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June 2020

Asian Americans MUST Stand With The Black Lives Matter Movement

in Social Issues by

With the recent killing of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Elijah McClain and other black victims dying in the hands of the police, every individual in America must fight against racism, especially racism that is targeted at African Americans. This extends way beyond changing white people and white culture, but for my fellow Asian Americans as well. 

Anti-Blackness is not a problem that is unique to white people– Asian Americans are also responsible for Anti-Black sentiment in our communities. Just because we are both minorities in America does not mean we are allowed to acquit ourselves from Anti-Blackness. This is where the Model Minority Myth plays a vital role, both in the suppression of Black voices and in creating an emotional distance between Asians and African Americans. The essence of the Model Minority argument is that because some minorities manage to succeed, the system cannot possibly be racist. The insinuation is that all it takes for a minority to succeed is “hard work.” The Model Minority Myth brutally puts minorities against each other and praises the winner as a shining example of how our system is fair. The myth is also used by the “winning” minority to separate itself from others’ suffering. Examples that I hear all the time include the opinion that Asians simply have a better work ethic, or that our culture itself is somehow superior which is the reason that we succeed where others do not. Currently, most Asian Americans believe the Model Minority Myth and are pointing to their own history of suffering in early America as an example of how they managed to overcome it and how it is the fault of other minorities that they are unable to do the same. The important takeaway is that it takes more than hard work to overcome racial boundaries, it requires active awareness and effort from both parties. That is what Black Lives Matter wants to accomplish.

While it is true that we still face discrimination today, most of us do not need to be afraid of getting gunned or choked down for running, sleeping, shopping, etc. This is not an assumption, statistics show that Asian Americans have the lowest chance of being killed by a police officer of any demographic. However, this is a sad reality for our Black friends and classmates. Although they make up only 13% of the United States population, black people are the target of 24% of police killings. A common argument heard is the Black community committing more crimes than other races; however, the issue is that Black men and women are about five times more likely to be stopped without reason compared to white people. A system that specifically targets African Americans can obviously be expected to make more arrests on the Black community. I applaud my fellow Asian Americans who are standing with the Black Lives Matter movement; however, it is undeniable that we need to do a better job of addressing and fixing the anti-Blackness in our community based on pure human decency. 

We can not ignore the instances of anti-Blackness in our community. In 1991, Latasha Harlins, a 15-year-old Black girl, was shot in the back of the head by a Korean store owner in Los Angeles. In 2014, New York City police officer Peter Liang and his partner were at a public housing development when Liang fired his gun and killed a 28-year-old Black man named Akai Gurley. Asian man Tou Thao found no problem in watching his white colleague, Derek Chauvin pin down George Floyd, a Black man, by the neck with his knee until Floyd could not breathe. There are even more everyday examples of anti-Blackness in some Asian communities: Asian store owners profiling Black customers, Asian customers using skin-whitening products, or members saying the N-word out loud. Maybe it is even the racist comment your uncle says at the dinner table, but never in public. It is incredibly easy for us to hide these crimes, to wish them away and ignore them. It is so convenient for us to blame White people– to draw attention to their crimes and hope to hide our own. However, the truth is, our hands are not clean, and we have to change.

We need to remember that our history also includes a strong tie with the Black community. Black activists have started movements and fought for rights that have benefited Asian Americans, Latinx people, Native Americans, women, and LGBTQ+ people. For Asian Americans, the African American led Civil Rights Movement in 1960 inspired us to take action in our struggle for equality. This opened the way for the rights we enjoy today. With the result of this Black activist-led action, in 1965, the passing of the Immigration and Nationality Act lifted restrictions on immigrants to the United States which benefited Asians such as my parents. Furthermore, the movement overruled anti-miscegenation laws leading to open admissions at institutions for higher education that benefit Asians today. I, as well as my Asian American friends, would not even be at St. John’s without this movement. Furthermore, we all listen to Black rappers, cheer for Black athletes, use Black slang, and wear Black streetwear, so we should extend that same love for Black culture to Black people.

