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Cayden Mak's Keynote

This summer I had the privilege of being able to spend some time with a group of Civil Rights Era veterans—folks who were Freedom Riders, organizers with the

This summer I had the privilege of being able to spend some time with a group of Civil Rights Era veterans—folks who were Freedom Riders, organizers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, people who in a big way I feel like are movement elders. I was in North Carolina for Moral Monday and we had a great national convening of the collective called the Freedom Side that coincided with the march. It was amazing to feel like a part of that energy and experience this amazing historical through-line from the Civil Rights Era to the present, seeing the parallels in the moment we are in.

One of the questions that we asked the SNCC veterans was: did you really feel like when you were organizing, you were in a magical time? And their answer was definitively yes. I think it makes sense for us to trust our instincts when it comes to the importance of our moment. It’s crucial to take it seriously.

And it is serious. It’s serious as the racist police and vigilante violence that’s been raised to a national conversation. It’s as serious as Citizens United and the fact that corporations have the same rights to free speech as you and I. It’s as serious as the unaddressed climate crisis. It’s as serious as the systematic dismantling of our rights under the Voting Rights Act of 1965; the attempt to declaw net neutrality rules, and the undermining of democracy and the public good across the country, whether it’s emergency management in Detroit or the explosion of the private prison industry.

You’re probably thinking, oh my god, how is this at all a magical time?

The thing that makes this a magical time is that across the country, around the world, people are responding to this as a call to action.

The thing that really makes this a magical time is an explosion of organizing. I’m thinking of the groundswell that started after Trayvon Martin was killed, boiled into a fury after George Zimmerman was acquitted and as the Dream Defenders occupied the Florida state capitol for thirty days, that’s gained momentum in the wake of the deaths of Eric Garner and Michael Brown and Rekia Boyd. Or the movement for a living wage in fast food and home care work. Or that ordinary people are coming up with solutions to seemingly intractable problems by banding together, from Occupy Sandy to the Detroit Water Brigade. Or the fact we have emerging electeds and hopefuls who are willing to push the envelope, from Zephyr Teachout and Tim Wu’s rejection of the New York State political machine to Kshama Sawant’s inspiring third-party victory in her race for Seattle City Council. That longstanding gatherings like the Allied Media Conference are bearing visionary fruit in art, music, literature, and technology.

I’m also thinking about small, everyday things. The fact that as communities respond to racist police violence they’re asking questions about why police and prisons are the only options we have to address crisis in our communities. That we’re starting to get real about the effects of intergenerational trauma on our bodies and our minds. That movement leaders are stepping up to accept critique and change the way they do their work to center the historically marginalized. And we’re more connected than ever before. We’re stronger and smarter and faster because of the internet, for all its limitations.

So when you look past the problems and let your eyes adjust to the light at the end of the tunnel, it’s easy to start seeing the magic. When we asked the SNCC veterans whether they knew their time was magical, they answered yes with a sparkle in their eyes. They knew exactly why we were asking. To be young and doing organizing in America today is to feel simultaneously a powerful optimism about our capacity to change as well as a profound fear about what’s at stake.

The death of Michael Brown and the subsequent repression of protest and the press in Ferguson has meant all eyes are there, but we must look with minds ready to learn. If Ferguson teaches anything, it’s that we have a long way to go against incredible odds. Some of the challenge is about the hurt we all carry inside of ourselves. Said the organizers in Ferguson some three weeks ago:

We are striving for a world where we deal with harm in our communities through healing, love, and kinship. This means an end to state sponsored violence, including the excessive use of force by law enforcement. We are committed to an America that comes to terms with the trauma of its painful history and finds true reconciliation for it. Mass incarceration and the over criminalization of black and brown people must forever end, leaving in its place a culture that embraces our histories and stories. This means an end to racial bias and white supremacy in all its forms.

Our dreams are directly linked with those resisting militarism, war, and state repression around the world. We will achieve this new beloved community hand in hand, step by step, in global solidarity with all people committed to lasting peace and full justice.

My heart is encouraged by words like these. We are learning how to be visionaries in public again.

In Grace Lee’s documentary about the unparalleled Grace Lee Boggs, Boggs says that she thinks that too many organizers emphasize action over reflection, but that action and reflection go hand in hand. I want to take a moment from this heart-thumping action to talk about us–and I mean the us in this room, Asian Americans from a variety of ethnic backgrounds, who care about the future of our country.

I want to echo the words of Soya Jung, a senior partner at Changelab and someone who has been a major star in a constellation that has guided me in my work over the past year or so full-time at 18MillionRising. In her essay “Why Ferguson matters to Asian Americans,” she writes that often, as Asian Americans, we find ourselves pulled toward two different sides of the what she terms “the color line,” that divide in the United States that separates white hegemony from historical Black disempowerment. This is the work of the model minority myth, this idea that somehow, as industrious, quiet, obedient Asians, we are the minorities and immigrants who made good on the promise of the American Dream and pulled ourselves up by our bootstraps.

