Air Date 3/31/2021
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:00:00] Welcome to this episode of the award-winning Best of the Left podcast in which we shall learn about the history of anti-Asian hate in America, dating back to the very first racially discriminatory immigration law, the ramifications of our imperial exploits in the Philippines, the pattern of lynchings, the myth of the model minority and the role of White supremacy to keep everyone in their roles and White people ignorant of it all. Clips today are from the United States of Anxiety, 538 Politics, In the Thick, Democracy Now!, Worst Year Ever, Boom! Lawyered and Social Distance.
The Missing History of Asian America Part 1 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 3-22-21
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:00:40] We now know all of their names: Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Daoyou Feng, and Yong Ae Yue. Eight people killed in and around Atlanta, in yet another act of White violence.
Seven of the victims were women and six of them were Korean and Chinese Americans. I've had a lot of conversations about this violence over the past week, and I'm stuck on a couple of themes that just keeps coming up. The first is just how depressingly predictable the whole thing was, in part because we've all become so accustomed to breaking news about men with guns killing strangers they don't like for all kinds of reasons, but also because for more than a year, Asian Americans all over the country have been saying, "Hey, we don't feel safe, there's a problem here. Pay attention."
Which leads me to the second theme that I keep coming upon. So many people can't seem to wrap their heads around this particular brand of American racism. Yes, it's easy and appropriate to drag the police deputy in Cherokee County, who blamed the violence on the shooter's "bad day" but if we are honest, a whole lot more people, including people who consider themselves more woke than the next have struggled to hear the Asian American community.
That's been true for a long time, and it's owing to all kinds of confusion and complexity around where Asian Americans sit in this country's maddening racial caste system. I've had a lot of conversations with well-meaning people who have struggled to understand this. That's another pattern I gather, people across the spectrum struggled to even hear that Asian Americans were at risk at that moment.
HELEN ZIA: [00:02:45] Oh, absolutely. The other part about being Asian in America is being like the invisible people. We're trotted out when it's convenient, trotted out to be scapegoated and blamed, or to be accused of being the foreign invader, the perpetual alien, or to be the interloper and the wedge to attack other people of color, to be used against Black people. That's something-- the " model minority" racist myth that exists that says, "Well, why complain about race? Look at Asian Americans, they're doing so well." When in fact, that's not even true.
Those falsehoods about who Asian Americans are, come out when it's convenient, and the rest of the time, it's that we're invisible. It's hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that Asian Americans have been experiencing racism from time immemorial on this continent. That's part of the systemic racism of America. When we talk about systems of oppression that need to change, Asian Americans fit into that but because we've been rendered so invisible, even our allies, even fellow progressives, sometimes they're shocked and it's like, "Oh, you experienced racism, or now you know what racism is like." All we can do is look and say, "No, we know what it's like." Atlanta is a wake-up call, not so much for Asian Americans but really a wake up call for the rest of America.
The Attacks In Atlanta May Activate Asian Americans Politically - FiveThirtyEight Politics - Air Date 3-22-21
KARTHICK RAMAKRISHNAN: [00:04:29] There is a long history, from the 1800s. So if you look at the Page Act in 1875, that was specifically designed to control the entry of Asian women because of either the reality or the stereotypes, and some combination thereof, in terms of what the gendered labor look like when Chinese immigrants came to work on the railroads.
Fast forward to the 1900s in terms of US military interventions abroad, as well as US military bases that exist to this day, that create all sorts of problems in terms of how vulnerable sex workers and just Asian-American women are throughout the world in terms of what us military interventions and military presence looks like.
So what we're seeing here should not be seen in isolation to that larger historical and contemporary dynamic.
JANE JUNN: [00:05:21] I think it's quite important here, it's the history and the context in which these stereotypes evolve. So he mentions the Page Act of 1875. This was prior to the first major federal legislation, 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. And the Page Act is created, in part, not because Chinese women are necessarily all prostitutes it's created in part to reinforce that stereotype and to stop Asian people from multiplying in the United States. Because if you allow Asian women into the United States as you allowed Asian men, and in order to man the work on mines, in laundries, in farms, then what you will do is produce more Asian people. So it's explicitly in the congressional record, one of the things we want to do, we meaning the federal government, is to limit the expansion of the Asian population in the United States. And that is part of the reason why the Page Act of 1875 is passed. And it's passed because under the justification, however that it's going to be limiting moral turpitude, But as it turns out, it's instigated in order to stop Asian men from reproducing with Asian women.
Now, to the extent that they then get with White women, White women that lose their citizenship status in the United States. Because if you married an Asian man at that time, you would lose your citizenship status, and by definition, your children could not become citizens. So it's not until 1952 with McCarran Walter, that in fact Asian-Americans can become naturalized citizens. So it's important to consider not only the immigration trajectory and the reasons behind this, the longstanding anti-Asian sentiment, which is different in a way, but also very similar to how it is that the United States treated African-Americans during this period. They were not even humans and they were still, at this time in the mid 19th century, not included into the body politic.
It's important to also consider the colonial and imperial history of the United States. In the very recent past, who do we take as an entire country? We take the Philippines. And the Filipinos in the United States are I believe Karthick, correct me if this is incorrect, the second largest population of Asian-Americans in the United States. The Philippines remains a part of the United States until it's given back to the Philippines, I believe in the 1930s. And at this time, even now, the American colonial and imperial influence can be felt in the Philippines in the same way it is felt in Korea and in other places in Southeast Asia, Vietnam among them.
When we think about this, it's not just a question of military involvement and it's not only Americans. I give you none other than the example of the euphemism of comfort women, which is really a term that we should stop using, and instead recognize that women that are taken by the Japanese Imperial Army throughout its colonial and imperial ambitions in the 18th and 19th century are the sex slaves of women who were primarily Filipino and Korean.
So this is a practice, not just of American militarism and American imperialism, this is a practice of patriarchy. Wherein a euphemism, something like comfort women serves only the man and serves the soldier. How does it describe the woman? Certainly it is not comfortable for her to be a sex slave. So the point here is that it's not only the American military or White people who inflict these kinds of crimes and suffering on women, it's people in general when political structures and systems allow them to.
A History of Hate - In The Thick - Air Date 3-23-21
MARIA HINOJOSA - CO-HOST, IN THE THICK: [00:09:15] Let's go back to that judiciary hearing from last week where our former ITT guest, Erica Lee, she also testified. She's a professor of history and Asian-American studies at the University of Minnesota.
And she broke down this history of racist legislation against Asian-Americans. Here's what she had to say.