“Don’t get involved,” 

“It’s not our business,”

“We are minorities too,”

These are the phrases we are raised with as Asian Americans, but we need to be the ones to break this ignorance. We have to support Black lives and battle against anti-Blackness in our country and community. Supporting the Black Lives Matter movement does not take away any of our rights as Asian Americans. By realizing that we are also capable of wrongful behavior and evil against Black people is the first step to being part of the solution: be an ally at the dinner table, gently call out family or friends who are making racist comments or jokes, realize that as a non-Black person, you have privilege that can be used to support Black lives, keep educating yourself by reading books and listening to podcasts, be proactive by signing petitions, donating money, and attending protests, lead with love. Let us all have love for our brothers and sisters who are suffering. This is not the time to further divide ourselves; instead, we need to unite.

Edwardsa, Frank, et al. “Risk of Being Killed by Police Use-of-force in the U.S. by Age, Race/Ethnicity, and Sex.” National Academy of Sciences. August 2, 2019. www.prisonpolicy.org/scans/police_mort_open.pdf. Accessed June 26, 2020.

Image : McGreal, Marcela. Solidarity. Flickr, www.flickr.com/photos/marcelamcgreal/15829179718.

Racial Disparities During the Covid-19 Pandemic

in Science & Technology/Social Issues by

So far, the Covid-19 virus has taken the lives of over 420,000 people worldwide. In the United States alone, there have been over 2,000,000 confirmed cases, and 117,000 deaths. African-Americans have accounted over one third of coronavirus fatalities, even though they make up only 13 percent of the U.S. population. So why is this? Pre existing inequities tied to race, socio-economic status, and access to healthcare are contributing factors as to why there are a disproportionate number of deaths between black and white people. In Wisconsin, African-Americans are only 6 percent of the population, but make up 40 percent of Covid-19 deaths. Socio-economic disparities between communities of color and white people have led to a difference in health outcomes due to lack of accessible resources for many inner city communities. Covid-19 has brought to light the impact of years of environmental racism and systemic oppression. As a direct result of slavery, colonization, and segregation, people of color have been forced to occupy inner city neighborhoods, which are much more susceptible to infection than suburbs or affluent parts of the city. People of color have never been as successful as their white counterparts because of generations of violence against them. On top of that, the government has enforced capitalism as a system grounded in white colonialism to ensure POC continue to live life in the cycle of poverty. Food deserts, medical apartheid, and poor air quality are just a few factors that contribute to higher rates of heart disease, asthma, and high blood pressure in inner city neighborhoods. These diseases leave individuals with compromised immune systems and leads to a lower survival rate of Covid-19. In hospitals and centers where Covid-19 is being treated, there have been far too many occasions when doctors and nurses disregard black patients. This stems from the false stereotype that black people can sustain pain more than white people, and they therefore receive less or no treatments. Bringing forth equality in the U.S. will only come once everyone acknowledges the systemic racism and oppression that marginalized groups face in this country, and actively work to reconstruct these systems.



We the People

in Social Issues by

The Declaration of Independence states: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

If the Declaration of Independence states that all are created equal, then why does it keep being ignored? We tend to stereotype people based upon their race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and social class. As public protests and calls for justice on social media begin to dwindle and America changes its focus, it’s more important now than ever for everyone to take action. My goal is to point out some key issues and to provide solutions to help improve our country together. 

