The video of George Floyd was “transformational” for all of America,” said former Washington State Gov. Gary Locke, now interim president of Bellevue College, at a Zoom discussion on Asian American Allyship for Black Lives Matter. “We (Asians) simply have to be involved.”
Hosted by the Museum of Chinese in America (MOCA) in New York City on Freedom Day, Juneteenth, this event was part of the burgeoning pan-racial sense of outrage at racial discrimination in the United States following Floyd’s death.
Watching Floyd die was a graphic lesson to Asian Americans on what African Americans have suffered.
Asian Americans may be ignorant about the difficult experiences of other minorities, but they are likely also in the dark about the history of Asian discrimination in this country as well, he said.
Especially if they are recent immigrants, they likely know nothing about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which banned the immigration of Chinese laborers to the United States, he said. Additional legislation in 1892 and 1904 renewed the ban, which was not lifted until 1943.
This was the first law in American history preventing a specific ethnic group from entry.
Locke, who served in the Obama administration as US Secretary of Commerce, said Washington State enacted the alien land laws (circa 1889) which prohibited land ownership by residents who were ineligible to citizenship. This law was designed to target Chinese and Japanese but also encompassed Native Americans, South Asians, Koreans and many other groups.
Second and third generation Chinese Americans don’t know their own history. “We are only now beginning to have that conversation and that we have our own issues to confront,” he said.
Following the first wave of Chinese who came to help build the Transcontinental Railroad were waves of other Chinese and Asians, like people from Taiwan, the Philippines, said Frank H. Wu, who In July will become 11th president of Queens College, CIty University of New York. He’ll be the first Asian American in that position.
Wu was a law professor at Howard University, a historically black university in Washington, D.C., from 1995 to 2004. Co-speaker at Allyship for Black Lives Matter, Wu pointed out there are divisions within the Chinese community, like those identifying with the Republic of China (Taiwan) and those with the PRC (Peoples Republic of China). There are language divisions, like speakers of Mandarin and speakers of Cantonese.
Locke said some Chinese had been raised to feel animosity towards Japanese after the Japanese invaded China. They may not be aware that the Japanese in the U.S. were interned here during World War II.
Wu pointed out that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which enacted new rights for African Americans also benefitted immigrant minorities in the U.S.
“We are all in this together. Americans are constantly going through turmoil. We have to struggle to build bridges and do it in a constructive way,” he said.
South Asians and Black Lives Matter
Hasan Minhaj, whose show Patriot Act is on Netflix, talks with Stephen Colbert about the sometimes strained relationship between South Asians (who run small immigrant businesses in America) and African Americans. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NRl_tpv_UJI
“It’s our job to help take the knee off that man’s neck, “ he says, advocating for more cross-racial education.