ERICA LEE: [00:09:32] In 1871, 17 Chinese were lynched by a mob of 500 in Los Angeles. This was the largest mass lynching in US history. In 1886, a mob of 1500 forced out all of Seattle's Chinese residents. In the early 20th century, South Asians were expelled from cities and Filipino Americans and Japanese Americans were attacked.
Most recently in 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese American, was beaten to death in Detroit because his attackers thought he was Japanese and blamed him for the economic decline in the auto industry. Throughout the 1980s attacks on Korean shopkeepers and Southeast Asian refugees were widespread. After 9/11, hate crimes targeting Muslim, middle Eastern and South Asian Americans increased by 1600%.
As these instances reveal, Asian Americans have been terrorized. We've been treated as enemies. We've been discriminated against. The government of this country has not just ignored this problem, it has been part of the problem. Throughout much of our history, Congress and other elected officials have promoted and legalized anti-Asian racism through its laws and its actions.
In 1875 Congress passed the so-called Page Act, which effectively barred the entry of Chinese women because lawmakers believed that all Chinese women were prostitutes. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, the first federal law singling out an entire group for immigration exclusion based on race. By the 1930s, all other Asian groups, Japanese, Korean, South Asians, and Filipinos were also borrowed from the U S and prevented from becoming naturalized citizens.
Asian immigration did not fully open up again until 1965. In 1942, president Roosevelt signed an executive order that allowed for the incarceration of 120,000 Japanese Americans as prisoners without trial --
MARIA HINOJOSA - CO-HOST, IN THE THICK: [00:11:35] Because they were innocent American citizens of Japanese descent, by the way. And they were incarcerated by their own government and told that it was for their own good.
JULIO RICARDO VARELA - CO-HOST, IN THE THICK: [00:11:43] Yeah.
MARIA HINOJOSA - CO-HOST, IN THE THICK: [00:11:44] So Sung Yeon, can you talk about this history and how do we grapple with the hatred, the anti Asian hatred that is in the fabric of this country?
SUNG YEON CHOIMORROW: [00:11:53] Thank you so much for bringing that up. You know, when you were saying that earlier on and naming Page Act, I think you're one of the first reporters to actually start there. A lot of people start with the Chinese Exclusion Act, which actually came after the Page Act. Right? We have to remember that Asian American women, Asian women were targeted, again, not just because we're Asian American and not just because we're women, but because we're distinctly those two things, right? As the first targets. And you know, to name us as prostitutes in that legislation, I mean, if you read that language, right, that's not just neighborhood people trying to keep us out of their neighborhood. This is our Congress. In case people forget, you know, that this is elected members of Congress writing these things down and frankly, the way they continue to invisibilize a community in legislation and policy solutions hasn't changed too much other than to, you know, perpetuate the stereotypes that has harmed us that at best, keep us, you know, invisible and at worst, puts a giant target on our back for hatred, othering and sexism and misogyny.
And so, you know, we start with 1875 Page Act, but you move into the Second World War and Korean War and Vietnam War. And the occupation of the Philippines as well as other Pacific islands. I mean, I, myself am, you know, I'm a Korean immigrant. I came to this country when I was 18 and the hometown where I am from called Chuncheon, had a large US military base where we lived and, you know, my grandparents were really poor on my dad's side and they lived right behind the military base and you know, who lives in and around the military bases in Korea? It's always the poorest people and they're completely shamed and shunned by the rest of society because of the work, the economy that were relying on, US military personnel and the demand is sex. Right?
And so we need to make sure that narrative is brought into the fold about why Asian American women are targeted this way. Right. We can't just say, Oh, it happened to be women or they happen to be Asian American, but he was really targeting, you know, sex workers or perceived sex workers, right?
Like there is a narrative in this country that fetishizes and objectifies and hypersexualized Asian American women in specific ways.
And then also, I don't want it to get lost that, you know, one of the most amazing connection that I had over these past couple of days, like you're saying Maria, talking to mainstream, mostly white reporters has been very difficult. But I was on this show, Cynthia Jackson, who's the daughter of Reverend Jesse Jackson. And she was able to bring language that I've been wanting someone to connect that, as women of color were hyper-sexualized in our very specific ways and that we're sick of it. Right? Exactly. And so, again, as we're talking about, about sexualization of Asian American women, I want to bring into the conversation of hypersexualization of black women and Latinos too, right? And indigenous women. And you know, when we talk about sexual violence against Asian-American women, we can't forget all the missing indigenous women and black women who the law enforcement, frankly, couldn't give a fuck to look for. Right? Because our lives are so devalued.
The Missing History of Asian America Part 2 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 3-22-21
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:15:31] You wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last April, almost a year ago now, that said this moment was coming. You said it felt a lot like the early 1980s. Can you take us back to that time, the early 1980s? What was it about that that was similar to now?
HELEN ZIA: [00:15:48] In the 1980s, actually, that story begins in the 1970s because America was in a series of economic crises. They were oil crises, where there was an oil embargo against the United States, and gas prices and oil prices just shot up. People couldn't afford to drive their cars anymore. Their American-made dinosaur cars that got maybe seven, or eight, or nine miles a gallon. Hard to imagine today, but gas was so plentiful and cheap that those cars were adding to the fossil fuel crisis. Then when people couldn't afford to drive them anymore, the whole manufacturing sector of America tanked.
We were in a recession throughout the country and a severe depression in the Midwest. I was in Detroit then, I had been an autoworker myself, and got laid off during that crisis. People were suffering. These were very steady jobs, high-paying blue-collar jobs, that people wanted to have, and when the auto industry collapsed, people who had 30 or more years of work in this industry suddenly had no future at all. Not just them, but their kids who they had hoped to get into that industry as well.
What we had was a country that was suffering, a region that was suffering. Initially, and people were pointing fingers. The UAW, the workers blamed the companies, the companies blamed the workers. It just went on and on until there was a kind of an aha moment, let's blame Japan. Japan is at fault for America's problems, because they could make fuel-efficient cars, and therefore, Japan was the enemy. It was like an echo chamber across the country where there was so much hatred that was viewed. "Let's send another atomic bomb against Japan. Let's get the enemy. Let's eliminate the enemy. What do you do when there's an enemy and an existential threat? You kill them." And that was repeated over and over again about Japan.
Anybody who looked Japanese had a target on their heads. Until one day, a Chinese American named Vincent Chin was out celebrating his upcoming wedding that week, and two White autoworkers saw him and said, "It's because of you mother effs that we're out of work." A fight ensued, and the two White autoworkers stalked him through the streets of Detroit, found him, and beat his brains into the streets. That would have been bad enough, except that those two White autoworkers were sentenced to probation for killing a Chinese American in an intense climate of hate.