Systemic racism and white privilege are key issues that still exist today.  The recent case that took place in a South Georgia neighborhood is a prime example. Just a few months ago, an unarmed black man, Ahmaud Arbery was murdered while going on a jog on February 23, 2020. Gregory McMichael and his son Travis McMichael, who are residents of the neighborhood Arbery was jogging in, murdered Arbery by hitting him with their truck and then shooting him.  William Brian, who watched the murder take place, testified that Travis McMichael called Arbery an “f-ing n-word” before fatally shooting him three times. There are three underlying problems that still remain beyond the fact that this man was murdered. First, Gregory and Travis McMichael took it upon themselves to make a “citizen’s arrest” because they felt Arbery did not belong in their neighborhood, and considered him a threat. Why did they consider Arbery a threat? Secondly, the murderers were not arrested until 3 months later, on May 7, 2020. This only happened due to increased social media attention by celebrities and others who brought awareness to the case. Why did it take viral status on the internet for the Georgia Bureau of Investigation to address the murder? And lastly, another underlying problem is the legislature. Georgia is one of four states in the U.S. that does not have a hate crime law. So far, the two murderers were charged with murder and aggravated assault. Arbery’s mother, Wanda Cooper-Jones, demands that Georgia pass a hate crime law. She believes that these men should be prosecuted not just for killing her son, but for also targeting him because of the color of his skin. How are there not even laws to help bring justice for hate crimes such as Ahmaud Arbery’s murder? I believe that by working together, we can help bring a reform by voting and electing more officials that stand for equality for all.

Police brutality is another key issue that needs to be changed. In my opinion, not every police officer is bad. However, police reform is needed to change the way they interact with minorities. Police stops or questioning should not result in the killing of minorities, specifically African Americans. With the use of social media and sometimes police body cameras, we have been able to witness police officers that treat African-Americans or other minorities differently than white Americans. In the Stanford Open Policing Project, nearly 100 million traffic stops were investigated between 2011 through 2017. The results concluded that Black and Latino drivers were stopped and searched based on less evidence than white drivers, who are searched less and more likely to have illegal items, according to the study. An example of this unfair treatment is the murder of George Floyd, a 46 year old man who grew up right here in Houston. He attended Jack Yates High School; the same school attended by my dad. It is troubling and traumatizing to see someone so similar to my own father be murdered by the police; the people that are supposed to protect us! On May 25, 2020, George Floyd was being arrested for allegedly using a counterfeit bill. Four police officers were involved in the arrest of Mr. Floyd, including officer Derek Chauvin. Officer Chauvin held down Mr. Floyd by kneeling on his neck, as Mr. Floyd repeatedly pleaded what seems to be a statement that is said far too often by minorities while being restrained by police: “I can’t breathe.” Officer Chauvin proceeded to keep his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for a total of eight minutes and forty-six seconds, until the last breath left Mr. Floyd’s body. What was the need for this when Mr. Floyd had already been handcuffed to the ground? What is just as disturbing as this murder is that while Mr. Floyd was held down, the other three officers saw nothing wrong with Officer Chauvin’s actions. They stood there and watched it take place, complicitly. I believe we can prevent more cases like George Floyd’s murder from happening by training our police better. If Officer Chauvin and the other officers were trained differently, or held under stricter rules for what they could and could not do, this type of behavior could and should have been prevented. Methods presented by former President Barack Obama tie into my ideas on solutions to improve our country’s current state. On June 3, 2020, President Obama presented a speech on a live-stream through his Obama Foundation. President Obama offered solutions to police brutality by encouraging people to vote for more minorities for city-wide positions, such as mayors and police chiefs. Both of these positions have the ability to reform the police system and help modify the rules that dictate what officers can do while on the job.

The last key issue is silence. People of all races are too silent when it comes to prejudice and racism. Most white Americans do not get involved because it does not directly affect them. Most minorities and disadvantaged groups only get involved when it directly affects them. We need to ban together as one people, one community and one nation to speak out against racism and things that are wrong.

