ARCC News – Fostering Connections Between Asian and Black Americans

This month, we are excited to share “ARCC News” and an original article on Fostering Connections Between Asian and Black Americans.

July 2022

Fostering Connections Between Asian and Black Americans

Artificial Tensions Between AAPI and Black Populations

Throughout US history, racist stereotypes about Asian American and Black populations have worked to create and perpetuate artificial tensions between the two groups. This is counterproductive for civil rights activism, since the more time and energy any two racial groups expend in conflict with each other, the less they have to address the real root problem for both: White supremacy and systemic inequalities.

One example of artificial tensions between marginalized groups in general is what is informally known as the “Oppression Olympics.” This term refers to comparing the forms and severity of oppression experienced by one individual or group to those experienced by another in order to assert that one is the greatest victim. “Competing” in this sense sabotages the unified cross-cultural activism that would be most effective in eliminating discrimination against marginalized groups as a whole.

The key to dissolving artificial tensions is exploring their sources and educating all communities about their harmful motives and effects. Here are some things to know about both conflicts and cooperation between Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) and Black communities.

The “Model Minority” Myth About Asian Americans

The “model minority” myth stereotypes AAPI individuals and communities as polite, obedient, hardworking, and law-abiding citizens with particular talent in STEM fields and strict parenting habits. It maintains that their successes can be attributed to these characteristics, and that if other racial groups (such as Black Americans) exhibited “model” Asian American behaviors, they would be more successful as well.

The idea of Asian Americans as a model minority group began in the 1940s, was formally named as such in 1966, and remains a pervasive problem today.

The “model minority myth” is harmful to people of all races and ethnicities. Asian Americans—whose ancestors hail from all over a vast and culturally diverse continent—are expected to conform to stifling and unrealistic stereotypes. Other racial groups are blamed for their lack of success despite the real and documented racial inequities working against them. White populations are misled to believe that systemic inequities either don’t exist or don’t matter, when in fact there are countless ways in which dismantling racism benefits everyone.

Other Conflicts Between AAPI and Black Communities

The “model minority” myth has also contributed to historic disparities in criminal justice outcomes for Asian American and Black communities, causing further division between these groups. White belief in AAPI individuals as superior second-class citizens and in Black individuals (particularly men) as violent criminals has at times led to far lighter sentences for Asian Americans guilty of violent crime.

One example of this is the shooting and killing of African American Latasha Harlins by a Korean American store keeper following the 1992 police beating of Rodney King, for which the sentence was merely probation and a $500 fine. The resulting tension between AAPI and Black communities in Los Angeles reached a crisis point during this period.

Cooperation and Unity Between Asian and Black American Communities

On the whole, however, there has been far more mutual support between AAPI and Black communities than there has been conflict. Notable examples include Frederick Douglass’s 1869 condemnation of the Chinese Exclusion Act as well as the fact that Black citizens and soldiers opposed the US colonization of the Philippines during the Philippine-American war of 1899-1902. Another is the widely productive friendship between Asian American civil rights activist Yuri Kochiyama and Malcolm X in the 1960s, and the list goes on.

The overarching unity between AAPI and Black communities is an excellent foundation to build upon in civil rights activism. Continued cooperation between these groups can be a powerful force in eliminating White supremacy and systemic racism in the US. One way that individuals from all communities can support this goal is to vote for anti-racist political measures and politicians and to get involved with equity-driven organizations.

Promote Cross-Cultural Activism With The Anti-Racism Commitment Coalition

The Anti-Racism Commitment Coalition (ARCC) is an inclusive coalition of dedicated people committed to eradicating racism and spreading anti-racism throughout our communities, countries, and the world. We work to help and educate people on their transformation journey to anti-racism by providing access to related support and resources.

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