The reality, as we know, is much more complex. A combination of immigration policy, popular culture representations of Asians and Asian Americans, and the invisibility of Asian bodies and lives, like attacks in the past and the present from Vincent Chin to Sandeep Singh, all contribute to the perpetuation of this myth. Even as South Asian American communities experience heightened surveillance, Southeast Asian American communities experience some of the highest poverty rates in the U.S., or that nearly a ten percent of undocumented immigrants are Asian, and many of our communities across the spectrum grapple with the afterimages of war, violent revolution, and genocide, this myth persists.

Jung writes that the model minority myth is a major buttress to the everyday violence that the Black community is subject to: it is held up against the assumption of Black criminality as evidence of the failure of the Black community, of Black culture. As we engage in the struggle to find justice, we must call the model minority myth out for what it is. We must find an Asian American identity that is rooted in values of community, healing, and anti-racism. We must not forget that, before we were Asian Americans, we were “orientals,” and we named ourselves Asian American as we stood shoulder-to-shoulder with other people of color during the heady days of the Black Liberation movement.

So I leave you with a challenge. In this magical time, we can stand on the sidelines, or we can roll up our sleeves and make magic happen. We can heed the clarion call of this upswell of organizing, but we must know that means making some tough choices. It means sticking our necks out. It means doing the hard work of developing our identities and healing ourselves as part of the praxis of dismantling racism, whether we’re at the ballot box or in the classroom, in our neighborhoods or at work, online or in the street.

As Jung writes, we have a choice to make about where we stand. I choose to embrace the infinite power of this magical time. I choose resistance. 

There’s been a dangerous sentiment by national press that Asian folks in the U.S. do not stand with Ferguson. Media has falsely perpetuated myths and misconceptions about Asian Americans and have formed inaccurate stories.

Looting stories of Asian Markets in St. Louis vilifying black men. Stories that stereotype all Asian Americans as the “model” minority. That all Asian Americans are geniuses, work hard, are great at math, and dominate universities. That if Asian Americans can achieve the American dream, why can’t other minorities?

Statistics and facts can be backed up by reports and data by the Census, government agencies, non-profit organizations*. “Good” and “Bad” stereotypes are merely fantasy, yet can be dangerously manipulated.

As a self-identified Asian American and Southeast Asian man, I stand firmly against false generalizations and speak upon my own experiences.

I created this video to show that just like in the past, today, there are Asian American allies to social justice and humanitarian causes.
I strongly support the people of Ferguson. May Michael Brown and the countless men dying in our American streets Rest In Power.

-

Kenny K. Hoang,

*For more information: Check out APIASF’s most recent “Care Report” and AAJC’s “A Community of Contrast”

Following Ferguson: Asian Americans Can Choose ‘Invisibility, Complicity, or Resistance’

On August 9, 2014, another young, unarmed black teen was murdered in America at the hands of police in the small suburb near St. Louis. Michael “Mike Mike” Brown, 18, died after being shot at least six times by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. Since, the justifiably angry community in Ferguson has risen up to demand answers. Their peaceful protests have been met with a militarized police force that is fully equipped with tanks, police dogs, tear gas, curfew, assault rifles and riot gear. Reporters and journalists have been threatened on air. Most recently, the National Guard has been called in to “restore peace to the area” and there has been another death at the hands of police. All the while, mainstream media has been documenting what’s happening in Ferguson as ‘rioting.’ Let’s be clear, the people in Ferguson are not rioting, they are rebelling! We will be selling Don’t Shoot tee shirts to support the people on the ground in Ferguson. 100% of the sales will go to the organization Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment to help with bail, legal support, supplies, and organizers on the ground. #HandsUpDontShoot #BlackLivesMatter

On August 9, 2014, another young, unarmed black teen was murdered in America at the hands of police in the small suburb near St. Louis. Michael “Mike Mike” Brown, 18, died after being shot at least six times by Ferguson police officer, Darren Wilson. 

Since, the justifiably angry community in Ferguson has risen up to demand answers. Their peaceful protests have been met with a militarized police force that is fully equipped with tanks, police dogs, tear gas, curfew, assault rifles and riot gear. Reporters and journalists have been threatened on air. Most recently, the National Guard has been called in to “restore peace to the area” and there has been another death at the hands of police. All the while, mainstream media has been documenting what’s happening in Ferguson as ‘rioting.’ Let’s be clear, the people in Ferguson are not rioting, they are rebelling! 

We will be selling Don’t Shoot tee shirts to support the people on the ground in Ferguson. 100% of the sales will go to the organization Missourians Organizing for Reform and Empowerment to help with bail, legal support, supplies, and organizers on the ground. 

#HandsUpDontShoot #BlackLivesMatter

Bitter Fruits: On Ferguson and the Ghosts of the Philippine-American War

Heavy read, but necessary read.

