarity. All of us do well to welcome that solidarity as part of the liberation of all humanity.

At this writing, Asian-Americans are the fastest-growing immigrant group in the U.S., even if still they are small in number compared to Latino and Latina immigrant communities. In spite of a white supremacist milieu that still often constructs Asian-Americans as “the model minority” (at the same time often viewing them as “perpetual foreigner,” and other times as “threatening horde”[2]), the “model minority” myth often has not led to compliance and passivity (see “The Model Minority Mutiny“). There are groups acting up in solidarity with other communities of color to challenge U.S. militarized policing for both their own immigrant groups and for other communities, too. Again, in the U.S., this is not a new phenomenon, as Daryl Maeda has documented in his book, Chains of Babylon: The Rise of Asian America, and other studies of numerous Asian-Americans groups. These have often formed political movements of solidarity with Black and Hispanic groups.[3] In fact, Maeda traces the phrase, “Asian-American,” to its original usage more as “political marker” than as an “ethnic descriptor.”[4]

There is a strong international dimension of Asian-American organizing, since these communities in the U.S. often retain ties to Asian nations historically  subject  to U.S. bombing or military regimes.[5] Thus, the memories of U.S. and European  imperial wars in their homelands (in the Philippines, China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam and  Indochina) find continuing expression in the lament and rage seared  into hearts of later generations of U.S. immigrants. As critical theologian, Wonhee Anne Joh, writes, “Because of the intense, so called interventionist presence of the United States in much of Asia, the Asian and Asian-American formations are in most cases co-constitutive of each other through shared multiple reference points.”[6]

There are many Asian-American movement groups I could reference, in spite of white mainstream press neglect. Just in Philadelphia, where I have organized off and on for years, there is today the Philadelphia South Asian Collective. Asian-American activists from the Asian Arts Initiative have also been working with North Philadelphia black activists on the 2016 conference, Reclaiming Our Future: The Black Radical Tradition for Today. As a long list of solidarity statements by Asian/Asian-American groups shows (see again Seeding Change), there are so many of these from which to choose.

The particular example I give here of Asian-American  solidarity with other groups mobilizing against militarized policing, is New York City’s Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV). Other groups that are forging this kind of resistance include, in Chicago, the Korean American Resource and Cultural Center (KRCC), and in Los Angeles, the National Korean American Service and Education Consortium (NAKASEC), the latter describing itself as “a civil and immigrant rights organization that grew out of the Los Angeles Civil Unrest of 1992.” NAKASEC announced in October of 2014 that KRCC would travel from Chicago to Ferguson, Missouri, and with Black Youth Project 100 and the Chicago Worker’s Collaborative, “to stand in solidarity with African Americans in Ferguson.”  Again, note the trans-community solidarity here.

huang_brooklyn_da_office_1995-1024x389  New York City’s CAAAV—which I also had cited in  the 2001  edition of The Executed God—has continued organizing for  nearly 30 years. “Our work originally came out of a  response  to rising anti-Asian violence across the country,  including the  murder of Vincent Chin in 1982.” Over the years the group shifted its work somewhat, now explaining its most recent efforts: “We engaged in anti-police brutality campaigns, participated in anti-war demonstrations, protested unfair working conditions.” CAAAV is rigorously committed to the strategies of community organizing and intersectional consciousness. These include regular direct action campaigns in the streets and careful work organizing coalitions and alliances. CAAAV has joined with DRUM (South Asian Organizing Center, formerly “Desis Rising Up and Moving”) to foreground in New York an Asian-American solidarity with numerous #blacklivesmatter movements. (photo above left/click to enlarge: Justice for Yong Xin Huang at Brooklyn DA’s Office in 1999. Yong Xin Huang was killed by police in 1995)

Both CAAAV and DRUM foreground their Asian-American struggle as one with resisting “anti-Black racism” suffered in black U.S. communities. Their leadership has also supported  #Asians4BlackLives. They have pursued this commitment even to the point of countering some other Asian-American groups that objected to the indictment of NYC police officer Peter Liang in the 2014 shooting death of Akai Gurley. CAAAV minced no words: “the murder of Akai Gurley is a part of a systemic targeting of Black people by the police, and . . . Officer Liang must be indicted. As a police officer, he is a part of the institutional injustice we see everyday with law enforcement. We demand an indictment of Officer Liang, just as we have with Darren Wilson [police shooter of Michael Brown in St. Louis] and Dan Pantaleo [the police officer placing a lethal choke-hold on Eric Garner in Staten Island, New York].”[7]

Both CAAAV and the Communities United for Police Reform (CUPR) in New York City—working out of a perspective not unlike BYP100’s “black queer feminist lens”—feature Asian-American leadership that also understands LGBT activists to be essential to the pan-Asian solidarity for black lives facing police violence. Director Joo-Hyun Kang of CUPR , for example, cites the LGBT rebellion at Stonewall in NYC (1969) as evidence of the LGBT’s long-standing interest in resisting police repression, whether it breaks against Asian/Asian-Americans or any others.

CAAAV also builds international consciousness. CAAAV is a participant in the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance . “We understand that there are important connections between the local issues we work on and the global context, and we see ourselves as part of an international movement for global justice.” [8] In sum, these actions display what Joh discusses as Asian-American communities that work “across and with multiple sites of racial/ethnic communities to form collaborative alliances and mutual understanding.”[9]

All this being true of emergent Afro-Asian movement solidarities, another kind of solidarity is also rising – the kind that directly exposes and seeks to close the military institutions that the U.S. maintains on its mainland – its forts, its bases, its administrative centers. As the various radical black, Latino/a and Asian-American movement leaders themselves emphasize, without some such effort as this to challenge the mainland U.S. military political architecture, our movement work against militarized policing in U.S. black neighborhoods and immigrant communities can become more matters of treating symptoms (U.S. militarized policing) than of exposing and challenging the military infrastructure of the U.S. state that is the supportive matrix and supplier of militarized police.

Therefore, I will turn to one example of this other kind of organizing, the work of the School of the Americas Watch and its decades of efforts to close the U.S. Army’s Fort Benning, in Georgia. This is not a separate and parallel action to the struggle against police violence and mass incarceration. It is integral to it.

[Thus, the book from here turns, next, to an analysis of the “School of the Americas Watch” and their relations with emergent black and other nonwhite radical movements.]

[1] Kenneth O’Reilly, Nixon’s Piano: Presidents and Racial Politics from Washington to Clinton (New York: The Free Press, 1995), 261.

[2] Frank H. Wu, Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White (New York: Basic Books, 2002), 39-78, 301-42.

[3] Daryl J. Maeda, The Chains of Babylon: The Rise of Asian America (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2009).

[4] Maeda, The Chains of Babylon, 130.

[5] Rey Chow, The Age of the World Target: Self-Referentiality in War, Theory, and Comparative Work (Durham: Duke University Press, 206), 12-15, 36.

[6] Wonhee Anne Joh, “Postcolonialism in Fugue: Contrapuntality of Asian-American Experience,” The Journal of Race, Ethnicity and Religion 3, no. 2.6 (January 2012): 1-28 (10).

[7] See also Julia Carrie Wong, “‘Which Side are You On?’ #Asians4BlackLives Counters Anti-Black Prejudice in Asian Communities,” Salon, March 8, 2015, http://www.salon.com/2015/03/08/which_side_are_you_on_asians4blacklives_confronts_anti_black_prejudice_in_asian_communities/.

[8] CAAAV, “Coalition Building,” http://caaav.org/our-work/coalition-building

[9] Joh, “Postcolonialism in Fugue,” 7.

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