If we’re going to #StopAsianHate, we need to start by addressing our ongoing and dangerous entanglements with white supremacy. Just last month, a white man driven by fear and hatred murdered eight people, mostly Asian women. As calls quickly grew for justice across the country, a familiar phrase used to downplay the horror we were collectively witnessing started echoing louder and louder from both Asian and non-Asian voices:
“This is not who we are as a nation.”
But this is exactly who we have always been as a nation. For more than a year leading up to the Atlanta shooting, Asian immigrant communities around the world have been sounding the alarms and pleading for help amid a very much not unprecedented—literally there is so much precedent for this exact thing to happen—tsunami of racist violence against us, particularly targeted at women and elders, triggered by the pandemic. America’s history of violence against Asian communities is in no way unparalleled because it is exactly and perfectly in line with its history of violence against every other group of people who are “not white.” In fact, this year marks the 150th anniversary of the largest mass lynching in American history where a group of 500 people mobbed a predominantly Chinese neighborhood in Los Angeles and murdered more than 10% of the Chinese population in L.A. at the time.
In a land that has been so inhospitable to us from day one—regardless of how much our countless contributions to it have added up over the centuries—you have to ask, how have we managed to survive so much and for so long? Enter: the model minority scam.
I refer to it as a scam because what else would you call a deal in which one group consistently loses at the benefit and behest of another group which retains the sole means of deciding who wins or loses in the first place?
For as much as white supremacy has been the stick to beat us with, it has also acted as the carrot to entice us. White supremacy hits us all differently—sometimes in extremely obvious and violent ways, other times in subtle and even seductive ways. The Asian American experience has especially in recent history been one mixed with brutal violence and the seductive promise of adjacency to whiteness for those who endure and adapt to the whims and comforts of white folks in power.
White supremacy is a throwaway line about being Asian and “knowing a lot of doctors” spoken from the podium of a presidential debate.
White supremacy is a book deal about the superiority of Asian motherhood steeped thoroughly in the stereotypes that hold us down and hold us back peddled by someone who would later go on to play a critical role in installing an alleged rapist to the Supreme Court.
White supremacy is the promise of political office in exchange for unwavering commitment to the police and other state actors of violence against Black, Latinx, and Palestinian people—not to mention the long history of violent policing in and against Asian communities.
White supremacy is an Asian American police officer standing idly by while his white colleague murdered George Floyd in front of the whole world.
White supremacy is making history as the first South Asian American governor and then hanging a portrait of yourself many shades lighter in your public office.
White supremacy is the promotion of an immigration policy that declares certain groups of people worthy or unworthy based on their ability to generate profit for corporations and using the success of your ancestors as its justification.
White supremacy is the continued failure to disaggregate data on Asian Americans—hiding the enormous pay inequality, poverty, unemployment, and lack of representation faced by Indonesian Americans like me and so many others—to paint a feel-good narrative of resilience and success about our people while consciously obscuring the obstacles some of us disproportionately face today.
For as long as there has been a history of Asian American identities and existences, it has been abundantly clear that our safety and security cannot be guaranteed by shrinking ourselves to the comforts of those in power. As we stand at the precipice of incredible opportunity to shift the tides of power in the direction of justice and equality, we must do so with unapologetic authenticity, radical solidarity with Black, Latinx, and Indigenous people, and with our eye on the prize; for the only way to truly #StopAsianHate once and for all will be through the absolute abolition of white supremacy and its many tendrils.