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2021 (and before)
As we witness the rise in anti-Asian violence in the United States within the last year, we must also and always account for its continuities. There is a vicious pattern to the violence we see today– how it marks a broad racial figure of the "Chinese," how it targets elder generations and women, and how it produces a violent metaphor between "Asian" and/as COVID-contagion. To imagine this recent rise in anti-Asian violence as exceptional or episodic dangerously discounts the continuous racist premise of US imperial and settler violence.
One hundred fifty years ago (and still), East Asian women were cast as sexual deviants to the nation and barred from migration through the US's first federal immigration law, the Page Act. They constitute some of the earliest flows of Asian women to the US, who were made expendable through gendered-racialized histories of American military occupation, genocide, and sexual exploitation in Asia and the Pacific. A century ago (and still), Asian migrants suffered social violence and political exclusion through racial capitalist and immigration policies: After recruiting over a century of Asian migrant labor toward the disciplining of Black labor in the US, the Asiatic Barred Zone followed the heels of the Chinese Exclusion Act in order to limit immigration from Asian countries through racial categories of admissibility. Seven decades ago (and still), the US government interned "suspect" Japanese communities while it pursued disastrous warfare in East Asia. Less than five decades ago (and still), Southeast Asian migrants of imperial wars experienced American nativist and border violence. In the first two decades of this century (and still), South/West Asian, Muslim, and "Muslim-looking" populations have been targets of racial violence as well as government registration, surveillance, and migration bans—all the while a forever "war on terror" rages on in Asia and in Africa.
Most recently, the deadly violence against massage parlor workers in Atlanta demonstrates the racialized, gendered, and sexualized dimensions of anti-Asian violence as well as the devaluation of Asian immigrant labor. Indeed, white supremacy lives an erotic life and it is queer, trans, non-binary, and femme people of color who experience the most dehumanizing effects of racial fetish.
Anti-Asian racism—then and now—is an expansion of the foundational racisms of this country: slavery and anti-Black violence, settler colonialism, racial capitalism, and imperial warfare. The disturbing rise of anti-Asian violence must be reckoned with today, while ever clarifying our historical sight and rallying us further toward political solidarity.
Moving forward, our efforts to heal and protect require abolitionist principles. We must renounce, defund, and abolish the police, the military, ICE, and prisons. Anti-Asian violence will near its end once land and sovereignty are returned to indigenous peoples, and only if we support Black liberation, demilitarize the Pacific, Middle East, and South Asia, as well as decriminalize sex work. Neither structural transformation nor abolition, however, will occur without a collective consciousness. Given our location within the university, we seek to offer context and inspire questions that cycle back to the lessons we continue to learn from grassroots organizers: that a demand to end anti-Asian racism is ultimately a demand to end white supremacy; that we draw on histories of Afro-Asian solidarity; that our response to racist violence may be rooted in de-escalation; and that our classrooms may function as sites of mutual aid, nonviolent conflict resolution, and transformative justice.
As we strive to build this world, we follow the lead of student and community activists—at Dartmouth and beyond—who call on us to declare our campuses as sanctuaries, and to envision cops off campus. Toward these abolitionist and transformative horizons, we follow the Dartmouth Student Union and the Cops off Campus movement. We are also grateful for the communing and solidarity work of pan-AAPI organizers on campus including at the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus, the Office of Pluralism and Leadership, the Asian and Asian American Living Learning Community, and beyond.
For more resources and organizations: Asian American Advocacy and Mutual Aid Organizations
To donate to the families of the lives lost in Atlanta: Red Canary Song's Rapid Response Webpage
Anna M. Storti, Najwa Mayer, Mingwei Huang, Carolyn Choi, and Yanyi, on behalf of the working group in Asia/America Studies and the Consortium of Studies in Race, Migration, and Sexuality at Dartmouth