A big National Civil Rights Movement, led by Asian Americans with Detroit has its improbable epicenter emerged out of that, where Asian Americans came together and came together with Black, White, Brown, Latinx, every walk of life, every faith there is, came together to fight that injustice, and about that hate crime. If we fast forward to today, I have to say that the climate we're in today is remarkably similar to 1982 when Vincent Chin was killed.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:19:35] Why is that? What is similar about it?
HELEN ZIA: [00:19:38] Well, instead of blaming Japan, now China is to blame for everything that's going wrong in America. Not only that, we have a pandemic, we all are living in fear of catching this virus. Most of us are one degree of separation or less from somebody who has become very sick or even died. There's that terrible pain, and we're in an economic crisis, a global crisis this time, where I haven't heard any economist actually predict a very well when the light at the end of the tunnel might come. People are suffering, people are severely in need.
Right now is a lot like the 1980s, except I have to say worse. Vincent Chin was killed in the third year of that economic crisis—we're just at the beginning of this one. As you said in your lead-in, many of us looked at what happened not only to Vincent Chin but really, throughout the whole history of Asians in America, where we have been the scapegoat for almost every economic crisis.
There have been massacres and lynchings and mass killings and injustices where nobody was ever punished for those things. And then in the 1980s, we saw it again, and here we are. As you pointed out a year ago, many of us were looking at this today and saying, "It's going to get worse." Some of us even voiced that what happened in Atlanta could happen, so here we are at our worst nightmare.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:21:30] There's is an enormous amount of history that I have only recently learned myself, some from reading your work. We don't have a ton of time, but I want to walk through some of it. In particular, the data that's emerged about the anti-Asian harassment and attacks now from the Stop AAPI Hate Coalition, it suggests that it's a disproportionate number have been targeted women and certainly, that's what we saw in Atlanta. There's a history there too about the overlap between misogyny and anti-Asian ideas. Can you talk us about some of that history?
HELEN ZIA: [00:22:03] Well, certainly, just watching the sheriffs in Atlanta say, "Well, it can't be related to racism, because it was women being attacked, and sex addiction and all that stuff." As though one can separate out the gender, and race, and other things that make us human. One of the ways that racism works against any group includes the sexualization of women. And for Asian American women, what that means is being both seen as this exotic sexual object, as well as being passive and submissive, and in many ways that makes Asian Americans a prime target for predators. Because the racist and misogynistic view of Asian Americans is to be a prime victim—not fighting back and desirable.
As you pointed out, the Stop AAPI Hate has recorded 2:1, that the people being attacked in the self-reported hate incidents and hate crimes are women. That goes back to the thing about people who are vulnerable, or who are seen as vulnerable, Asian American women, Asian American seniors and elders, Asian American children are being specifically targeted. Children who are being harassed by adults, and so a lot of Asian American parents and families are really terrified of what's going to happen when schools open up, and their kids have to get to school and then be in school. But as you were saying, the way Asian American women are viewed is part of a racial construction, that includes gender.
Viet Thanh Nguyen on Roots of Anti-Asian Hate from U.S. Colonialism to Anti-China Political Rhetoric - Democracy Now! - Air Date 3-22-21
AMY GOODMAN - HOST, DEMOCRACY NOW!: [00:24:04] Viet Thanh Nguyen, if you can talk further about the history targeting Asian Americans and the violence targeting Asian Americans, going back more than a century?
VIET THANH NGUYEN: [00:24:20] Well, I’m coming to you from Los Angeles. And one of the worst mass lynchings in American history happened here in downtown Los Angeles in 1871, when a mob of about 500 white men murdered 17 Chinese men and boys. And this was not an isolated incident. This was taking place throughout the western United States. Even I have learned some of these incidents. Most recently, I’ve learned about an incident in Oregon in 1884 where 34 Chinese miners were murdered.
And so, what happened was that Chinese immigrants had come to the United States to work on the transcontinental railroad, and when their usefulness was expired, they were let go and had to make a living for themselves in the American West. And anti-Chinese fervor among the white working class was encouraged by the media and by politicians — again, scapegoating an Asian other in the United States to deal with white working-class economic frustration.
And other Asian populations that came after the Chinese were also subjected to these kinds of feelings. Obviously, there was the Japanese American internment, when 120,000 Japanese American people, many of them citizens, were put into concentration camps, even though people of German and Italian descent were not.
Racist incidents against Asian Americans have proliferated in the last few decades, as well, most notoriously the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982. He was a Chinese American who was mistaken for Japanese by two Detroit auto workers who were frustrated by Japanese economic competition, and they beat him to death with a baseball bat. They did not spend any time in jail. In 1989, five Cambodian and Vietnamese schoolchildren were shot and killed in a Stockton schoolyard massacre by a white gunman, which I feel is a direct outcome of the wars in Cambodia and Vietnam that the United States fought. In 2012 — in 2002, I’m sorry, six Sikh worshipers at a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin, were massacred by a white supremacist gunman.
And these are just some of the most notorious incidents. But again, throughout American history, from the 19th through the 20th century up until the 21st century, we’ve seen repeated incidents of both singular and mass anti-Asian violence taking place periodically.
Talking About the Atlanta Shooting, Purity Culture, & Anti-Asian American Violence - Worst Year Ever - Air Date 3-24-21
CHRISTOPHER WONG: [00:26:35] There was a lot of ethnic cleansing that happens in, especially in the 1800s, but even after that, and I want to take a moment to say something about mass shootings in general. This is something I first heard from Vicki. I think there's process to this, which is about sort of mass shootings we see today are basically just individualized versions of the sort of mass communal violence of the 1800s and 1900s.
And if you want to look at what the sort of model for the shooter is, you can look at that the sort of anti-Chinese riots and broader anti-Asian riots, because -- this is the pressing thing about this -- every single different Asian American national ethnic group has their own massacre that specifically targeted them.
Just to go through, a whole, just particularly on the West coast, this entire wave of ethnic cleansing. And, it starts in 1860s, but we just to read some of these so you get an understanding. A partial list of just like how many of them there are: there's the Chinese massacre of 1871, San Francisco riots of 1877, 1885. There's this is one of the common themes that this is Chinese expulsion from Tacoma, which, they'll just run to every Chinese person, it depends on the ethnic group. There's also every Indian person in Everett, I think just gets run out to Canada. There's the Rock Spring massacre in 1885, there's Issaquah attacks also in that same year. In 1886, Seattle has a riot, an anti-Asian riot. There's the Hell's Canyon massacre, which is another thing that happens, rail workers and miners who are Asian just get slaughtered by particularly white workers who were pissed off with them for the fact that the wages are lower, and --
EVE ETTINGER: [00:28:11] -- they bust the union. Yeah.
