Asian & Pacific Islander liberation0001

Asian & Pacific Islander liberation0001 - LIBERATION...

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Unformatted text preview: LIBERATION Asians andPacificlslanders This past'May I led an Asian/Pacific Islanders (API) and Allies gather-in for the Washington, D.C., USA, Re- gions. A bunch of people showed up.1 It’s a huge contradic— tion for API folks to see that there are people not only interested in our liberation, but wanting to see it happen! Imagine that—we are not alone, and are important in the scheme of things! Alexis Miles, an African American woman in D.C., was the organizer for the event. She wanted to make sure there were lots of other people of color there. Other people of color clearly stating that our liberation is important to them, and acknowledging that racism does happen toward Asians, cuts through a lot of my internalized racism. The way Asians and African—heritage people have been set up against each other includes the messages that Asians don’t get targeted by racism (or at least not badly) and that racism in the United States is a black/white experience. During introductions, Nikki Stewart (another African—heritage woman) said she was at the gather—in because she wanted to know how she and the DC. Community could “get fiercely behind Asian liberation.” I discharged hard that night about that phrase—that anyone would get fiercely behind us and care as much about Asian liberation as I do. I was reminded of how big a topic Asian liberation is. Lucky for me, I wasn’t the only one at the gather-in who could talk about it! Eight other Asian-heritage folks were there. I had them all sit up front with me so that we wereivisible from the beginning. It was okay that I didn’t say everything—the other Asians said things I didn’t say. When we talk about Asians and Pacific Islanders, we are talking about a huge group of people—in fact, the vast ma— jority of the world’s population—extending from West Asia (Palestine, Lebanon, Iran) across South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh) into'Eastern Asia (China, Japan, Korea) and Southeast Asia (Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia). And then there are the Philippines and all of the Pacific Islands. This is a huge geographic area—~with hundreds of languages and all kinds of cultures—so there are many cultural differences. ‘ Showed up means came. Present Time, October 2003 48 There are also similarities, especially among those of us in the United States. A big piece of racism that comes at Asians and Pacific Is— landers in the U.S., whether we came here or were born here, is that we are different and don’t belong. No matter how many generations we’ve been here, people still ask where we’re from. I’m a performer in aTaiko group. (Taiko is the Japanese word for “drum” and for the art form we perform.) Last year we did a performance and community—organizing project in which we held a number of meetings with dif— ferent members of the Asian American community. We asked them, ’“How has racism been in your life?” After initial re- sponses such as, “Oh, it’s okay; it hasn’t been so bad; I made it,” people began to actually share their stories. Almost every— one had been asked, “What are you?” with all kinds of tones of voice: “WHAT are you? No, really, what ARE you?” People had also been asked, “Where are you from?” always with the implication that they must have been from someplace other than this country. A variation on the last question is something assumed to be a compliment (said with shock), “You speak English very well,” even when En- glish is the person’s only language. (Not speaking the language of our heritage is a result of the racism. When I and my sib— lings were children, people made fun of the way my dad spoke, so he stopped teaching us his native language.) The assumption that Asian/Pacific Islanders don’t really belong here in the United States, that this isn’t really our home, can make it difficult for us to feel that our roots are here, that we won’t get kicked out. Examples of this oppression are the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II and, currently, the targeting of Muslims and Arab Americans. Asian Americans are faced with racism every day but are told that our lives are not that hard, that we haven’t had it as bad as other groups, that racism isn’t aimed at us———0r that if it is, we can overcome it, just as everyone else should be able to do. We learn that the more quickly we assimilate and as— pire to the ideals of capitalism and white society, the more “secure” we will be, that we are the ones who can “show” other minorities how one can “succeed” in spite of how hard things are—one just has to apply oneself and work hard. In our Asian families we are generally taught (culturally, and because of internalized oppression) to work hard. We strive to be perfect and do our best so that we can show respect to our families and communities. We are taught that we must do this to “succeed” and to make things better for our par— ents. The racism in society reinforces all this. It tells us that any struggle we have is our own personal shortcoming, that there’s no external explanation for it. And we’re expected to “fix it” ourselves. We’re also not supposed to show it to any- one. It is completely up to us as individu— als to figure it out, whatever it is. If our struggle shows even a little bit, we can expect to receive a lot of criticism for it, and certainly no help. AARON GALLOWAY Our oppression is confusing because we are experiencing something but are told that we’re not experiencing it. We are told that we don’t have it as bad as other people—in particu- lar, African—heritage people. That’s how we get set up in rela— tion to African—heritage people. We’re also made to believe that if African-heritage people (and other people of color) would just work harder, they could “make it” too. In fact, few API folks have “made it” by society’s standards, and when we’re held up as examples, such as when people say that lots of API students attend universities, it covers up the real struggles of our people. When you ask Asians what racism is like in their lives, if they haven’t had a chance to discharge on it, their initial re— sponse will often be something like, “I don’t actually experi- ence that.” If you listen for a while, you’ll see that this is a thin layer. It is also part of the oppression. It’s