Material that has helped inform my understanding of my Asian American identity, in some way or other.
Actors & Comedians
Magazines & News Sources
Collectives & Orgs
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with questions, recommendations for the archive or library, suggestions for collaboration, or other thoughts.
Our Complicity With Excess [Asian American Writers Workshop, 5/7/14], Vijay Iyer
WHAT IS THIS? Musician and intellectual Vijay Iyer delivered this speech in May 2014 at a reunion of Asian American alumni at Yale (his alma mater and a key site for radical Asian American actions and literature in the seventies). He delves into the responsibility of upwardly mobile Asian Americans to question systems that reward them at the expense of others, as well as the role of artists to assert themselves in the face of a culture that denies them.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Living in Oakland, it hit home for me when Iyer references his complicated feelings around being involved with Asian American and Black musician communities in the Bay Area in the 1990s, a place that, then and now, has had what Iyer calls an “imperial relationship to all things Indian.” I like knowing that this confusing combination led Iyer to assert his unique presence, ignite alliances with other artists of color, and commit to social justice. This project - the Hardly Un-American site - has roots in his call for artists to defiantly “generate a consistent, un-ignorable, complicating presence in the landscape of culture” - that part of his speech inspired me to research and archive Asian American culture-producers doing just that.
The Racial Justice Movement Needs A Model Minority Mutiny [Race Files, 9/13/14], Soya Jung.
WHAT IS THIS? Soya Jung’s short piece provides clear and concise historical context of the model minority myth, Asian anti-blackness, and the “racial invitation that white elites offered to Asian Americans.” In this widely-referenced piece, she calls for Asian Americans to leverage their relative privilege and “push back against corporate plunder and state collusion, to dismantle the apparatuses of racialized violence.”
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? This was a foundational article for me to jump into the conversation in recent reflections of Asian Americans role in the Black Lives Matter movement. I liked the way Jung explains the relationship between white supremacy to neoliberalism, in which the latter is a cage around the former - in just a couple pages, it gave me a language to connect immigration policy and migration histories with the militarized policing, prisons, and racialized violence that comes with the opening of markets.
Beyond The Model Minority Myth [Race Files, 7/14/15], Jennifer Pan
WHAT IS THIS? This piece builds on the Soya Jung article mentioned above by providing a deeper (but still very accessible) history of the ways in which Asian Americans have ultimately been pawns of capitalism. Pan unpacks the processes of capitalism that specifically utilized immigration and domestic policies, and she explains how talking about relative privilege or complicity with white supremacy obscures these processes and “misunderstands how the particular racialization of Asians in America augments capitalist restructuring that demands increasing numbers of both knowledge workers and service workers while simultaneously attempting to press the wage floor lower for all.”
Pan's framing allows insight into not just the ways in which many Asian American communities have been allowed, for political and economic reasons, to flourish economically; but also includes a frame for understanding how Asian Americans on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum fit in to capitalism, communities who are traditionally left out when focusing on the moral imperatives of individual members of the “model minority.”
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Pan pushes back on the recent trend among progressives to present Asian Americans as holders of a unique, ahistorical privilege that allows them to be “collaborators in the state oppression of the black population.” Rather than condemning or appealing to the individual moral responsibility of privileged immigrants, Asian Americans need explanations of how the structures of global capitalism created the disparities between Asian and Black Americans; and furthermore, they need to understand how these structures will not, by their very nature, create fertile ground for any changes without major collective mobilization.
This article guided me to understand that solidarity between racial groups should take the form of direct attack (i.e., support for broad economic redistribution programs) on an economic system that dictates each racial group’s role in divisions of labor, rather than the “ally” model I had seen from the Asian American community thus far in the Black Lives Matter Movement (i.e., #Asians4BlackLives and #ModelMinorityMutiny campaigns) that appeals to morality and requires individual participants to be dialed into contemporary identity politics.
Dear Mom, Dad, Uncle, Auntie: Black Lives Matter To Us, Too [Google Docs, 7/8/16]
WHAT IS THIS? This crowdsourced letter was collectively penned, edited and distributed widely across Asian American networks in July 2016 in the hopes of starting a conversation amongst immigrant families about Black Lives Matter (for more context, see this piece from NextWeb). Since then, it’s been translated into dozens of languages.
WHY IS IT INCLUDED HERE? Though I’m not sure I’m comfortable with the framing and language the letter takes on, I think this is a beautiful concept and approach to collective action; I was really proud to see our community thinking creatively about how to protest and supporting each other in starting difficult conversations with anti-Black family members in the wake of continuing police brutality towards Black Americans.