On Dec. 6, Asian American and Black activists joined forces in Washington, D.C. — urging a clean Dream Act that would facilitate a more seamless path to citizenship for young undocumented immigrants who are recipients of the now-dismantled Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
U.S. Capitol Police arrested 182 people that day including Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.) who was charged with “crowding, obstructing, or incommoding.” She processed, released, and then issued the following statement:
“‘Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.’ Those are the words written by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. during his own, far more dire, arrest in Birmingham. And while my brush with the law was planned and civil, those words from his famous letter continue to inspire our civil disobedience. Then it was on behalf of Black citizens treated as less than human.”
In 2016, a letter drafted by hundreds of Asian Americans to their own elders addressing recent police shootings and the Black Lives Matter movement, went viral.
“We hear about the dangers Blacks face, our instinct is sometimes to point at all the ways we are different from them. To shield ourselves from their reality instead of empathizing.”
The letter goes on to say, “Black people have been beaten, jailed, and even killed fighting for many of the rights that Asian Americans enjoy today. We owe them so much in return. We are all fighting against the same unfair system that prefers we compete against each other.”
Kristina Tendilla, a community organizer at Asian Americans Advancing Justice and the daughter of immigrant parents from the Philippines, said that when she was growing up, her family and community derived a “false sense of safety” by distancing themselves from Blacks.
Too often, our respective communities learn about each other through stereotypes. The “model minority stereotype” about Asian Americans — that they work hard and do well in school — conveniently put them at odds with characterizations of Blacks. Stereotypes of the latter assumes that they come from broken homes, are lazy, and criminal opportunists — these are false assumptions that cause a deep-seated fear of Black people.
It’s our duty as people of color to help other marginalized groups because we should understand what that position is like. We’re all on the same team — fighting for equality as we pursue the American Dream.