Violence against AAPIs is a problem. So are exclusion and invisibility.

This was an email sent to our School listserv on Thursday 3/18. Shared here with Laina’s permission.

Subject: Violence against AAPIs* is a problem. So are exclusion and invisibility.
From: Laina Y. Bay-Cheng

*Asian American Pacific Islanders

For anyone who has been paying attention – or who feels personally vulnerable – Tuesday’s murders are acutely upsetting, but unsurprising. Given our nation’s history, there is never any “surprise” in violence against racialized minorities, especially the women (trans and cis) among us.

The intentionally escalated and unleashed violence and vitriol against Asians is not new. It also is not isolated from anti-Black violence and vitriol. Or anti-Indigenous. Or anti-Latinx. Or misogynist (which fuels homo- and transphobic hate). These are all interlocked cogs of a larger system of oppression. One turns another. My closest family and I are all different combinations of Chinese, Latinx/Indigenous, Black, biracial, immigrants, L, G, B, and T. There is no part of our lives that operated free and clear.

Graphic by Pat Shelly

This is a pervasive system, but the machinations of racist oppression are nevertheless tailored and crafted differently. A critical mechanism of anti-Asian oppression in the U.S. has been our exclusion and invisibility (the stark contrast to the relentless surveillance and forced visibility of African Americans is important to note). This is obviously and literally spelled out in the Chinese Exclusion Act. Today, it is equally obvious and literal in university policies that exclude Asians and Asian Americans from who “counts” – literally – as underrepresented. (Who among us really thinks a majority in number automatically translates into an equality of power? I daresay the state of women across the globe – and in our own communities – proves the absurdity of such a claim.) I see and feel this exclusion repeated when we are left out conversations about race and racism. Or when the question is asked – or allowed to hang in the air – whether Asians are really people of color.

Please consider being not only outraged by explicit acts of violence and vitriol against AAPIs, but also on guard against lenses that leave us out of your view.

Laina Y. Bay-Cheng, PhD, MSW, is Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Social Work.

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