important to ask Asians what our lives have been like. Really showing what our lives are like, and how we feel, is a struggle for us. I lead a weekly Asian women’s class. The members share feelings of wanting to die, of having attempted suicide, of how alone they are as they struggle, of getting physi— cally beaten in their relationships. They have huge struggles that they share with almosr no one outside the class—not even their regular Co-Counselors. If they didn’t have this group, they wouldn’t have a place where they could show just how messy their lives actually are. It was a big contradiction for me and the other API people at the gather-in that Alexis put a lot of effort into getting non—Asian people of color there. Asians have been separated 49 from other people of color. This separation doesn’t make any sense. Nik Leung told about an exhibit he saw at the Ameri— can History Museum in Washington, D.C. It was called “Through My Father’s Eyes” and included photographs taken in the 19305 in the San Francisco Bay area. At that time there were clubs that only admitted white people. If you were a person of color, you couldn’t go in them. He saw pictures of African Americans, Latinos, and Filipinos and other Asian people having parties on their own. The bands at these parties included people from all these dif— ferent groups—like a singer who was Filipino and a bassist who was African American and another musician who was Latino. Nik said it reminded him that Asians are a part of all people of color. Capitalism loves Asian patterns of overworking. A friend told me about a study in which different groups of students were given a puzzle to solve. The puzzle wasn’t actually solvable, but the experimenters didn’t let the students know. They wanted to study how different groups of people go about2 solv— ing problems. All the groups tried their best to solve the puzzle, and all of them, except the Japanese group, eventually gave up and said it was impos- sible. Finally the experimenters had to tell the Japanese stu— dents that the puzzle wasn’t solvable, because they were sim— ply going to stay until it was solved. For Asians, this is just what you do. You don’t give up. You don’t stop. You keep going, no matter what. You keep working at it. Capitalism likes that. SANDRA MCDONALD Capitalism also takes advantage of how, in Asian cultures, the individual is told that he or she is not as important as the group (the community or the family). Anything outside one— self is more important than the self. Asians struggle to be able to track ourselves at all as individuals. In some cases, it’s even hard to tell how we feel. We are only supposed to notice What’s happening for other people. The up—side’ of this, of course, is that we can notice other people and think about how things are going for them. The problem with it is that this is at a huge cost to ourselves. continued . . . 1 Go about means undertake. Present Time, October 2003 fl—cflUI‘i\.l \n AU] 1 Continued . . . It’s is a big deal for Asians to figure out how to take our own re-emergence seriously; to decide to actually have sessions; to consistently look at Where we struggle, Where we hurt, and how things feel; to put our— selves first and say, “I am worth healing.” LML One of my biggest goals in life is to eliminate racism. Although I’ve known somewhere inside that I want to do this for myself, what I’ve been aware of is that I want to do it for my family, especially for my nieces and neph— ews. I have wanted things to be different for them. I haven’t wanted racism to come down on them the way it came down on me and everyone else around me. After nearly twenty years of (Io—Counseling, I can begin to articulate how important ending racism is for me. I’m beginning to be able to fight for myself in a way that I couldn’t before. Asian “niceness” patterns can make it look like Asians like white people more than other people ofcolor do. In fact, other people of color like white people just as much as Asians do, and Asians are just as angry about racism as are other people of color. We are actually very mad about racism. When Asians get close to each other and are safe, they can show the anger. Behind every “nice” Asian face you see is an angry person. If you can get close enough for him or her to show you that anger, that’s good. You can ask your Asian (Io-Counselors, “So, are you ready to slit my throat today?” We knew from when we were young that it wasn’t right how we and our families were being treated in the world, but we were made to be “nice” about it. A lot of times Asians are not so nice to each other—that is how the internalized racism comes out. At the gather-in we had an Asian panel, including people of Filipino, Chinese, and South Asian heritage (recent immigrants and some who were born in the United States) and a Muslim woman. Each person had three minutes to share something about his or her struggles. I was pleased with what people were able to show. They had clearly decided it was safe. They gave an incredible picture, in that brief time, of the various ways racism had hit them. Teresa Enrico Internatianal Linertztian Refirence Person fir Fz'lzpz'no/a—Herimge People Portland, Oregon, USA Present Time, October 2003 Young and Power? This sparkling journal has two section. by young people, and the other for and b) The journal will also he of much interest Simon, editor of the young people’s sectior journal makes a huge stride in giving v people’s thoughts and moving young peOJ forward. . . .” jo Bird, editor of the young says, “Inside you will find brilliant articles ing Co—Counselling to figure out challenge lives.” QM? Asian Enheritan The new issue of Our/ham Inheritance ir great articles that reflect how Asian-heritag using Re—evaluation Counseling to shapr deepen their relationships, and grow as inc as a community. It includes personal storie histories, visions for Asian liberation, and r gases/”outta ”ll-“iii? The new issue of Classroom is filled wit articles about how students, teachers, pare ministrators are thinking about, and bringing cational change. Inside: 9 A young people’s panel on school 9 How to be an ally to students 8 Thoughts about boarding schools 8 Experiences with home—schooling ‘3 Changing education from within the versus from outside them 9 And much more. Journals listed here are $3.00 eacl (Ordering infirmarimz on page 95) ...
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