COLUMN: Policing is not an appropriate response to the increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans

Asian American activists have a duty to Black activists to not call for further policing.

Ellie Lin is a first year Journalism student at MU. She is a guest columnist who writes about social activism for the Maneater.

For Lunar New Year, I had my dumplings delivered. Going out to celebrate is antiquated, and in theory, good luck will follow the dumplings no matter where you eat them.

This is the first year I can’t celebrate Lunar New Year with my grandparents, adding tradition to the long list of things ravaged by COVID-19. Since the beginning of the pandemic, I’ve seen my grandparents once, a farewell before I left for college. As the months and distance have increased, I’ve grown more concerned for my grandparent’s safety. Elderly Asian Americans are facing two dangers in this pandemic: COVID-19 and hate crimes.

A study done by the Asian American Bar Association of New York reported more than 2,500 anti-Asian hate crimes relating to COVID-19 between March and September of last year. Hate crimes saw the most rise in places with high concentrations of Asian Americans, such as New York and San Francisco.

Anti-Asian hate crimes rose following the events of 9/11. Those crimes affected predominantly South Asian and Middle Eastern communities. The most recent surge in hate crimes affects predominantly Eastern Asians and is a consequence of former President Donald Trump’s sinophobic rhetoric. Trump was criticized for calling COVID-19 “the China Virus,” and “the Kung Flu.” Anti-Asian sentiments were echoed by conservatives across the country, including by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt who sued China last April over their response to COVID-19.

The increased violence caught celebrity attention when Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu offered a reward of $25,000 for information leading to the arrest of a man seen pushing over an elderly Asian man. “Remember Vincent Chin,” said Wu, a reference to the murder of a Chinese American by two white men in 1982.

Following Dae Kim and Wu’s social media posts, there was an outpour of social media activism, calling for attention and awareness about the violence facing Asian Americans, including petitions and fundraisers. Several businesses and community leaders have called for further policing of Oakland, California’s Chinatown. One fundraiser raised $85,766 for armed patrol security guards of the area.

Calls made for a larger police presence had their intended effect. The Alameda County District Attorney’s office has authorized the creation of a special response unit to combat the anti-Asian attacks in the area. However, this is a terrible idea –– and contrary to the history of Asian American activism.

Now, more than ever, it is inappropriate for Asian Americans to call for any sort of increased policing in this country –– including armed guards and cash rewards. Asian Americans do not face the dangers of excessive policing that other minority groups do. Black Americans are more than 2.5 times more likely to be killed by police than white Americans. For Asian Americans to call for further policing is to call for further violence against Black Americans. Such violence is diametrically opposite to the ideals that began Asian American activism in this country.

Asian American activism rose to prominence in the late 1960s, following an age of Yellow Peril. The McCarthy era, immigration quotas, the Vietnam war, and unfair working conditions all played roles in early activist movements. However, the roots of Asian American activism stem from the Civil Rights movement led by Black Americans.

Asian American activists collaborated with Black activists to dismantle the Emergency Detention Act, one that Black activists feared would be used to encamp Black Americans in a similar way to Japanese Americans during World War II. A sentiment by Asian American activists at the time was “Yellow Peril for Black Power,” often associated with Asian Americans protesting with the Black Panther party for the release of Huey Newton. The term has since been criticized for its equation of Asian American struggles with Black struggles.

Even the title of “Asian American” was influenced by Black activists. Yuji Ichioka and Emma Gee founded the Asian American Political Alliance at the University of California, Berkeley in 1968. The founding of AAPA is believed to be the first use of the term “Asian American.”

The very beginning of Asian American activism in the U.S. was in solidarity with Black activism. Directly following its creation, the AAPA joined the African American Student Union on the University of California, Berkeley’s campus to form the Third World Liberation Front. The goal of the TWLF was to create a Third World College, with race studies programs aimed at removing Eurocentrism from education. The unification of the AAPA and the AASU, along with other race- focused advocacy groups, began a month-long strike at the University of California, Berkeley’s campus. The picket lines were struck by the police, who attacked strike leaders, students and journalists.

Unification between Asian Americans and Black Americans has not always followed the standard set at the conception of the Asian American movement. Calls for more policing highlight and exacerbate the anti-Blackness in Asian communities. Asian Americans have benefitted from their proximity to whiteness and the model minority myth for decades.

Anti-Blackness in the Asian community is virulent; it can vary from something as seemingly innocuous as the popularity of skin-lightening creams in Southern Asian cultures, to deadly, as evidenced by Tou Thao, the Hmong-American police officer complicit in George Floyd’s death.

Asian American activists must recognize that there are ways to combat anti-Asian hate crimes that do not involve more police. A good example of this is Jacob Azvedo's Compassion in Oakland project, where people can volunteer to accompany elders and anyone who feels unsafe on errands in Chinatown. There is a long history and a great power in both the Asian American community and the Black community, and their coalescence is key to liberation.

As part of the fight against racial injustice, The Maneater encourages readers to donate to the Oakland Chinatown Ambassador Program & Victims fund, an organization aimed at aiding those affected by the increase in crime by taking a community oriented approach to public safety. Donate at: https://www.classy.org/give/326018/#!/donation/checkout

Edited by Sofi Zeman | szeman@themaneater.com

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