Posted on February 26, 2021

On Anti-Asian Hate Crimes: Who Is Our Real Enemy?

Michelle Kim, Next Shark, February 18, 2021

In recent weeks, there have been over 20 attacks on Asian businesses and people, mostly elders, with little to no coverage from the mainstream news outlets. Videos documenting such attacks have been circulating, mostly through individual social media accounts of Asian activists, celebrities, and journalists (thank you Amanda Nguyen, Dion Lim, Dr. Kiona, Daniel Dae Kim, Benny Luo, Lisa Ling, and Daniel Wu for being among the first public figures to use your platform to mobilize others). {snip}

Between March and August of 2020, Stop AAPI Hate received over 2,583 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes nationwide, and these incidents go grossly underreported. {snip}

The Model Minority Myth running deep in the American psyche is the problematic portrayal of Asians as a monolithic group of quiet, hard-working, politically silent, and therefore “well-behaved” immigrants, which was created in the 60s to position Asians in opposition to the Black community, whose social justice activism was seen as a national threat to the status quo of white supremacy. Over the years, this politically motivated and fundamentally anti-Black myth has successfully achieved its purpose of driving a wedge between Asians and other people of color groups in America, while simultaneously erasing, making invisible, and even delegitimizing Asian communities’ real-life struggles by using the economic success of the few to defend the centuries-old unjust systems rooted in white supremacy, anti-Blackness, capitalism, and colonialism.

This wedge continues to be driven even deeper today, where, to my dismay, many of the recent attacks against Asian elders were perpetrated by Black individuals, and the myriad intra- and inter-community reactions have once again exposed the historical and ongoing tension between the Asian and Black American communities.

Today in reaction to the series of attacks on our elders, many enraged Asians are calling for the immediate arrest of the perpetrators of violence while demanding the most punitive charges be made. “Send a message,” they say. And I have to wonder, “Weren’t we just demanding we defund the police in solidarity with Black Lives Matter?”

When asked to support the amplification effort and denounce the heinous attacks on Asians, some Black people criticize the anti-Blackness still prevalent in the Asian community. “Asians are anti-Black.” “Asians never show up for us.” “It’s Black History Month.” And to that I wonder, “So will you watch us die?”

And the cycle continues. We fight anti-Asian racism with anti-Black rhetoric and tactics, and anti-Asian racism goes unnoticed, or worse justified, in part due to the deep-seated and understandable resentment towards our community, which undeniably has more work to do to eradicate anti-Blackness, and whose perceived proximity to whiteness is aided through the perpetual and blatant erasure of our historical and present-day solidarity work with other marginalized communities.


Today, white supremacy is in action again, pitting our communities against each other and banking on our collective amnesia about the conditions that have birthed the violence — the government’s utter failure to create any semblance of financial safety for the most marginalized in the midst of a pandemic; systemic racism permeating every nook and cranny of our medical system that bar access to adequate care for the most vulnerable frontline workers, most of whom are Black and brown (don’t forget, brown includes some AAPI folks, too); and the institutional robbery committed against the public while corporate billionaires became multi-billionaires off a game only they are allowed to play. {snip}

White supremacy wants us to remember the unhealed wounds we inflicted on each other, historical and ongoing anti-Blackness in the Asian community and anti-Asian incidents perpetrated by Black individuals, but not the stories of solidarity that have existed in equal measure, but are somehow left out of our history books and media coverage. {snip} Despite our “mutual ignorance,” as activist Helen Zia once described, we have been showing up for each other. And I’m not talking about the performative gestures of posting black squares and BLM hashtags; I’m talking about the work of our ancestors like Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, and Larry Itliong who worked alongside the Black Panthers in the 60s, to the Third World Liberation Front, a coalition of Black, Latinx, and Asian student organizations that sustained one of the longest student strikes in the U.S. that resulted in the creation of Ethnic Studies, to the present-day coalitionary organizing to mobilize voters in Georgia, push for prison reform and abolishment, and defund and demilitarize the police… the work has been ongoing, with or without the mainstream consciousness or participation, and it is our duty to remember and uplift these stories to seed healing and change.


The only way out of the vicious cycle of violence we continue to find ourselves in is through deep, unrelenting, and principled inter-community solidarity. As Asians, we must interrogate the conditions and narratives we find ourselves in and remember in our core that white supremacy is not our savior. We have an opportunity to reclaim our narratives — and our identity — by being loud, angry, political, defiant, and in lock-step with the Black community to keep our communities safe while denouncing systems that have never protected us.

In light of these complexities, here is how everyone can help:

  1. Acknowledge, amplify, and denounce the ongoing anti-Asian hate crimes. Say it in your own words. Say this is not okay. Say you condemn it. Say you believe it is wrong. Say it personally and organizationally. Make space for our pain because there is always enough space for all of us — all of our pain, healing, and liberation can coexist without diminishing the other.
  2. Interrupt anti-Asian racism and anti-Black racism. Neither is okay, in any context. When you see Asians being called “chinks” “dog eaters” “disease spreaders” “dirty” or otherwise blamed for the violence we are experiencing — please shut it down. And when non-Black folks, even if they are Asians who are hurting right now, engage in anti-Blackness by saying “Black people are criminals,” “Black people are dangerous” — please call that out, too. We must be principled in our anger and channel it to dismantling the real enemy: white supremacy culture that creates the either/or binary and scarcity mindset that has left us fighting each other for the scraps.
  3. Interrupt generalizations: If someone says, “Asians are anti-Black,” say “Anti-Blackness is a pervasive issue within the Asian community and many Asians have been working within their own community to address and challenge this. Have you been following their work?” If someone says, “Black people hate Asians,” say, “Your generalization of an entire community based on a few examples is harmful. There are plenty of Black people fighting in solidarity with Asian people right now. Do you know them?”
  4. Interrupt the active and persistent erasure of Black and Asian solidarity work. When Black people say “Asians never show up for us,” or when Asian people say, “Black people don’t care about us,” talk about how throughout history, our solidarity work has been erased deliberately and intentionally by our education system and the media to worsen the divide. We need to amplify these examples of solidarity to heal and build trust together.
  5. Invest in community-based interventions. Contrary to what some may believe, enhancing our contact with the police is not a long-term solution that will keep our community safe. Despite its 2-block proximity to the Oakland Police Department, Oakland Chinatown is not “safe”as evidenced by the increased attacks against its residents and businesses. Just in December, Christian Hall, a 19-year old Asian teen in Pennsylvania, was shot by the state police while having a mental health crisis. Asians are among the fastest growing undocumented populations in the U.S., and those who fear deportation and criminalization will not be safe in the presence of more police. Even when the police are called, our incidents rarely get documented correctly or acted upon with a sense of urgency. Neighborhoods with heavy police presence are not safer. Neighborhoods with access to quality medical and mental health care, financial support, food and shelter, education, are. Rather than calling for more policing, FBI surveillance, and funneling money towards the deeply racist criminalization system that seeks to uphold white supremacy, invest time, money, and energy into creating and supporting community-based interventions that seek to keep all of us safe.


I’m still a student of Transformative Justice, a different approach to justice that seeks to address violence without causing more violence, and one that does not rely on punitive and carceral consequences that white supremacy has taught us to associate accountability with. {snip}

The collective and intergenerational trauma Asians hold is vast and painfully deep. The erasure and silence around our struggles, from both our own community and our allies, only deepen the wound while widening the gap between us and other marginalized communities. {snip}