Prejudice and racism is not just exclusive to African-Americans. Other minority and disadvantaged groups experience similar instances of racism. The LGBTQ+ community faces discrimination due to their preference or how they choose to self-identify. Asian-Americans have been verbally and physically attacked based upon allegations of bringing the Coronavirus to the USA; just because the virus originated in China. And people of Hispanic or Mexican origin have been discriminated against based upon assumption of their legal status. America cannot continue to discriminate against people because they “do not fit the norm”. We must come together and stand for what is right and stop the spread of hatred. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”

What if these things happened to you or someone in your family? What if they happened to someone in the SJS Community (past or present)? Would it matter? Would you stand and do something about it?


image: Michael Cali, San Diego Union Tribune

Why America Has Never Been Great for Black People: a History of Black Oppression

in Social Issues by

Our president’s slogan, “Make America Great Again,” has always confused me. As a progressive person who only views the past to find ways to improve the future, I cannot fathom why President Trump wants to go backward. When I examine this country’s history, I do not find a time in which I, or any other black person for this matter, would have wanted to go. By studying the history of racism in the United States, I can only conclude that the president is referring to wealthy, white people such as himself when he proclaims this phrase, as that is the only demographic that has consistently experienced a “great” America. Some make the argument that black people gained their equality with the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but racism since then is still largely present today. Those who still believe racism is virtually nonexistent live in a protected bubble, have little-to-no (close) black friends, and/or have never witnessed a racist incident. To them, I say, “your experiences concerning racism do not reflect everyone else’s.” Others also love to say that if black people “worked harder,” they could rise just as easily as everyone else, but this is untrue as well. America’s history of systemic racism through housing, the criminal justice system, and policing, has made it significantly more difficult for the Black community to rise in the social hierarchy, and it is this reason why many Black Americans can’t simply ‘work harder’ to be successful. As I review the country’s long history of both obvious and not-so-obvious racism, I ask you to please keep an open mind, and remember to use empathy. 

The abolishment of slavery in 1865 was not the abolishment of racism; since then, both overt and covert white supremacy have played large roles in limiting how black Americans are able to make money and become successful. As a result of these limitations, the nation’s current racial wealth gap continues to be a significant obstacle for the Black community. The current average net worth of a white family in America is $171,000, while the net worth is only $17,150 for that of a black family. Although many factors contribute to these numbers, it would be foolhardy for the nation not to address its history of segregation and biases. One of the main contributors to these biases exists regarding housing. Alas, we do not acknowledge much of this racism, so people continue preaching that anyone born into an unfavorable situation could “work their way to the top”; however, this way of thinking ignores how centuries of systemic racism have intricately designed “the top” as a place for whites only. One of the most exciting benefits of owning a home is that in most neighborhoods, home equity increases over time. Essentially, owning a home is a way to accumulate more money without extra work. This seems like a favorable circumstance, especially considering that on average, ⅔ of a person’s wealth originates from their home equity. However, throughout history, black people were never truly allowed to benefit from this advantage. When President Franklin D. Roosevelt took office amid the Great Depression in 1933, many families of all races were homeless across America. To combat the nation-wide housing shortage, President Roosevelt set up the Public Works Administration (PWA) as part of the New Deal. Unsurprisingly, the housing that the PWA built was only meant for middle-class white families, and only some, segregated housing was built for the black community. The next year, in 1934, the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) was founded by President Roosevelt in order to provide loans for prospective homeowners. In a practice called redlining, the FHA refused to give insured-mortgages to borrowers that they presumed as “high risk.” They mapped out cities across the nation, and they gave each neighborhood ratings that ranged from “hazardous” (red) to ”best” (green). The deciding factor that determined these grades was based almost exclusively on race. In 1940s Houston, neighborhoods like Montrose and River Oaks (5-12% non-white) were considered “best,” while places like Third Ward (96% non-white), where I live, were considered “hazardous.” Through these legal means of segregation, residents living in “hazardous” neighborhoods were not insured mortgages. Even if a Black American managed to accumulate enough wealth to buy a home in a white neighborhood, the house would never be sold to them. When a white person borrowed a loan to pay for a house in a place like River Oaks, they were required by law not to sell to African Americans; it was in the contract. What was the justification? Supposedly, letting black people into affluent neighborhoods would bring property values down. In reality, even 70 years after the Civil War, the goal was to preserve the racial hierarchy. The courts did almost nothing to stop this discrimination, and these practices continued. Years later, in 1968, the Fair Housing Act was passed, allowing people from all races and backgrounds to buy any home in any neighborhood, but it was far too late. Loans weren’t being given out left and right anymore, and the homes in wealthy white neighborhoods had inflated so much that black people looking to move to better districts could never afford them. Further, when the need for loans rose in 1993, subprime loans, which are disadvantageous loans with high-interest rates and fees, were given to POC much more often than white people. Hispanic Americans and African Americans are 78% and 105% more likely than white people to receive subprime loans, respectively. This is further supported by a study from the National Bureau of Economic Research, which found that “homeowners in high-income black neighborhoods are twice as likely as homeowners in low-income white neighborhoods to have subprime loans.” This even wider wealth gap left African American communities scrambling in debt, while affluent, white families were able to send their kids to college with the money from their home equities. Even if a black student was able to “work their way up,” and graduate college, it was likely they’d be the most successful person in their family, so they would tend to give regular deposits to their parents and relatives, making them less wealthy than a white person with the same degree and job as them. This is still a likely circumstance today. Past policies affect present-day in even more ways. Currently, the average income for a black person is about 60% the average of a white person’s; however, due to the lack of home equity for black people, Black Americans only hold about 5% of the wealth of white people. These findings explicitly show how race still plays a huge factor in housing today. With this in mind, it is clear that it is discriminatory policies that have built this massive racial wealth gap and not the “laziness” that is supposedly abundant throughout poor neighborhoods. 

