Letter from the Editors in Response to Increased Violence Against Asian Americans

art by Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya (@alonglastname) provided for use in protest

The China virus. Model minorities. The “Kung Flu.”

When the COVID-19 pandemic began, so did the onslaught of racist messaging fueled by then-President Donald Trump. Many Americans were appalled at the apparent blaming of a pandemic on a racial group, but others were eager to place blame. Many Asian Americans recognized this familiar pattern: from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1887 to the forced internment of Japanese and Japanese American people during World War II, America has long approached Asian people with suspicion and hatred. This racial scapegoating was not new, and neither is racism towards Asian Americans in the United States. 

Last week, following months of increased violence against Asian Americans, a white man shot and killed eight people, including six Asian American women — Daoyou Feng (44), Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez (33), Hyun Jung Grant (51), Suncha Kim (69), Paul Andre Michels (54), Soon Chung Park (74), Xiaojie Tan (49), and Yong Ae Yue (63) — in their places of work. The media has provided excuses for the shooter’s behavior such as sex addiction or religion rather than discussing America’s long and continued practice of racism, xenophobia and imperialist attitudes towards Asians and Asian Americans. 

The critical race theorists we aim to publish here have long recognized the impact of white supremacy on Asian Americans, but American society has not. Instead, Americans envision Asians (a wide and diverse ethnic group) as part of a blessed, mythical monolith of a Model Minority – a group nearing, but never touching, the “ideal” racial status of whiteness. By painting Asians as a lucky, non-disadvantaged minority, America can isolate anti-Asian crimes as odd, invisible one-offs rather than part of a pattern of racist attacks. This year, that harmful “invisibility” has blanketed the sharp increase of hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islanders.

Both the Volume 26 and Volume 27 editors-in-chief of this Journal are Asian American. We read the news every morning and witness the increasing violence against Asian Americans. We watched as the headlines started creeping from the bottom corner of landing pages to front and center and then quickly, and quietly, slipping back down to the corners – a 24-hour news cycle that apparently only has minutes to highlight attacks on Asian Americans. 

This was no surprise to us. Racism against Asian Americans – and racist misogyny against Asian women – isn’t shocking to Asians. As Asian American women ourselves, we grew up answering constant questions about our origins, we have been told our “exotic” looks are “sexy,” we’ve been expected to be quiet and submissive — a cartoon of an “Asian American woman,” meek and subservient. We’ve been asked where we are “really from” and pestered for a response that fits the narrative of our looks.

We refuse to fit the mold or to acquiesce to the macro and micro aggressions against Asian Americans. Now is the time to validate the voices of Asian American communities. Now is the time to remember the victims of violence and to take action. Now is the time to reflect on the ways in which systemic racism has created and continued to separate communities of color in a pit of survival. Now is the time to build coalitions and to jointly combat the racist, misogynistic systems and people who have inflicted violence against Asian Americans emotionally and physically. 

In law, now is the time to reflect on the ways in which our legal education has disadvantaged AANHPI students and silenced their history. 

In the community, now is the time to support organizations dedicated to AANHPI causes. 

As an individual, take the time to educate yourself on the history of Asian Americans and their place in systematic racism in the United States. Check here for a list of books to get you started.

In solidarity,

Courtney Liss, Editor-in-Chief, Volume 26 and Lexi Wung, Editor-in-Chief, Volume 27