09/25/2017

Asian American Action Fund Calls for Investigation and Response to the Recent Actions of United Airlines and the Chicago O’Hare Police

In light of yesterday’s brutal assault on Dr. David Dao in the Chicago O’Hare Airport, the Asian American Action Fund (AAA-Fund) calls for an investigation into the actions, motivation, and behavior of the United Airlines employees and O’Hare Airport’s Aviation Police.

Upon the request of United Airlines staff, the O’Hare Airport’s Aviation Police forcibly dragged a paying customer out of his seat, bloodying and possibly concussing him in the process. Dr. Dao, the customer in question, was twice dragged off the flight, the second time on a stretcher. Dr Dao expressed the belief that racial animus and not random chance was the reason he was singling out for forcible removal.

The use of force against an Asian American traveler is a symptom of a nation which tolerates violence against minorities. AAA-Fund calls for an investigation to determine if there is systematic racism in the O’Hare police force or within the United Airlines organization. We also call on O’Hare and United to engage in training to diffuse conflict without violence and how to recognize and counter systematic racism.

Police on United Airlines

French Colonialism and Racism Lived

Paris France

Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second on Tam v. USPTO, third on power, fourth on feminism, and fifth on Columbia’s xenophobic vandalism, sixth on activism, seventh on voting access, and eigth on fearing microaggressions.

This past week, I was in France with my family visiting my best friend for spring break. There were so many things that I loved about France; it is bright, and cavalier, and beautiful in every crevice of its earth, it breathes bread and butter, and exhales art and all fine things. I’m already so incredibly privileged to have experienced going there in my lifetime, and infinitely more so to get to with my family over spring break as just a college student.Of course, there were moments still that tore me away from my romantic view of the country, that made the bliss of a vacation feel null. They were the same kind of moments that tend to tear me out of mid-day reveries in my every day life. Namely, microaggressions and the “otherizing” of Asians I experienced.

Of course, this kind of experience is not wholly specific to France in any way. If you read my last blog post or some of the one’s before that, you will have read about many of my prior experiences with the otherizing of Asian Americans in my own home country. In fact, in the United States we sometimes think of racism as pertaining only to our country and its history.

​But racism is larger than just America. It is a part of the world, of histories of imperialism, colonialism, of immigration and following xenophobia, in cities, and countries, and every which place.

​When I was in France, vendors on the street would try to get my family’s attention by saying, “Ni hao!” or more crassly, “Ching chong ching chong!” I’m not sure whether or not they genuinely thought they were speaking Mandarin in the latter, or if they even knew that their actions were offensive at all. I suppose it doesn’t really matter much what they thought in the end. While their words were not violent, they reminded me of two things: that people like my family do not look like they belong in a country like France, and that while many people aren’t explicitly violent in their racism, they do not care about being respectful to people of color, because we don’t merit respect to them.

​Waitresses and waiters would offhandedly call me a word that my friend told me meant something like “Chinese princess”. It was meant to be a compliment, but it still left me caught off guard and frazzled.

​When I met my friend’s French teacher for the first time, she asked me, “Are you Chinese?” I told her yes. Then she turned to my friend and said, “Your Chinese girl is very beautiful,” as if my friend owned me. It was something we thought laughed off—in many ways, I still think it was funny, the ridiculousness of her statement laughable—but it also left me feeling more exoticized than beautiful, more owned than self-possessed, too othered to be flattered.

​The kind of casual racism I experienced in France was by no means intensely painful for me, or and was nothing I am not already used to. But it did remind me that racism is not solely an American vice. It exists internationally, across countries and miles. It knows no borders.

​As an Asian American in France, I felt more aware of the history of European imperialism that has existed and effected people of color worldwide—and how that history has been the most important in the construction of racism. The microaggressions I experienced there were distinctly rooted in xenophobia and exoticism, in the distinction of Asians as “different” and inherently foreign.

​While I will always, from the depth of my soul, be most concerned with and involved in the ongoing plague of American racism, it is also important to me that if we want to change racism in our country we also must have some understanding of its history and function in the world. And we must be ready and willing to look to people of other nationalities and listen to their stories, learn from them, and when needed, lend them a helping hand.

​America tends to have a reputation as isolated. Our people speak only English, only are knowledgeable on the customs and affairs of the American people, and sometimes not even those. Whether that’s true or not, I would like to think that as Americans we have both the opportunity and the responsibility to try and improve our country, and to me, part of that comes in understanding the world as a whole. So may we learn from each other, may we learn from the world, and in the end, may we all come back and use it to make our country the best place it can be.

The Micro and the Macro

So what are you?

Editor’s Note: This is the eighth in the pursuit of social justice by our 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow, Amanda Ong. Read her first piece on identity, second on Tam v. USPTO, third on power, fourth on feminism, and fifth on Columbia’s xenophobic vandalism, sixth on activism, and seventh on voting access.

Every time a teacher called me by the name of another East Asian girl in my class, the same sharpness would always pinch me in my underbelly. It was something that happened again and again over teachers and classes and years. “Sorry,” the teacher would always say to me hastily. “Amanda, not Sophia.” “Amanda, not Jane.” “Amanda, not Michelle.” They would always try and cover quickly as if it was really just about the name. Of course, it was never just about the name.