CHRISTOPHER WONG: [00:28:13] Yeah, it's more than that though. The Chinese workers were brought in this, in the 1800s are a lot of ways were supposed to be replacements for enslaved black labor, and also has to do with the transportation problem where it's actually like hard to get across the U S and so that there's no good way to serve this mass, like export newly freed slaves from the South to the West coast. So they bring in Asian workers to do this. And this just drives white labor insane, and they just start massacring people. And, this happens, this continuously through the 1900s, like in 1907, there's something called the Pacific coast race riots where, this is a multinational riot. And it starts with, I think it starts in San Francisco, but by the end of it, it goes to Bellingham. And there's an anti-Chinese riot in Vancouver. [Jesus.]
Yeah. And this is the tradition that the shooter was working in. And there's this specificity of evangelical anti-sex worker violence here.
But there's also this is the modern continuation of just the ethnic cleansing attempts that, in a lot of cases succeeded, you can see this in California. If you're driving through California, sometimes they'll just be random Buddhist temples, and there's no Asian people there. And the reason there's no Asian people there is because every single one of them was ran out and the rest of the area is completely white. The things that they built are just still there and are monuments to cleansing.
EVE ETTINGER: [00:29:31] So I teach freshmen comp, then a couple other classes. So I teach a lot of young teens just out of high school. And one of the things that I see all the time is just an absolute ignorance about American complicity in these kinds of things. Racism is seen as something that's in the past. There's not really a good education about these things.
So The responsibility of whiteness and all of these horrific events is never addressed. And so they're just inheriting whatever is in their family community and it's just, it's unaddressed. And so they're coming to this with this white innocence, again, "I don't know anything so I couldn't have done it."
And that part of what's being preserved by not teaching it and it all goes together.
ROBERT EVANS - CO-HOST, WORST YEAR EVER: [00:30:24] There's this other element of white, of American exceptionalism that I see getting wrapped up in how we don't talk about these acts of ethnic cleansing that Christopher was just going over because if you look at what actually happens in the, actually, if you look at their death toll, They don't sound wildly different from things that in our lifetime have occurred in parts of the middle east and in Africa.
And part of, I think why we don't talk about it is that it would mean acknowledging that the same kind of strains of racial mass violence are a central part of American identity. And we don't like to think about that.
Take Action to #StopAsianHate & Protect APPI Communities via @StopAAPIHate - Best of the Left Activism
AMANDA HOFFMAN - ACTIVISM CZAR: [00:30:55] You've reached the activism portion of today's show. Now that you're informed and angry, here's what you can do about it. Today's activism: take action to #StopAsianHate and Protect AAPI Communities.
The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center was launched in March of 2020 in response to the escalation in xenophobia and bigotry toward Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Their goal is to track and respond to reported incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning and child bullying. Additionally, they provide multi-lingual resources, support community-based safety measures and restorative justice efforts, and advocate for local, state, and national policies that reinforce human rights and civil rights protections. This work is done with the understanding that in order to address anti-Asian racism we must work to end all forms of structural racism against Black, Indigenous and other communities of color.
On their Act Now page, the organization lists a number of resources - including what to do if you are the victim of or witness to an incident of hate - and ways you can get involved to help make lasting change. These include:
Encouraging those who have experienced or witnessed acts of hate toward the AAPI communities to report an incident at stopaapihate.org. The reporting form is available in 11 languages, and these reports guide policy development and advocacy.
Donating to local efforts through the Movement Hub, a platform of 40 US AAPI organizations that advance racial equity and intersectional justice and are all part of the Shared Liberation Network.
Asking your elected officials what they are doing to increase resources for survivors and their families and for intervention and prevention-based programs, such as anti-racism education in schools and communities.
Advocating for expanded civil rights protections that would safeguard Asian Americans and others from harassment and discriminatory treatment in private businesses.
Supporting ethnic studies in your local school districts and educational institutions which teach the sources of our country’s anti-Asian racism and helps promote racial empathy and solidarity.
And, of course, supporting local Asian-owned businesses which have been impacted before the first COVID-19 case was even confirmed in the U.S.
Go to stopAAPIhate.org and click ACT NOW for more actions, details, resources, and more.
The segment notes include all the links to this information as well as additional resources, and, as always, this and every activism segment we produce is archived and organized under the activism tab at bestoftheleft.com.
So, if supporting AAPI communities and ending White supremacy is important to you, be sure to tell everyone you know about Taking Action to #StopAsianHate and Protect APPI communities so that others in your network can spread the word, too.
Reacting to the Atlanta Shootings - Boom! Lawyered - Air Date 3-28-21
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:33:39] Black and Asian folks in this country have been beaten down by white supremacy since we first got here. From slavery and the need to add a constitutional amendment to recognize Black people as full people and citizens, to this Chinese exclusion act, which explicitly barred Chinese people from immigrating into this country and then when they did immigrate into this country to build railroads and to help develop the economy, Chinese-American women were excluded from coming because they didn't want Chinese people building families here. And then of course we have the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II—but not German Americans, which is nice.
And so it's just clear that anti-Asian sentiment runs as deep as anti-Black sentiment and we don't really talk about it enough. And from a personal standpoint, I've been really distress watching the conversation play out on Twitter because I'm seeing a lot of finger pointing on both sides. I'm seeing Black people responding to this, to calls that Black people stand in solidarity with the AAPI community. I'm seeing Black people respond with, "Well, they're racist too and they're anti-Black too. And every time I go into a beauty supply store run by a Korean family, they always follow me around the store." And then I'm seeing people on the other side saying, "Well, in Oakland and in the Bay area, in certain areas of the country, the violence against Asian-Americans is perpetrated by Black people." And it's just these are stereotypes that I don't find particularly useful and I find it distressing that that's the tenor of the conversation right now.
JESSICA PIEKLO - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:35:17] Precisely, because this is a white supremacy problem. As the white person in this conversation, this is a white conversation. This is a white problem to fix. It's not a question of groups better supporting each other in the face of white supremacy. That's carrying white people's water for us and that doesn't need to happen. And so, yeah, white people, this is our thing to fix.