The United States spends over $80 billion annually to keep a fourth of the world’s prison population behind bars, and there are still many citizens who think there’s nothing wrong with our system. Many seem to have concluded that because black people are 40% of the country’s prison population while only being 13% of the US population, they’re criminals. However, few seem to address that a black person is 20% more likely to be sentenced to jail than a white person who committed the same crime. Furthermore, black people receive 20% longer sentences than white people for the same crimes. One study even found that some employers would rather hire a white convicted felon than a black innocent citizen. According to the Bureau of Justice, in the 90s, African American males had a lifetime risk of 28.5% of being incarcerated, compared to white males at 4.4%; this is extremely concerning. Why are black people so disproportionately represented in our prison systems? It all starts directly after slavery with the exploitation of the 13th amendment’s loophole. The law states that no American should be enslaved “except as punishment for crime…” Racists took advantage of this loophole by enacting the Black Codes and the Compromise of 1877, which limited freedoms of African Americans and removed Union troops from the south, allowing southern racists to continue lynching without consequences. Combined, both the Black Codes and the Compromise of 1877 worked together to force African Americans to continue working on plantations, ensure that slavery could essentially continue legally, and sentence African Americans to labor camps for petty crimes such as vagrancy. They also worked to limit the “inalienable” rights of black people such as the right to vote, the right to carry weapons, and the right to rent land. Decades later, media portrayals of black people as criminals played a major role in how African Americans were perceived. One very notable film, ‘Birth of a Nation,’ was glorified by racist President Woodrow Wilson and described by him as “all so terribly true.” This partisan film portrayed black men as rapists and criminals, while also glorifying both slavery and the KKK. These portrayals, in addition to today’s overrepresentation of black lawbreakers in the media, have all contributed to the larger narrative: black people are criminals. How does all of this history relate to high prison numbers today? Due to media depictions and the legal segregation tactics explained above, crime increased as the natural response to poor social conditions. As a result, predominantly black neighborhoods, like mine, which were formally red-lined, are overpoliced due to how little the city has historically invested in places like these. Further, the “bad” schools that exist in these neighborhoods are a huge contributor to the school-to-prison pipeline. Lower quality schools, which are funded by low property taxes, are less likely to have resources for their students, so students are more likely to get in trouble. This results in schools being highly policed, so police officers turn over “bad” kids to juvenile facilities instead of getting them the help they need. Even when cities start to invest in these neighborhoods, through a process called gentrification, the addition of newer facilities and big-brand corporations leads to the addition of white people. Unfortunately, many white people, whether intentionally or not, do not feel comfortable around large groups of black people. Consequently, more officers are sent to these gentrified neighborhoods in order to ensure that the new residents feel safer. When there is a higher police presence, more crime is documented. Thus, the same criminalized narrative continues. Even further contributing to mass incarceration is that 45.9% of people incarcerated are in for drug offenses, so wouldn’t it make sense to reinvest some of the money used to keep up prisons into rehabilitation centers? That way, after drug addicts get the necessary help, they can get back out into the real world, where they’ll be less likely to get charged with more crimes. Yet, unfortunately, many employers don’t want to hire any black criminals, as opposed to white criminals. So, the homeless people you see on the street who you tell to “get a job” because “it’s not that hard,” are many times very disadvantaged from doing so.  Because this country has only narrowly progressed from its racist past in which being black meant going to jail, we’re all going to have to agree on some type of criminal justice reform. Without reform of our criminal justice system, a large number of black people will never get the chance to live a better life, and the “criminal” narrative will continue indefinitely. 

