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Asian American activists in solidarity with black community

#BlackLivesMatter to the members of Asian Pacific Islander Civic Action Network of Massachusetts

Karen Chen and Sovanna Pouv

In light of the recent murder of George Floyd by Minneapolis police, and the numerous murders of black people by a white supremacist system, the Asian Pacific Islander Civic Action Network of Massachusetts (APIs CAN!) stands firmly with the black communities of this country. We call on each and every member of our AAPI community to stand up for black lives.

Our AAPI community has suffered recently from economic losses and anti-Asian racism as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. We know that under white supremacy, this violence is inextricable from the danger that black people face every day while jogging, sitting at home or just going about their everyday lives, from both the police and right-wing vigilantism. Any encounter with the police could turn deadly, and this long history of oppression of black people dates back centuries. Statistics show that a black person is killed by the police every twenty-eight hours. As immigrants and refugees and their children in this country, we inherit this ugly legacy, whether we want to or not.

Across the country, many of the businesses that were damaged or destroyed are owned by people of color and immigrants, including Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and many are black-owned as well. We express our sadness and sympathy for these business owners, many of whom have suffered tremendously due to the pandemic. However, we stand firmly with millions of peaceful protesters standing against police brutality, calling for justice for George Floyd and demanding a transformation of the system that murders, dehumanizes and systematically oppresses black people. We reject any attempt to pit the AAPI community against black communities. We cannot confront anti-Asian American racism without acknowledging and directly working against racism toward black communities.

As part of this, we must examine our own prejudices and deal with anti-black racism within our own community. One of the officers who stood by during George Floyd’s killing was Tou Thao, an Asian American. Our community must speak unequivocally in solidarity with black communities to demand justice for George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and so many others.

There is a history of Asian Americans being labelled the “model minority” in order to pit us against black communities and other people of color that dates back several decades. For this reason, it is particularly important for us to take a clear stand for justice with black communities in this moment.

In fact, our communities have a long history of solidarity. It was the black-led Civil Rights and Black Power movements that paved the way for Asian Americans to gain increased access to education and employment, to challenge language-based discrimination, and for liberalization of immigration in 1965. When Asian people, like Long Guang Huang and the Quincy Four, were targets of police violence, the black community has always stood with us in demanding accountability. In Massachusetts, we’ve stood together to demand that construction sites be opened to workers of color, that teaching staff in the public schools reflect the cultures of our children, and that political districts be drawn to increase each community’s opportunity for representation.

We commit to supporting and following the lead of black-led organizing to demand justice for police brutality and murders of black lives, and toward changing systems that perpetuate white supremacy. We will struggle side-by-side to transform these systems and build a better world.

Karen Chen is executive director of the Chinese Progressive Association. Sovanna Pouv is executive director of the Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association of Greater Lowell.