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:35:44] And part of this conversation, it all comes back to stereotypes. Why is it that when I walk into a Korean beauty supply store in Oakland, I'm followed around? It's because of stereotypes about Black criminality and where do those stereotypes come from? White supremacy. And so when we talk about when for example, the lawsuit that was filed on behalf of Asian-Americans against Harvard saying that Asian- Americans are discriminated against in affirmative action programs and that less qualified Black people are being let in to schools in place of Asian-American people. Well, that plays on this model minority myth. That Asian-American people came to this country and assimilated so well and they're highly educated and there are even people who say that Asian-Americans genetically have higher IQs, which is nonsense. Asian-American people feel this compulsion to assimilate and then their assimilation is used as a cudgel against Black people.
“Why can't you do better? Why aren't you smarter? Why aren't you getting into better schools?” And that is a tool of white supremacy. White supremacy pits people in ethnic minority groups against each other in service to white supremacy. Because if white supremacists, if racist white people can keep Black people fighting Asian people, fighting Jewish people, fighting Latino people, then that's just better for white supremacy all together because that means white supremacy continues to thrive. I really would just like people to think about that when they are engaging in these conversations because this is a difficult time for the AAPI community. It remains a difficult time for the Black community in terms of police brutality and we really should be supporting one another, not pointing fingers at one another.
JESSICA PIEKLO - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:37:30] Absolutely. Just to build off that point, it feeds into this mythology that the white community has created about a scarcity of resources and a scarcity of access to power. And that of course is designed to keep white folks in power and fully resourced. And so fellow white folks: knock that off. This is our time to step up and forcefully counteract those narratives because we're really the only ones that can do that.
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:37:59] And along those lines, we're going to talk about a particular type of bill. It's called PRENDA, which is the Preborn Non-Discrimination Act. And we're going to talk about the ways in which Black and Asian women are particularly hurt by these stereotypes that we've been talking about and how they infect and infest conversations around reproductive rights. There's a Texas lawmaker who's introduced this bill, PRENDA. And this bill essentially bans race and sex selective abortions. I've talked at length about how absurd race selective bans are because I just, I cannot fathom a person who is giving birth to a baby and wondering whether that baby is going to be the same race as they are. That just doesn't make any sense to me. It's ludicrous.
JESSICA PIEKLO - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:38:46] You can tell a white person thought of this by that very framing.
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:38:50] Exactly. “I'm Black, is my baby going to be Black? Because if it is, I need to get an abortion.” This is just not a conversation that ever happens. But I do want to talk about the sex elective portion of the ban. PRENDA bans abortions for certain pregnant people based on their reason for ending the pregnancy. Including for people who end pregnancies due to sex preferences. And this is a law that is rooted in truly pernicious anti-Asian American Pacific Islander stereotypes about child preference in Asian communities. These sex selective abortion bans operate on this extremely racist and xenophobic assumption that Asian immigrants in the United States are going to exhibit the same sex preferences for male children that may have existed in their countries of origin. And so the impetus behind this legislation is that Asian-American pregnant people, Asian-American women, in particular immigrant Chinese and Indian women, will prefer sons over daughters and therefore make reproductive care decisions based on the sex of their fetus.
JESSICA PIEKLO - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:40:02] Tell me this isn't happening.
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:40:03] It's absolutely not happening.
Of course it's not happening. It's just, as I said, it's racist and xenophobic nonsense that is just false. And there are even studies to prove that it's false. There's analysis from the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum, also called NAPAWF. It's N-A-P-A-W-F, you'll see that acronym, but it's the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum. And they have analyses that show that foreign born Chinese- American, Korean-American and India-American women are having more daughters than white American women on average. More daughters.
JESSICA PIEKLO - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:40:38] More.
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:40:38] More.
JESSICA PIEKLO - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:40:39] Not only is the thinking racist, it's racist and wrong. The bottom line is that AAPI people get abortions for all sorts of reasons and trying to control the biological sex of the child simply isn't one of them, despite what anti-choice numpties in Texas say about it.
IMANI GANDY - CO-HOST, BOOM! LAWYERED: [00:40:59] Right. The takeaway from this discussion is that sex elective abortion bans are racist and xenophobic. They serve absolutely no purpose and they simply ratchet up the sorts of stereotypes that folks believe about AAPI communities. There's a direct line from that sort of racialized misogyny about AAPI women to the type of violence that we're seeing against Asian communities right now. And I feel like that that is something that we should all think about. And that is something that we need to sit with as we support our Asian-American brothers and sisters who are really in crisis right now and who are struggling to deal with this gross uptick in violence against them.
A History of Pandemic Xenophobia & Racism - Social Distance - Air Date 3-24-21
ALEXANDRE WHITE: [00:41:40] I think that there's a slightly more philosophical question related to this which is obviously epidemics may begin in a certain place, but to what extent do origins actually matter? Especially once we've seen the epicenter of this pandemic move from China to Italy to take up home for a very long time in the United States. How do we equate geography and threat when epidemic epicenters do tend to move and shift? And this is something that the WHO has challenged, which is the naming of diseases for their point of origin. Several diseases have been renamed to reduce that stigma. One of the reasons COVID-19 is COVID 19 and SARS COV-2 is it's completely devoid of any geographic signifiers.
The one disease that I think really sticks in the minds of people today is still ebola virus disease, which is named after the Ebola River. So what we're seeing, and I think they think the variants are bringing up this conversation again, is while it's important to understand and control a disease within a specific geography, the conflation of a place as somehow the cause of the emergence or spread over the disease is where we run into a very real challenges where culturally specific, racially specific, nationally specific, stereotypes and anxiety start to emerge. And that's really what we fundamentally need to combat against because it leads to very bad public health policy, and it also leads, obviously, to very significant resentments which simmer over and lead to oppression in so many different ways.
JAMES HAMBLIN - HOST, SOCIAL DISTANCE: [00:43:20] Yeah. That's really helpful because I think our listeners certainly are not going around spouting overtly bigoted things, and it's not that level of racism that is most people's issue. It's the subtler ways that we internalize and probably could do better, like from the very beginning, thinking about how we're naming new variants.
ALEXANDRE WHITE: [00:43:42] What's become so dangerous is the ways in which assigning or ascribing blame to a certain geography or a certain region or certain people becomes a way of assigning innate difference. And that difference becomes a way that we can dehumanize others to make or render their lives less than equal or even disposable. And I think this is where you see a rather disturbing and clear through line from racism and snarky or slur statements around, for instance, the China flu or China virus, or what have you and then ultimately to explicit acts of violence and murder against, for instance, Chinese and Asian populations. And that's where we really see the ways in which this connects so powerfully, so vividly, and so disturbingly.
