Staff Blog

A Statement on Anti-Asian Racism: We Must End White Supremacy

April 16, 2021
White text over red background reads: Ending anti-Asian racism starts with addressing anti-Black racism and dismantling white supremacy. A black Seattle Asian American Film Festival logo is below the text.
Ending anti-Asian racism begins with addressing anti-Black racism and dismantling white supremacy.

Since the beginning of March, our country has experienced three mass shootings. 

Exactly one month ago on March 16th, eight lives were lost to a targeted mass shooting at several massage parlors. Six of the victims were women of Asian descent. Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Yue, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng were their names. 

This morning, a mass shooting at an Indianapolis FedEx warehouse. Before this, the last mass shooting was on March 22nd, a shooting in Boulder took the lives of ten people: Rikki Olds, Suzanne Fountain, Eric Talley, Kevin Mahoney, Denny Stong, Neven Stanisic, Tralona Bartkowiak, Teri Leiker, Lynn Murray, and Jody Water

Today’s horrific event killed eight people and wounded four others — some of these victims were members of the Sikh community. While it is too early to speculate about the shooter’s motives, we will be following the investigation as it continues. This evening, Indianapolis police released the names of the victims killed in today’s shooting. They are: Matthew R. Alexander, Samaria Blackwell, Amarjeet Johal, Jaswinder Kaur, Jaswinder Singh, Amarjit Skhon, Karlie Smith, and John Weisert.

We mourn the loss of these victims and our hearts go out to their families.

The staff of the Seattle Asian American Film Festival (SAAFF) have taken this past month to grieve, reflect, and take action as rising anti-Asian violence continues to plague our communities, not only in the United States but across other countries too. We have heard a tidal wave of voices—those who are scared, angry, and fighting to be heard. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, anti-Asian racism has risen exponentially. In Stop AAPI Hate’s recent national report, they received reports of 3,292 incidents that occurred in 2020. These numbers include only reported incidents. Many of the attacks seen in headlines target some of the most vulnerable in the Asian American community: our elders and women. Although there is more awareness of anti-Asian racism, these sentiments existed long before COVID-19. 

Racism is insidious, weaved into the cloth of US history through xenophobic legislation and violence that transcends borders, creating wars in our homelands that drove our people to leave our ancestral homes. However, this history and violence is erased. Here are a few incidents seldom discussed in classrooms and textbooks, and more recent acts of violence that have impacted our communities: 

  • The long-rooted fetishization of women of Asian descent that resulted in the 1875 Page Act
  • Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882
  • The Bellingham Riots against Sikh Americans in 1907
  • Japanese American incarceration during World War II
  • The murder of Vincent Chin in 1982
  • The fatal Seattle police shooting of Tommy Le in 2017
  • Trump’s Muslim travel ban in 2017
  • The fatal police shooting of Christian Hall during a mental health crisis in December 2020

Our communities’ histories have been rooted in survival in the face of white supremacist violence. The idea that Asians are model minorities is born from white supremacist ideologies, leaving our struggles unseen and our voices unheard, and is made to dehumanize and flatten our complex and diverse identities.

Anti-Asian violence also continues to be perpetuated in the form of ongoing deportations of the Southeast Asian refugees, targeting of Asian massage parlors by police, Sinophobic and orientalist statements and policies from the government, and the lack of meaningful representation in leadership, politics, and media. This structural violence occurs at the intersections of misogyny, racism, U.S. imperialism + militarism, patriarchy, and white supremacy.

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders must take action to dismantle anti-Blackness; when we do not address the most vulnerable in our communities, the fight against anti-Asian racism wouldn’t be true liberation for all. We need to stand in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, follow the lead of Black community leaders, and invest in Black communities. 

We call for solutions that target the root causes of racism and reject the call for more policing, as it would only bring more targeting and surveillance of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. We mourn the loss of Iremamber Sykap, Adam Toledo, Anthony Thompson Jr, Daunte Wright, and countless others, and stand in solidarity with other victims of police brutality, like Lt. Caron Nazario. 

Law enforcement is one of many arms of the white supremacist state we live under. Police brutality and discrimination often does not improve with reform, especially when reforms often expand the carceral state. Carceral solutions bring more harm to our communities and do not address underlying problems, such as the school to prison to deportation pipeline, socio economic issues, and racial profiling. 

“Prisons do not disappear social problems, they disappear human beings. Homelessness, unemployment, drug addiction, mental illness, and illiteracy are only a few of the problems that disappear from public view when the human beings contending with them are relegated to cages.” — Dr. Angela Davis

We must invest in community-based resources (e.g. crisis intervention, language accessible mental health services), harm reduction (e.g. safe injection sites, decriminalization of drugs, treatment instead of jail), and ethnic studies that instill cross-cultural understanding and solidarity across all races in the next generation. 

As a film festival, SAAFF serves to elevate the voices of our communities in order to dismantle the two dimensional identity white supremacy has imposed upon us. We seize the narrative that was written about us and reclaim it for ourselves, to rectify it and tell authentic and nuanced stories that illuminate our unheard traumas, and celebrate our resiliency and complexity. 

Our liberation is deeply connected to the liberation of Black, Brown, and Indigenous communities. We ask to continue amplifying and investing in the long-term grassroots organizing and work our communities already do. It takes courage to envision a different future, a future rooted in humane solutions that lead to a more just and equitable future for all.

 


Resources

 

 

Massage parlor & sex worker resources:

 

Some local AAPI organizations to support: 

 

Free media to watch:

  • ASIAN AMERICANS documentary series on PBS for free: Asian Americans is a five-hour film series that will chronicle the contributions, and challenges of Asian Americans, the fastest-growing ethnic group in America. 
  • SAAFF 2020 Opening Night Film SEADRIFT is currently streaming for free on PBS Reel South until April 30th, 2021: In 1979, a fatal shooting ignites a maelstrom of hostilities against Vietnamese refugee fishermen along the Gulf Coast. Set during the early days of Vietnamese refugee arrival in the U.S., “Seadrift” examines this turbulent yet little-seen chapter of American history and explores its consequences that continue to reverberate today. 

 

BLM Statement & Resources: Visit our statement from June 2020 supporting Black Lives Matter

 

Related articles: 

 

Recommended reading on Asian American history, activism, and perspectives (not a comprehensive list, but a good starting point):

  • The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee
  • Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People by Helen Zia
  • Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties by Karen L. Ishizuka
  • Yellow: Race in America Beyond Black and White by Frank H. Wu
  • Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong 

 

More News