But there was always the moment right after they said the wrong name, and right before their apology, that held all of the tension of centuries of erasure. And even when I would hear their apology and the collective breath being held by my class would be released; there would still be something that lingered in me. There was still the knowledge that my teacher’s apology wanted to be an apology for all of the racism they had internalized, but knew not how to or cared not to change. There was the knowledge that my teacher’s apology wanted to be an apology for the history that has existed, a history that lives deep within them and they have not been able to unlearn. That is the sharpness that pinched me in my underbelly, and it is not one that has ever entirely left me over teachers and classes and years.

For most of my life my experiences with racism, and even my experience with my Asian American identity, have come in the form of microagressions like these. If you have not heard of microagressions before, they are the kind of statements that happen often in casual conversation: but they veil indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination toward marginalized groups.

When I think of microagressions I think of the way people have always asked me, “Where are you from? China? Japan?” I think of bringing dumplings to school and being asked by children with crinkled noses, “What is that?” I think of the time in elementary school when I confided to a white friend about my insecurities around wanting to look white, and she said, “At least your eyes aren’t too small for an Asian girl. Small eyes are the ugliest.”

It took years of microagression upon microagression until I began to become aware of the way in which I was being “otherized” for my race. As I got older, I learned that these small instances of alienating comment reflected a larger history of oppression that has come to paint the way we view race today, even on an implicit level.

Whether or not we want to acknowledge it, the modern world as we know it has been built on and around a history of racism, of the exploitation and exclusion of people of color. And whether or not we want to acknowledge it, that history is embedded in the way we think. In many ways, I am lucky that in childhood I only had to face this truth through the hidden prejudice of microagressions and not through overt hatred and violence.

But even as I say this, a recently released study, one that was the first of its kind, revealed that hate crimes against Asian Americans tripled from 2014 to 2015. And with news of the assault of an elderly Korean woman by a white supremacist in Los Angeles earlier this month, I feel that the Asian American community is at risk for becoming victims of more vehement acts of hate than the microagressions I faced in my youth.

I don’t want to dismiss the hurt that microagressions cause—as I have said, I have more than known the deep-seeded kind of pain they leave. But right now I fear that Asian Americans bodies and lives are more threatened than they have been in years. In the months since Trump’s election and then inauguration, many white supremacists have been afoot, and there has correspondingly been a rise in hate crimes, many done in Trump’s name. And as the President has not condemned any of these crimes, it feels as if hate crimes now happen almost flagrantly and are dismissed with equal indifference.

However as these crimes come to affect the Asian American community, I ask us not to hide in fear. I realize that the threat to our lives right now is daunting. But in the years I have spent facing microagressions, I have learned that the only thing one can do to stop such actions is to speak out against them. We must address these issues at their and educate each other first, and we can do that by talking about our experiences with hate. If we can I believe it is imperative that we must not retreat into our homes or even inside of ourselves. We must go forth and fight, it is the only thing we can do if we want others to learn our names and respect our bodies.

Amanda Ong – 2017 Mike Honda Writing Fellow

Hijacking the Media

the slants

We’ve long empowered all progressive AAPI including Southeast, Sub-continental, and far Western Asians. Today’s NPR story connects the recent string of attacks on Indian-Americans to the need to fight racism. Opponents have tried to hijack the AAPI narrative with media like “Hindus and Trump Rallied Together in a Xenophobic Fever” and AAPIs writing loudly into “letters to the editor” and call-in shows and WeChat-originated efforts to defeat Maryland sanctuary laws and AAPIs booked on (we notice, thanks to the Asian American Media Matters, MediaWatch, and AsAmNews). As our media team efforts are very significant, we not only notice and not only call it out, but take that never-before-done step: explain. Might be preaching to the choir, but we hope to reach at least that 1 open mind.

When Asians feel safe in the minority myth, don’t feel any need to organize or be politically involved (as the vast majority do), want to reap the benefits by being good in suburbia, feel free to collaborate with hateful groups (to, say, hate Muslims as Hindus often do or to hate Communists as many Asians do or etc.), or want to simply get a paycheck and be at peace, there’s a rude wake-up call. Some think our opponents just want to stop illegal immigration (lots of AAPI easily feel resentful at illegals when they’ve spent energy coming legally but fail to realize NumbersUSA’s goal is to reduce all not just illegal immigration, wake up!) or just want to get us into college (hint: removing affirmative action returns us to the days when we weren’t even allowed in America much less college, it won’t allegedly let Asians flood on in, moves like NYC’s edit to its Specialized HS exam are moves to reduce AAPI dominance of merit-based systems) or just want to let our small businesses have less regulations and more profits (hint: non-white businesses need not open). We however have seen for decades our opponent’s real goals: reduce all immigration, reduce AAPIs dominating colleges, and let whites return to work where we succeeded. The truth is far uglier than the innocent moves as whites reappropriate us, their quiet offense-less obedient minorities.

Indian Americans aren’t the only ones put on notice. We refuse to wait until hateful violent attacks (in addition to the stream of microaggressions everywhere and everyday) reaches other AAPI groups, but know that we fight to empower Indian Americans as just 1 subgroup of many AAPI ones. When we say hate and racism and xenophobia aren’t ok, we cite the same not just against AAPIs but also by AAPIs because the circle of harm goes in every way, as we see now, as we’ve seen in history, as we refuse to allow to recur. We exist to empower AAPIs and any threat to it is a target of our resistance. We have our own voice, we will tell our own stories, no media will use a few erroneous AAPIs to hijack the voice of all AAPIs. We’re watching and, as our name says, taking action.

Tweets from https://twitter.com/AAAFund/lists/candidates
Tweets from https://twitter.com/AAAFund/lists/orgs

Facebook

Our Facebook Page @AAAFund

Official statements.