The Missing History of Asian America Part 3 - The United States of Anxiety - Air Date 3-22-21
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:44:30] I was hosting The Takeaway, another WNYC show. I asked her why so few people know any of the history of anti-Asian violence that Helen Zia was describing. Here's what Beth Lew Williams said to me.
BETH LEW WILLIAMS: [00:44:43] A lot of this violence was effective, unfortunately. It did something. When it comes to the 19th century, a lot of that violence pushed people out of communities. I studied how groups expelled large numbers of Chinese immigrants out of more than 165 communities across the American West. These expulsions erased that history effectively. This violence is tied to that outsider status.
KAI WRIGHT - HOST, THE UNITED STATES OF ANXIETY: [00:45:12] What do you think about that Arun that the violence worked and erased these communities. I wonder about that in the current context. Can we think of this harassment and violence as having a purpose now and if so, what is that?
ARUN VENUGOPAL: [00:45:26] Yes, that's such a great question. I think that it certainly creates an awareness among entirely new generations of people but it also often introduces them to people who've been trying to shepherd that history, who might have been doing the work, out of view of say, younger or less, historically informed Americans. One thing that I was thinking of when you were playing that tape was the last time a Congress had hearings like this was in 1987, which was mentioned at the beginning of these congressional hearings a few days ago.
One thing that was brought up was not only the killing of Vincent Chin, which had happened four or five years earlier but also the fact that right in that same year, 1987, there were Indian Americans who were being killed and attacked in New Jersey. There was this whole phenomenon called the Dotbusters. I think for a certain generation of Indian American, that's familiar history, but so many people in the Indian community arrived, the vast majority of the population arrived after those incidents. The work is challenging because you have to keep on reintroducing the stuff.
To some extent, I think part of the challenge of say, model minority framing is that you can either not really feel connected to those histories of violence and marginalization or you just discount it. That's something that happened back then. I think it's part of the challenge, not only of resurrecting the history but also say like, how does that history that affects us, as say Indians? How does that bring us closer to say, Asian Americans during the pandemic? That's the work that organizers are constantly doing is to keep on resurrecting history and try to amplify it, hopefully using people who are in the community and have say, bigger platforms nationally.
Talking About the Atlanta Shooting, Purity Culture, & Anti-Asian American Violence Part 2 - Worst Year Ever - Air Date 3-24-21
ROBERT EVANS - CO-HOST, WORST YEAR EVER: [00:47:32] Could you give us a little bit of context, even what purity culture is and what you understand of where this guy's religious upbringing would have intersected with his actions?
EVE ETTINGER: [00:47:42] Okay. There's just so much to cover in terms of where this intersects with the anti-Asian sentiment that he's reacting to. But the purity culture essentially is the modern versions of it that you might've heard, the silver ring thing, Josh Harris, the courtship stuff -- all of that, that I grew up with really comes out of a very white supremacist colonizer, white colonizer mindset where white virginity is seen as the epitome of purity and this thing that needs to be protected. And that you have all of these conversations happening around like the oversexualization of black girls and how they're forced to grow up too quickly because they're treated like adults with sexual agency, because in contrast with the cult of white virginity, they're not allowed to have that kind of purity or that kind of idealized innocence.
And so the history goes way, way back, but the current versions of it is pretty heavily religious and is based on some really fundamentalist misinterpretations of various biblical texts, and is treating things like masturbation as sinful.
For you just like a short preview, I grew up thinking that I had a masturbation addiction because I did it at all. And that was something that was just seen as so foreign for a woman and someone being raised as a woman to have a sex drive, that was seen as sinful.
And so I grew up with this huge sense of shame around that. And so when you have that kind of cultures that are this subculture, that's really repressive and really demonizes any kind of sexuality and expression of sexuality as bad. You just, the mindset gets very limited very quickly.
ROBERT EVANS - CO-HOST, WORST YEAR EVER: [00:49:40] Yeah. And it's hard, I think for a lot of I dunno there's elements of this, in all of mainstream American culture, this kind of like demonization of sex and sexual urges. I think it is hard for most of us to get into the head Headspace of somebody who is being taught that, who is being led to believe that this is a major medical problem that they have.
And it seems like that's what this guy felt. Like the fact that these people were providing a service that he was using, because that service was sexual was ruining his life. Like that's not a thing this guy decided on his own.
EVE ETTINGER: [00:50:11] Do we even know?
ROBERT EVANS - CO-HOST, WORST YEAR EVER: [00:50:12] That's what he claimed to the police, that he had a sex addiction and that's what the police say.
EVE ETTINGER: [00:50:16] So here's the thing, here's the thing. I've done in my snooping around on his church's website, on the way back machine, what's left up. They have connections to groups that taught similar stuff to the stuff that I was raised or have overlap with the things I was taught. But they have a link on there about internet accountability. And there's a blocking software that they are recommending on the church's official website for that basically my family had something similar growing up where be like, if you went to a sexually explicit piece of content on the internet, it would send an email to your accountability partner, notifying them that you had visited the website.
ROBERT EVANS - CO-HOST, WORST YEAR EVER: [00:50:54] Jesus Christ.
EVE ETTINGER: [00:50:56] So when he says sex addiction, we don't need to even jump to the conclusion that he was actually sexually active at all, because it was like a sex addiction in this community could be as little as like watching porn once a week or jacking off a couple of times a day. That's a sex addiction in this world.
I don't want to get too far into the weeds with it, but that's the kind of stuff that like, so when everybody's saying, Oh, these were sex workers, that's the whole jump that I'm not comfortable making. And his assertion that this was his sex addiction that doesn't necessarily connect, because he doesn't have to be sexually active to have a sex addiction in this community.
Yeah. I think one of the things that's interesting is that is what I saw very clearly happening, and in part from the police officer who made the first public comments, who was himself, is himself super racist and was sharing anti-Chinese memes related to COVID. Was this attempt to like deflect from claims that this was at all related in anti-Asian bigotry and instead angle it as well, this is just a troubled young man with with a sexual problem who had a bad day. Yeah.
And I think what's interesting to me is the kind of layers of white supremacy baked within this, both in terms of what, Eve, you were talking about with there's this idea that particularly white sexuality, there's something sacred about like innocence in something there.
And then this, there are these other shades of kind of some very old-standing stereotypes particularly about Asian women, like Christopher, you talked about last time, there was a period of time when the United States defined any Asian woman in the United States as a sex worker.
And so I think one thing is clear there, and Katie, you and Eve, you're both very right to hesitate to make any claims about what was actually happening at the massage parlor. But regardless of what was going on I think it's impossible to disentangle white supremacy and anti-Asian bigotry from this crime.
