Who We Are

We must discover our strength and face our weaknesses. We must defeat the forces of racism, empire, and neo-colonialism if we are to be free once again. This is the historic mission of our generation.

We are Filipino, Korean, Pakistani, Iraqi, Afghani, Indonesian, Chinese, Palestinians and countless other faces. We are gender-bending men and women, queer and straight. We are fierce and loving. We are what the racists fear. Many of us are also here in the United States.

This journal seeks to promote discussion and provide linkages, to remember the past so as to build for the future. We hope to discuss the struggles of Asian-American peoples in the United States from an anti-racist and democratic perspective in order to build solidarity among our communities and with working folks in Asia.

Why is this solidarity necessary today? Quite simply because white supremacy and empire continue to threaten our self-government. Because in the U.S. we are still beaten up for the way we look, trafficked as sex slaves and mail-order brides, harassed by the cops, and raided by Homeland Security. Because in Asia, the U.S. military is still crouched and ready to pounce into imperial wars to defend the interests of U.S. elites. Because our Asian elites are throwing Asian lives into US imperialist wars, waged against our Iraqi brothers and sisters, so that they can chummy up to the US. As lone individuals – as “minorities” – we can only act as victims at worst and guilty bystanders at best. But together, we are part of the global majority of people of color. We are capable of transforming the U.S. and the world, building forms of democracy that presidents and chairmen have nightmares about.

In the past, pan-Asian solidarity has been pursued through state power from above: Bandungism and Maoism. Both sacrificed everyday Asian lives to the strategic interests of statesmen, giving the idea of Asian unity a bad name. Today, a new vision is our only option, nourished by everyday struggles for freedom and democracy that Asian peoples wage in the family, at work, in their neighborhoods, and schools. From the relentless Intifadas of Palestinians pushing up against apartheid, to the jam-packed streets of the 2005 Hong Kong WTO protests exploding with fierce South Korean farmers, Filipino activists and Japanese anarchists, we are in action. The new society is breaking out. Try to keep up!

In our search for Asian unity, we cannot ignore the fact that Asian Americans are divided. Nationalities, religions, ethnicities, and even tribal or clan divisions are sharp. When Southeast Asian youth are detained and deported, some Japanese and Chinese American lawyers sigh, “Thank God it isn’t us anymore.” The racists are slowly bleeding us this way.

Today too many Asian Americans believe we are the chosen “model minority.” Politicians argue that we have succeeded because of our intelligence and hard work, proving that there is no racism left in America. By implication, Black and Latino folks are supposedly still poor because of their laziness and immorality. Some of us may buy into this; our parents tell us to work hard in school so we can live the American Dream and assimilate into whiteness. But many of us reject this. We refuse to be the “good” people of color that Blacks and Latinos have to measure up to. We will not be classified, boxed into stagnant categories, as if our histories can be divided and stacked, one against another. Instead, we want to struggle together with our friends, co- workers and neighbors against the racisms we all face.

Second, the model minority myth whitewashes the struggles of Asian workers in U.S. farms, sweatshops, hospitals, and restaurants. Many working class and unemployed Asians are growing up across America. Some are children of refugees fleeing destroyed homelands in Southeast Asia littered with U.S. bombs, others are children of undocumented Chinese workers. We are our parents’ translators, but the English we know is infused with Spanglish and Black dialects just like our neighborhoods. It speaks the pain and poetry of our motley crews. We are recreating the very meaning of the ghetto, we are part of the hip-hop generation, and it is only a matter of time till the world hears of us.

Finally, this model minority myth erases our history. Up and down the West Coast, white mobs lynched us and forced us down the railroad tracks many of us had built to ethnically “cleanse” their white only towns. Later, the government put Japanese Americans into concentration camps claiming we were one giant suicide bomb waiting to go off in support of enemies abroad. Hundreds of smaller incidents of anti-Asian racism go unreported everyday. No matter how fast we try to run from this past, it always seems to catch up by surprise. We can never be sure that we are safe from white mobs today that might try to batter us Vincent Chin-style for taking “their” jobs.