Lastly, another reason that it is more challenging for black people to simply “work their way to the top” is because of the target on their backs that was put there by police 300 years ago. Policing in the United States began in the 1700s when slave patrols, white men armed with guns and whips, were hired to beat slaves for not following rules and to catch runaway slaves as a means of enforcing the Fugitive Slave Laws. When slave patrols were abolished at the end of the Civil War, the KKK and other local police carried out these same jobs by targeting black people and arresting them for petty crimes, as I mentioned. In fact, arresting black people for petty crimes was the sole job of some officers. Due to these police origins, it’s no wonder that there was no law enforcement to prevent white supremacy groups like the KKK from lynching African Americans for minor “crimes.” It’s safe to say that throughout the history of this country, numerous members of law enforcement have gone out of their way to hunt down black people. A culture with such a racist mission can’t be expected to just “change overtime;” direct action is needed. With this in mind, it’s simple to understand why the American Psychological Association (APA) has found that “the probability of being black, unarmed and shot by police is about 3.5 times the probability of being white, unarmed and shot by police.” The APA also found that “black residents were more often subjected to police force than white residents,” and that “black men were four times more likely than white men to be searched during a traffic stop.” These statistics, at least for a black person, are daunting and impossible to ignore. But, why are black people generally treated so unfairly by officers whose job it is to protect the people? Well, in some police departments, explicit biases exist. This means the officers are told to take an ‘us vs them’ approach when policing black communities. For other departments, biases are much more implicit, with one of the most common being that many people, including police officers, generally assume that black people are always committing crimes. It’s also quite evident how biases that have existed for generations are affecting today’s daily society. Black drivers are 30% more likely to be pulled over by police than white drivers, and more than half of young black Americans know someone (including themselves) that has been harassed. There’s a reason that so many black children in this country are given “the talk.” It’s so common that it’s part of the culture. But I guess that part of culture wouldn’t be too fun to appropriate, would it? The metaphorical “target” that has been placed on the backs of black people in this country has brought a state of constant fear for many citizens, so why have we yet to make revolutionary attempts to change the culture?

As you can hopefully now see, America was built on institutionalized racism, and because of this, the majority of the black community starts far behind their white counterparts. Current police officers were brought up in a system that was originally intended to hunt slaves, so it’s no wonder that black people are more likely to be sought out and are still being lynched by these so-called “protectors.” Due to biased law enforcement, paired with media depictions, black people are overrepresented in our country’s prisons. Additionally, the wealth gap, which has been growing for generations, is a huge factor in ensuring that Black Americans continue to be disadvantaged in almost every aspect of achieving success in this country. With this information, I hope I’ve helped open your eyes to America’s blatant racist past and revealed to you how that has set us back, time-and-again. So, to conclude, I must ask (to those who still disagree): Next time you’re sporting your ‘MAGA’ hat and calling out the “libtards” in the “feminist” comment section as you yell “Make America Great Again”, what do you mean by “again”?

image: https://www.instagram.com/p/B7_kFJjDdJt/

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