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [00:52:52] We've just heard clips today starting with the United States of Anxiety saying the names of the Atlanta shooting victims and highlighting the invisibility of Asian people in America; 538 Politics dove deep on the history of anti-Asian legislation, US empire and the Philippines; in the Thick ran the list of violence and legislation against Asians and the targeting of Asian women in particular; the United States of Anxiety explained the anti-Japanese sentiment that flared due to the oil crisis; Democracy Now! ran an additional list of anti-Asian violence; Worst Year Ever explained the connection between ethnic cleansing events and White ignorance of Asian history in America; Boom! Lawyered broke down the ways that White supremacy keeps the minorities divided and White people ignorant; and Social Distance addressed the dangerous of assigning origins for diseases when there's no benefit to doing so and horrific inevitable downsides.
That's what everyone heard, but members also heard at bonus clips from the United States of Anxiety discussing the myth of the model minority and the way commentators strive to discount the relevance of history and Worst Year Ever had a conversation about the religious influences on the Atlanta shooter, including purity culture, the relationship between Christian fundamentalism and women and deeply pervasive shaming about sex.
For non-members, those bonus clips are linked in the show notes and are part of the transcript for today's episode so you can still find them if you want to make the effort, but to hear that and all of our bonus content delivered to seamlessly into your podcast feed, sign up to support the show at bestoftheleft.com/support or request a financial hardship membership because we don't make a lack of funds a barrier to hearing more information. Every request is granted, no questions asked. And now we'll hear from you.
Preferring guaranteed jobs and universal social safety net - Craig from Ohio
VOICEMAILER: CRAIG FROM OHIO: [00:54:48] Hey Jay!, it's Craig from Ohio. And I had an interesting experience listening to episode 1406 Rest in Peace Austerity, about the American Rescue Plan because I, as what I think of as a pretty doctrinaire left winger, have a problem with a lot of the programs in The American Rescue Plan. Two in particular are the minimum wage, well, that's not actually in the ARP, but I don't want to rely on minimum wage as a way to lift people out of poverty and also the child tax credit.
It's not that I oppose those things getting done, I do think if it's the best we can do, they need to be included in legislation. The thing is, I just have different policy preferences that no one is talking about, including on the show, the clips that you played. I would, rather than raising the minimum wage, like to see a program for government jobs that started at $20 an hour. Everyone could get one of these jobs there's certainly plenty of work to do. It's certainly possible to pay people to work for the government. I myself I am the son of a social worker, a former librarian and married to a public school teacher, so I know it's possible to live on the payment of a government job. I think if we did that, then the private sector would have to compete with those readily available jobs provided by the public for work that the public needs to be done. That would cause an increase in minimum wages.
And then the Child Tax Credit, I just in principle am not a big fan of what I think of as neoliberal policies, like giving money, checks to citizens. I would much rather that we had a robust social safety net, excellent public schools, early child education, all kinds of subsidies and assistance so that people would not need to just get a pot of money that then they would take into the private marketplace, into the capitalist system where they would have to set up themselves as individuals. I'd much rather we had a robust social safety net and people had the option, whether they wanted to participate in the marketplace by whatever kind of money that they can earn.
And then at the end of the show, the guy who brought up runaway population growth, which as you know, is a hobby horse of mine. And I think you did a good job of responding to his point. I just wanted to add to that, that in my mind, the way to solve the problem of environmental devastation because of an excess number of human beings on this planet is to have the kinds of programs that support all people, all citizens, like the kind I was just describing, and in that way you would find that the birth rates will decline on their own.
We don't need any policies. We don't need any incentives. There's no reason to think about, well, how can we encourage or discourage people from procreating? We will do it on our own if we have the kind of educational system, social safety structure, and just general support of your community, we know from years and years of study that population birth rates goes down when a society is functioning at a high level with the kinds of safety nets that are supporting all citizens.
Okay, thanks for your time. Talk to you later. Bye bye.
Further thoughts on the child tax credit - Rich
VOICEMAILER: RICH: [00:58:52] Hi, Jay. This is Rich responding to your comments about my previous audio clip which pointed out one serious problem in the American Rescue Plan. As I said, it increases the child tax credit. In your response, you cited a study that says spending on child poverty does not increase births. This study would apply to programs like Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
For years, I’ve criticized Bill Clinton for getting on board with John Kasich and other Republicans to cut back this program. For those who don’t know, AFDC attempted to reduce the worst effects of abject poverty on children. But that was too much for Republicans, who not only insisted it be cut back, but renamed Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, because they wanted to shame these families with a pejorative in the title.
You should not think I am against helping children in poverty. I can only imagine the struggle they face. Ending poverty is an entirely appropriate goal for our society. Then, no child will grow up in poverty.
However, programs to help child poverty are completely different from tax credits which aren’t directed at helping children in poverty. They only incidentally help some children in poverty, but they are instead intended to give money to parents. This is a completely different issue.
Many parents, unfortunately, don’t get to plan their families before they have children. It would be great if they all could do that, which is why I have Planned Parenthood on a revolving contribution.
But, for a very large percentage of parents it is fair to say they consider whether they can afford to raise a child before having one. For these parents, knowing the government will give them a substantial cash payment every month will enable more of them to afford to have a child. I don’t need a study to know that this will increase population. It would be one thing if this were a temporary response to the pandemic. It could be argued that parents are particularly burdened. But the people behind this increase to the child tax credit want to make it permanent. If it becomes permanent, it will be a permanent incentive for population growth.
One of your responses was that it is racist to say aid to poor children is an incentive to population growth. It is no doubt true that many people opposed AFDC because they thought more black mothers got this aid, which was never true. It would not surprise me if Republicans invented their attack on AFDC with the intention of using racism for political gain.
None of this applies to the child tax credit.
There is, however, a question of discrimination. The child tax credit is discriminatory. It values parents over non-parents. In implementing it, the government is making a value judgment, which says that it is better for people to decide to have children. This should be a personal decision, and the government should not weigh in.
The good news is that the increase in the child tax credit in the American Rescue Plan does have one enormous benefit. As other people have noted, it demonstrates the government can make direct payments to individuals. It demonstrates how we can create a Universal Basic Income where we make a direct payment to all working age adults.
Andrew Yang, in his presidential bid, talked extensively about the benefits of a UBI, but I want to concentrate on just one.
Democrats have so far failed to increase the minimum wage to $15 an hour. Our opponents were able to exclude it from the American Rescue Plan because they claimed it didn’t fit the rules for reconciliation. A direct payment to every working-age adult, however, does fit those rules, and we know this because the boost to the child tax credit was passed under reconciliation.
