Content Warning: discusses anti-Asian violence, white supremacy, racism, sexism, islamophobia, model minority myth, and anti-Blackness.
Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez
Paul Andre Michels
Soon Chung Park
Yong A. Yue
VLS Students, Staff and Faculty,
The Environmental Justice Law Society (EJLS) writes to you today to express our solidarity with Asian American communities around the United States and beyond. We hope that this email will call each of us into action during the growing uprising and awareness of injustices around us.
On March 16th, Robert Aaron Long murdered 8 people, most of which were of Asian women. This attack is just one of many anti-Asian crimes that have happened recently. We recognize this pattern of hate is not random, it is not new, and it is not going to stop unless we take action.
After people of Asian descent began to immigrate in the 1850s, anti-Asian propaganda began to spread across the Pacific Northwest and the rest of the country. Instead of defending these populations, courts like the California Supreme Court reinforced this discrimination by reversing convictions of white people murdering people of Asian descent. In 1871, White and Hispanic rioters lynched 17 Chinese men and boys. Of the seven people arrested, only one served jail time. In 1900, San Francisco residents blamed the Chinese Community for the bubonic plague outbreak because the first victim happened to be Chinese. In 1942, the United States created internment camps for Japanese Americans. McCarthyism caused further fear for Asian Americans during the Korean war. In 1982, two white men beat Vincent Chin to death on the night before his wedding; they did not serve any prison time. Throughout these times, laws targeting Asian Americans were not uncommon. Higher taxes, exclusion laws, prohibition of the ability to testify in court, and ineligibility for citizenship are all examples of such laws. Post 9/11, many groups and individuals began to push islamaphobia narratives in the media to harm Indian and Muslim Americans.
Just last year, Donald Trump scapegoated Asian populations for the ongoing pandemic by referring to the virus as the “kung-fu flu,” “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” and more. His demonization of Asian communities sparked increases in anti-Asian hate crimes all across the country. Between March 2020 and February 2021, Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate (Stop AAPI) received 3,795 reports of hate across 47 states and DC. Of the nearly 4,000 reports, 503 of these occurred in 2021 thus far.
This pattern of physical and verbal violence is only one form of ostracizing Asian Americans. Another form stems from stereotyping Asian Americans as the “model minority.” The model minority myth positions Asian communities closer to whiteness while pushing other communities of color, specifically Black communities, farther from whiteness. Really, the myth is that whiteness is all things seen as good. By proximity, Asian Americans are smarter, work harder, and better all around than other BIPOC. Not only does the myth depict Asian Americans as a monolith, it has ingrained anti-Blackness into the Asian American experience.
Another aspect of the recent shooting is Long’s chosen targets. There has been much discussion of whether his victims were sex workers. Whether they were or not, there is also a history of festishizing Asian women and discrimination against sex workers. Like the pattern of anti-Asian hate, race based fetishization deserves its own analysis. We encourage everyone to look at the resources below about this topic.
The Environmental Justice movement seeks to create a world where all people are able to live happy, healthy lives. In furtherance of this objective, the movement recognizes the past atrocities that Asian Americans experience as well as working to prevent any further violence. One of the first steps to preventing future violence is knowing the history and current challenges that communities face. Each and every one of us should be researching in depth this history of violence on local, state and federal levels. We should also support Asian centered organizations to support their needs and efforts to be more accurately represented in society. As part of the EJ movement, we should continue to learn about Asian American activists, movements and contributions throughout the years. As a legal community, we should be asking what barriers Asian Americans face and be thinking about how we can undo those obstacles to make a more equitable field. There is much to be done and it’s already past time when we should have started paying attention to these issues. We call in all of our VLS community to stop Asian hate, and hope that you join us in visiting the resources listed below and beyond.
The Environmental Justice Law Society
- The History of Anti-Asian Sentiment in the United States
- The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
- ‘Model Minority’ Myth Again Used as a Racial Wedge Between Asians and Blacks
- A Portrait of Asian Americans in the Law
- A reading list to understand anti-Asian racism in America
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- Bystander Intervention Virtual Trainings
- Committee Against Anti-Asian Violence (CAAAV)
- National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum
- Stop AAPI Hate
- NAPABA Hate Crimes Task Force and Pro Bono Legal Rresources
- AAPI Women Lead
- Constructing Asian American Women on Screen
- Hate is a Virus
- How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian Women
- Massage Parlor Workers Say Policing Isn’t the Answer to the Violence They Face
- Butterfly, Asian and Migrant Sex Worker Networ