Atlanta shootings see Asian, Black, Americans take on white supremacy

Sindy Benavides felt he understood what the Asian community was going through after eight people, including six Asian women, were killed in Georgia this week. Benavides, national board chairman of the League of United Latin American Citizens, had felt the same trauma and then the onslaught of solidarity after a gunman in El Paso killed 23 people in a mass shooting that was viewed as an attack on the Latino community.

The way so many gathered around the Asian American community after the Atlanta shootings, she said, “Reminded me of our allies in the community calling us and texting us asking how they did us could support. “

After this week’s killings, many have come together in support of the Asian-American community and created a palpable sense of unity in the fight against anti-Asian violence. And some say the increased solidarity also represents an opportunity for color communities to effectively address the common enemy of white supremacy.

“We’re looking at ways to work together on hate crime and make sure our communities are no longer targets,” she said. “This problem is not going to go away overnight and it will require cooperation.”

On Tuesday in Atlanta, C. Park, 74, was soon killed; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; and Yong A. Yue, 63, according to the Fulton County Medical Examiner’s Office, while Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33, 30 miles north in Cherokee County, Georgia; Paul Andre Michels, 54; Xiaojie Tan, 49; and Daoyou Feng, 44, were all fatally shot as well. A 30-year-old Hispanic, Elcias Ortiz, was injured.

While police said they have not yet determined whether the 21-year-old suspect “targeted” his victims, many have indicated that race is difficult to separate from the equation – especially after a recent surge in anti-Asian Violence that began during the COVID-19 pandemic, which many believe was fueled by the rhetoric of the Donald Trump administration.

“We will all lose”

US Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat, described the attacks as “horrific” and said civil rights groups across the country are working together to address the problem.

“We’re all going to lose,” said Bass, former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. “Just because it happens to Asians doesn’t mean I don’t care as much as if it happens to African Americans. We all have to be concerned. “

Manuel Pastor, director of the Equity Research Institute at the University of Southern California at Los Angeles, said hate crime is not a single community issue.

“People understand that they can happen to other groups too,” he said. “If you let it go for a group, it will come back and haunt you.”

In New York, lawyer and civil rights activist Maya Wiley was one of eight mayoral candidates who joined a press conference with Rev Al Sharpton on Thursday to denounce the attacks.

“It is up to all of us, not just the Asian-American community, to point out that despicable hatred has no home here,” she said in a later Twitter post.

Caroline Yang, an associate English professor at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst who has written on racial issues, said she saw real evidence of unity during this time, particularly between the black and Asian American communitieslast years Black Lives Matter protests and now.

“The first friends and colleagues who turned to me in solidarity were blacks,” she said. “Especially black women.”

After Jesus Estrella (left) and Shelby delivered flowers, they supported the Asian and Hispanic communities ahead of Young's Asian massage on Wednesday March 17, 2021 in Acworth, Georgia.  Asian Americans already exhausted from a year of racist attacks on the pandemic is surging but are trying to find a way forward after the horrific shootings at three massage companies in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, most of them Asian women.

Gabriel Chin, a law professor at the University of California at Davis, described the Atlanta murders as a potentially exciting wake-up call.

“They are likely to be seen as a turning point,” he said.

Chin compared the moment to the vicious 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American who was fatally assaulted by two white auto workers in metropolitan Detroit. Angered by the success of the Japanese auto industry as U.S. operations dwindled, he apparently mistook Chin for Japanese ancestry.

Outrage over the killing – and a plea that did not result in jail time – inspired widespread Asian American activism and moves to tighten hate crime legislation.

Chin said that while many Asian Americans who immigrated to the United States have been slow to embrace the struggle for civil rights because they did not grow up with it, “The reality that Asian Americans are in the same boat as them is increasingly recognized Latinx -People, as African-Americans, as colored people. We have no choice.”

“America was founded as a white country,” he said. “It’s not like that anymore, but people with color still have to fight to get a fair shot. And we’re more likely to make progress if we work together. “

The black civil rights movement has long inspired Asian leaders

While a renewed sense of unity among color communities could prove fruitful with a view to future interracial organization, such coalitions and collaborative efforts have existed since the civil rights era.

Jakobi Williams, Associate Professor of African American and African Diaspora Studies at Indiana University, noted that members of the Asian and black communities have worked together in efforts to achieve social justice since the civil rights movement of the 1960s.

There was Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese-American woman from New York City who became one of Malcolm X’s closest friends and allies after a protest in New York City, while civil rights activist Richard Aoki was a Black Panther in Berkley, California The earliest party members and the only Asian American to hold a leadership position in the group. And activist Grace Lee Boggs of Chinese descent devoted her life to improving the lives of black Americans.

Asian-American activist groups such as Yellow Brotherhood and East Wind also leaned on the Black Power movement, Williams said.

Mai-Linh Hong, assistant professor of literature at the University of California at Merced, said the Asian-American community’s work with the black liberation movements of the 1960s and 1970s helped set the framework for today’s field of Asian-American studies develop.

As organizations and activists regularly work on the grassroots across racial and ethnic lines, Hong hopes that the moment will “offer more opportunities for Allied groups to network nationally and increase their reach and influence. We are of course stronger together than apart or played off against each other. “

Among the factors driving the unified effort is the growing awareness of the concept of anti-blackness, a term that transcends academic circles and turns to activist circles that emphasizes the experience of black Americans in a slavery-based nation.

“Racism can be applied to any non-white group,” said Claire Jean Kim, professor of political science at the University of California at Irvine. “But anti-blackness is a structural feature of society that keeps blacks down. It’s a force pushing up anyone who isn’t black and pushing down anyone who isn’t white. For Asians and Hispanics, it is a force that lifts them above blacks. “

However, the dynamic privileges in the middle never allow them to take full advantage of whiteness, which creates conflicts within the hierarchy.

“It’s about the lack of humanity and dignity blacks receive, and it’s burned into our society,” said Anne Price, president of the Insight Center for Community Economic Development in Oakland, California.

The concept gained prominence last year as people grappled with the police deaths of unarmed blacks, Price said, and people are realizing that each community’s ability to thrive is related to the others.

“I’ve heard a lot about it from Latin Americans and Americans from Asia – that our fate is bound, that there are many interdependencies, that we need to build more collective power,” she said. “And that brings us to an entirely different place of possibility.”

United against a common enemy

But building such alliances is difficult, said Robert Greene II, an assistant professor of history at Claflin University in South Carolina, and for now the focus should be on confronting the anti-Asian sentiment that has been building for so long.

“The real test of anti-racist solidarity will be in the coming weeks,” Greene said. “A coalition like the one that is being built has to stay together for a long time as we continue to see white supremacist groups harness the energy and momentum they built during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Donald Trump.”

A family attends a rally at the Japan-American National Museum in Little Tokyo, Los Angeles, California, on March 13, 2021 to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence.

Ruben Martinez, professor of sociology at Michigan State University, said that while stronger alliances have formed, the groups remain largely focused on their own concerns.

“It has to go beyond that and focus on the system of racism as a whole,” he said.

That means that while he hasn’t seen much broad-based solidarity for Latinos during the anti-Mexican rhetoric of the early Trump administration, the realization that people of color are now committed to a common cause is gradually coming to the fore. he said.

“We can’t break this down for one group at a time,” said Martinez. “We must benefit everyone.”

Featuring: Deborah Barfield Berry

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