Often it is our families that prevent us from uniting and fighting back. Many patriarchs in our communities try to justify authoritarian sexual and gender norms based on what they claim was acceptable back home. We know their concern is not so much about preserving the national heritage of our people but more about preserving their special power in the realm of the household and our respective communities. All immigrant communities have gone through this—European, African, and Latin American to name a few. Liberal racists will try to use this to claim our communities are backwards and will patronizingly talk about “saving” Asian women and queer folks by appealing to the same cops and courts who deport and abuse us. The fight against patriarchy and homophobia can and must be fought by us on our own terms.

We reject the notion that we are perpetual foreigners; Asian folks have been here since before the U.S. was founded. However, we also reject the notion that to become American we need to give up our ties to the Asian countries. We will not settle for a phony citizenship that requires us to break solidarity with working people—often our own families—back in Asia in order to prove our loyalty. We will not sell short our brothers and sisters back at home nor our brothers and sisters in the United States. We have a rich tradition of solidarity across national borders. We can look at the Ghadar Party, the Equality Society, the Union of Democratic Filipinos; and activists like Yuri Kochiyama, Grace Lee Boggs, Carlos Bulosan, and Har Dayal. They defined a new Asian-American identity rooted not in just America or our countries across the Pacific, but something explosively new that understood the unique position of immigrants in the United States.

Some may argue that these visions of solidarity from below are outdated; all that is needed now is free collaboration among the trans-Pacific jet setting elites. With the success of the Asian Tigers, the rise of South Korean capitalism, and the growing power of China, aren’t we finally in the clear? Don’t white folks finally treat us as equals? We do not believe the success of these economies will last forever. The reality is that the Asian Tigers are junior partners subordinated to U.S., Japanese, and European capital. Any illusion of national autonomy for working people under these conditions is self-deception. We all saw how U.S. capital attacked the wages and living standards of workers in Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia and South Korea when the financial bubble burst in 1997. When will the next round of punishment come? Is this what it means to be free?

Some say China’s rapid economic growth is a product of its move from socialism to capitalism. We don’t believe China was ever socialist. It was always state-capitalist, and Mao’s policies paved the way for what has happened since 1978. The Communist Party’s vision was one of rapid modernization from above; new elites took control over the factories and farms, not workers and peasants. Since then, China has been turning towards neo-liberal policies, following the rules of the International Monetary Fund and the World Trade Organization, causing massive unemployment, landlessness, and ecological destruction.

We should not forget how wars are started. The US, Japan, and the European powers had to go through two World Wars to settle upon who was top dog. It is not clear where China’s place will fall into the current world order. If this question is settled by war, Asian America could be thrown into the breach. The model minority myth could dissolve, and once more we could become “gooks” selected for target practice.

It might seem that there is no way out. Capitalism’s only promise is attack on working people and more wars. State-socialism has become a graveyard. What next? Militant labor struggles in South Korea, spontaneous strikes and uprisings in Chinese factories, and demonstrations held by farmers in Philippines show us that everyday Asians from concrete jungles to agrarian farmlands are breathing energy to new possibilities from below. In the United States, Asian Americans have built multi-racial linkages to assert everyday peoples’ control of the workplaces and communities. From the early 1900s, with the Industrial Workers of the World, Asian, Black and white immigrant labor organized mines, farms and factories. Inspired by the Black Power and international anti-colonial movements in the 1960s, Asian Americans built organizations that sought power from below such as the Third World Liberation Front in San Francisco State College, and the I-Hotel community resistance.We did it before and we can do it even better in the future.

Both American and Asian ruling classes demand our loyalties. At best it this only creates schizophrenia in our minds and at its most dangerous it is the basis of the most severe kinds of racism. Not only is a new vision of being Asian-American key, but so is the need for a pan-Asian perspective, a direct people to people foreign policy from below that expands outwards from our workplaces, neighborhoods, and schools. This new vision is not just about identity and talking and thinking differently, but is about how we organize, act, and fight together against our oppressors.

We hope to meet Asian Americans of all backgrounds, Asians from different countries and build international linkages that no longer divide us along simplistic national lines. We hope that our actions will speak louder then any single identity or set of words. We hope to build new bridges of solidarity based on labor, anti-imperialism, and radical new visions of democracy with the Asian Diaspora and Asian working people.