My suggestion is that we ditch the child tax credit and provide a weekly payment to each person 18 to 67. We can get the same effect as the minimum wage increase with a payment of $300 a week. A person working forty hours a week for $7.25 an hour would then have a weekly income equivalent to earning $14.75 an hour.
This benefit would be immediate. We would not have to wait four years for it to take effect.
We could then work on decreasing costs for working people by implementing a single-payer healthcare plan, for example. We could take steps to additionally increase wages towards what people actually need, such as ending the trade deficit. In most of the country, a living wage for a person with a child is at least $25 an hour. If we could reach that goal, then individuals could decide to have a child without the risk of plunging themselves into poverty.
So, please join me in asking for an end to the child tax credit and the immediate implementation of a universal basic income. It is better public policy and the Democratic party has the power to implement this right now. Thank you for your hard work to provide Best of the Left, and thanks for the opportunity to speak out about these issues.
Final comments on White Ignorance and White Supremacy
JAY TOMLINSON - HOST, BEST OF THE LEFT: [01:03:53] Thanks to all of those who called into the voicemail line or wrote in their messages to be played as VoicedMails. If you'd like to leave a comment or question of your own to be played on the show, you can record a message at (202) 999-3991 or write me a message to [email protected]. If you have thoughts on the Child Tax Credit, as we just heard from those two callers, or the ongoing debate which sort of came up incidentally between a universal jobs guarantee and a universal basic income, please keep those coming in.
For today though, I want to expand a bit on the main topic for today or one aspect of it which is about White ignorance being a fundamental part of White supremacy. So, people for the last five or so years, or maybe a little more, people have been getting the term White supremacy into the mainstream a little bit. And obviously there's lots of confusion about that. There's lots of pushback. When we think of White supremacists, we think of Klan members and the hoods and the whole deal and the sort of new definition that is becoming more accepted, especially in sort of academic circles and activist circles is upholding structural racism and the structure of White supremacy simply being the concept that the White race is in a variety of ways better or superior to other groups of people. And we've done lots to try to clarify that meaning over the years. But one thing that gets said is that you can be a member of a White supremacist society. You can even yourself be helping to uphold a White supremacist system sometimes, or even often, without knowing it. And I think that blows people's minds. They have no idea what that could possibly mean. How could you be racist without knowing it? Their idea of racism is having a hatred in your heart for other races. And so the confusion really gets exacerbated at that point. But I think that ignorance being a fundamental part of White supremacy is a really concrete example of what we mean, because if ignorance is part of the problem, then everyone is affected by it. By default, we all start ignorant and then go through life learning things.
But if there are these really fundamental aspects of our history that we remain ignorant to and that our collective ignorance helps perpetuate harmful systems, then that's a really good example of how we can all be effectively helping to perpetuate a White supremacist system without having any idea we're doing it.
So, imagine that we lived in a country with a long history of anti-Asian discrimination but collectively decided to not talk about it. First of all, who would be making those decisions to not talk about it and why? Would it be a conspiratorial cabal working to suppress information that people would otherwise desperately want to have or would all the people in all of the school boards and all of the school districts all across the country get on a big conference call and discuss the importance of not talking about the history of anti-Asian lynching, for instance? No, obviously not. It's much more like the invisible hand of history being written by the victors. If the dominant group is overrepresented in positions of power, like educational curriculum writing boards, then they are very naturally going to want to focus on, number one, what they see as important and there's nothing nefarious about that, but it does come with a certain perspective, and second, maybe even unconsciously, they're going to want to steer away from issues that make their group look bad, especially if they don't think that their group deserves to be painted with a broad brush. Whereas, if you were to talk about anti-Asian lynching, for instance, that you might get the idea like White people as a group are opposed or racist towards Asian people, and they wouldn't want that. That topic just doesn't get put in the curriculum. But wait, you might say, what about the civil rights movement. That doesn't make White people look particularly good, and we talk about that. Yes, but the civil rights movement is a redemption story, so much so that conservatives today like to claim ownership of Martin Luther King and the civil rights movement as if they wouldn't have been vociferously opposed to it had they been there at the time. And so, it is okay to talk about how things were bad before as long as it's part of a redemption story. And I would argue that it's a false redemption story, but that's how it gets framed, nonetheless, but we've never really redeemed ourselves for our history with Asians.
So it's a story that can't be told because there's no happy ending. But getting back to the hypothetical school board deciding to not create a segment on Japanese concentration camps during World War II or the first discriminatory immigration law being about Asian women. There's even another layer to this.
One of the tenants of White supremacy that comes up over and over again is that other groups get to be seen and described as groups, but White people as a group get to be seen not as a group but as a collection of individuals. And the difference between the two is night and day, but this gives a really good example of how that plays out in real life.
So when you're deciding whether or not to teach about anti-Asian lynchings, if the perpetrators of those murders can be thought of as simply individuals who are not representative of the group that they belong to, then they're just individuals who have committed a crime. And if it's not representative of anything larger than what would be the argument for teaching it in a class? What would the lesson be to be learned there?
If it's just true crime story and not a teachable moment, then you might as well leave it out. And that is how the invisible hand of history textbook and curriculum writers casually erase anti-Asian history from our collective minds which leaves a big gap to be filled with stereotypes and not much else.
So, when someone expresses doubt that just growing up in America is enough to turn you into someone who helps, even if unknowingly, perpetuates structural racism, then this is the story you can tell them. If ignorance is all it takes to propel racism forward through the generations, then we have just found the solution to the perpetual motion machine.
As always, keep the comments coming in at (202) 999-3991 or by emailing me to [email protected]. That is going to be it for today. Thanks to everyone for listening. Thanks to Deon Clark and Erin Clayton for their research work for the show. Thanks to the Monosyllabic Transcriptionist Trio Ben, Dan, and Ken for their volunteer work helping put our transcripts together. Thanks to Amanda Hoffman for all of her work on our social media outlets, activism segments, graphic design, and so on. And of course, thanks to all of those who support the show by becoming a member or purchasing gift memberships at bestoftheleft.com/support as that is absolutely how the program survives. But now everyone can earn rewards and support the show just by telling everyone, about it using our Refer-o-Matic find all the details at bestoftheleft.com/refer. For details on the show itself, including links to all of the sources and music used in this and every episode, all that information can always be found in the show notes, on the blog, and likely right on the device you're using to listen.
So, coming to you from far outside of the conventional wisdom of Washington, DC, my name is Jay, and this has been the Best of the Left podcasts coming to you twice weekly. Thanks entirely to the members and donors to the show from bestoftheleft.com.