Why All Communities of Color Must Demand an End to Police Brutality

Ferguson Protestor

A man holds up a piece of police tape during a protest in Ferguson, Missouri, August 11, 2014 (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)

The images out of Ferguson, Missouri, these past two weeks have been shocking: tear gas blanketing suburban streets, law enforcement creating a war zone and defiant protesters braving it all. But it is important to remember that what started Ferguson’s fight is far too common: the police killing of an unarmed black teen.

African-Americans are the primary targets of law-enforcement profiling and violence, as the killings of Oscar GrantSean BellJonathan Ferrell and Eric Garner all attest. But during this past week, LatinoAsian-AmericanArab-American and Muslim organizations have all released statements of solidarity informed by similar experiences with discriminatory law enforcement practices, as well as an urgency to collectively identify and implement solutions.

In fact, Latinos and Asian- and Arab-Americans have a critical stake in reforming discriminatory police practices. While African-Americans in Ferguson must remain the primary voices and decision-makers calling for action to address the murder of Michael Brown, other communities of color can and must join Ferguson’s fight by linking the impact of racially motivated policing with the structural racial inequities that exacerbate it.

Latinos and Asian and Arab-Americans are no strangers to police violence and profiling based on skin color, accent, language, immigration status and faith. For example, Fong Lee, the 19-year-old son of Laotian refugees, was shot and killed by a police officer as he was riding his bike home from school in Minneapolis in 2006. For years, Latinos, along with African-Americans, have been the disproportionate targets of the New York Police Department’s “stop-and-frisk” tactic. And Muslim, South Asian and Arab-American communities have experienced ongoingsurveillance in mosques and student associations, all in the name of national security.

In their ongoing war on undocumented immigration, federal and state law enforcement agencies have been accused of engaging in rampant profiling of Latino and Asian-American communities. Federal programs such as Secure Communities and “Show Me Your Papers” laws enacted in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah have led to stops and detentions of people based on their accents or skin color, and deepened both documented and undocumented immigrants’ fears of engaging with law enforcement.

When law enforcement trample on the rights of any group, we must all resist: the oppressive, militarized tactics on display in Ferguson have undermined people’s basic rights to peaceful assembly and movement, and it’s not the first time. For Asian-Americans, the curfew that caused so much unnecessary violence in Ferguson over the weekend was reminiscent of the “enemy alien curfews” that restricted the movements of Japanese-Americans, as well as German, Italian and Japanese noncitizens, during World War II—also imposed for reasons ostensibly related to public safety. The military-grade hardware we’ve seen on the streets of Ferguson has also been deployed by law enforcement in border cities in California, Texas and Arizona, where reports of racial profiling, harassment and deaths of Latinos seeking refuge in the United States have been occurring for decades now.

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How can we fight back against police brutality and profiling? To start with, we can push for concrete solutions already proposed by communities of color, such as requiring police to wear cameras, ensuring police accountability through the legal system, documenting police stops, ending racial and religious profiling, providing culturally and linguistically appropriate trainings for law enforcement that reflect the communities they serve, instituting diverse recruitment and hiring practices, and abiding by the concepts of community policing based on mutual trust and respect. Coalitions such as Communities United for Police Reform in New York City provide hopeful examples of how organizing black, brown and interfaith communities can lead tolegislative victories that maintain public safety, civil rights and police accountability.

But police brutality is just one symptom of this country’s larger structural racism, which segregates our schools and cities, increases the poverty and unemployment rates for people of color, has psychological consequences for families and young people, and decreases our life expectancy. African-Americans disproportionately bear the brunt of this structural racism, but it affects many immigrants and other minorities as well. In order to transform our communities, all people of color must find common cause in each other’s movements. We can only end racial injustice through strategic multiracial alliances at the local and national levels that are informed by an understanding of our connected histories, and through working within our constituencies to address anti-black racism and stereotypes about one another.

We can and must start with Ferguson.

Bob Beckel: Your racism is dangerous - resign now

Demand an Apology from Fox News and Resignation of Bob Beckel!

The term “Chinaman” is an archaic racial slur dating back to the mid nineteenth century, with a heinous history of dehumanization and violence against Asian Americans (and Chinese Americans in particular). Yet, Fox News co-host Bob Beckel has used this slur on-air not once, but twice, in reference to Chinese and Chinese Americans. Most recently, he referred to Chinese people as “Chinamen” in a July 10, 2014 episode of “The Five”.

Fox News’ ongoing tolerance of Beckel’s anti-Asian racism, and their unapologetic airing of Beckel’s repeated use of anti-Asian slurs, is both unprofessional and an insult to Asian American viewers. 

Sign this petition to call on Fox News to IMMEDIATELY issue a retraction and an apology to the Asian American community for their airing of Beckel’s usage of racist slurs, and to call upon the network to terminate Beckel’s position as Fox News co-host.

Jul 2

ETS and College Board apologizes for racially & culturally insensitive T-shirts

The Racism Beat by Cord Jefferson