Categories
Social Justice

The Deep Roots of Anti-Asian Violence

| Kent Wong & Stewart Kwoh |

The following article was originally published in AFT Voices.

The outcry against anti-Asian violence triggered by the mass killings in Atlanta on March 16, when six Asian American women lost their lives, has ignited protests throughout the country. As we join together to denounce violence and to create a better future, we must also turn to the past to evaluate the fundamental causes that have resulted in the thousands of documented acts of anti-Asian hatred and violence, in many instances directed at Asian American women and elders. This analysis must include the long history of U.S. anti-Asian animus in the global arena.

Although Asian Americans have been an integral part of the United States since the 1850s, we have consistently been viewed as foreigners. Even Asian Americans like us, with deep, multigenerational roots in this country, are inevitably asked, “Where are you from?” We have lost count of the many times we have been complemented on speaking English without an accent, although English is our first language.

During World War II, 110,000 Americans of Japanese ancestry were forcibly removed from their homes and placed in U.S. concentration camps. No similar acts were taken against German or Italian Americans, although the United States was also at war with Germany and Italy. Even after returning to their homes and communities, Japanese Americans were subjected to racial hatred and discrimination.

The long, tragic legacy of anti-Asian violence in the United States is directly related to U.S. foreign policy in Asia. During the Vietnam War, Asian people were dehumanized. The brutal massacre of Vietnamese women and children in My Lai, Vietnam, was conducted by U.S. soldiers who viewed the Vietnamese people as less than human. The U.S. military used napalm, Agent Orange, antipersonnel weapons and massive bombings to target and kill millions of civilians, all justified through the lens of white supremacy and anti-communism.

The dehumanization of Asian people has had tragic results for Asian Americans. In 1989, five Vietnamese and Cambodian schoolchildren were shot and killed in a schoolyard in Stockton, Calif., and more than 30 people were wounded, including a teacher. The white gunman expressed hatred toward Asian immigrants and blamed them for taking jobs from native-born Americans.

In the 1980s, Japan was blamed for the demise of the U.S. auto industry. Auto workers gathered in union parking lots to smash Japanese-made automobiles, venting their anger based on the misguided belief that Japan, not U.S. corporations, was responsible for their factories shutting down. In 1982, two unemployed white auto workers in Detroit killed Chinese American Vincent Chin with a baseball bat, mistakenly believing he was Japanese. The two killers were sentenced to probation and a $3,000 fine.

Today, China has emerged on the world stage as the main economic competitor of the United States, but too many see China as the enemy. We are witnessing a new Cold War perpetrated by leaders of both Democratics and Republicans and by U.S. corporations. This new Cold War has been exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic. More than half a million people in the United States have died from COVID-19, more than in any other country.

The former administration refused to accept responsibility for the disgraceful failure to contain the pandemic and instead chose to blame China and Asian people. The president referred to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” and “Kung Flu” and promoted the lie that Asians were spreading the virus in the United States. This racist messaging had a direct impact on the spike in anti-Asian violence. The organization Stop AAPI Hate has documented nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents since the beginning of the pandemic.

The demonization of the people of Asia by the U.S. government and U.S. military has had a direct impact on the rise in anti-Asian violence throughout the country. Today’s crisis is an opportunity for Asian Americans to stand with people of conscience to demand a multi-racial democracy that the United States has never fully embraced. Asian Americans have joined in the massive protests for Black lives. We mobilized at the airport to oppose the Muslim ban and have traveled to the border to protest the separating of families. And Asian Americans are opposing new Jim Crow voting policies in Georgia and other states and defending affirmative action.

It is time to confront the history of white supremacy in this country. The United States has never confronted the legacy of slavery, lynching, mass incarceration and police violence directed against Black people. Racism is at the core of the separation of families and the caging of children at the U.S.-Mexico border, and the Muslim ban introduced by the last administration. The current attacks on voting rights are also motivated by white supremacy and intended to disenfranchise people of color. It is time to build a true multiracial democracy that represents the hopes and aspirations of the vast majority of people in this country.

Categories
Commentary Economic Justice

Commentary: No, China didn’t steal our jobs. Corporate America gave them away.

The following article was originally published in Salon.

For as long as outsourcing has been a major trend in global capitalism, the ruling classes have had to weave a narrative of how workers in the Global South are “stealing our jobs” as a cover for the reality that global capital actively seeks out cheap, exploitable labor. These narratives have long been embraced by the American right-wing to scapegoat non-American labor and drive a wedge between the international working classes. As such, it is always worthwhile to sharpen our arguments highlighting the ways that these trends are a result of our global economic system and the will of the ruling elite, and the only way to fight back is to forge international solidarity among workers. The following article by Cody Cain in Salon is an important contribution to these efforts.

China is not “stealing” American jobs.

President Trump loves to blame China for the job losses that have devastated American workers under globalization. But the truth is that Trump is blaming the wrong party. Trump’s reckless trade war against China is misguided and amounts to a colossal charade that will not solve the actual problem.

Yes, it is true that numerous American manufacturing jobs have been shipped overseas to China, thereby leaving American workers jobless and suffering. But China did not steal these jobs.

No. These jobs were given to China. It was all legal and legitimate. China merely accepted the gift.

What would anyone expect China to do? Accepting these jobs was a perfectly rational course of action.

China was an underdeveloped nation with a large population of poor people willing to work for a fraction of the hourly wages of American workers. And then corporations came along and presented China with an attractive offer: We would like to build manufacturing plants in China and hire droves of your unemployed people to work there. What was China supposed to do? Naturally, China said yes.

This is hardly stealing.

It is true that these new jobs in China were intended to displace American workers. But does that concern belong to China? Does China have the responsibility to care for the well-being of American workers? Is China supposed to prioritize American workers over its own workers?

Of course not.

China is supposed to look out for itself and for its own workers, not for American workers. Thus it was perfectly proper for China to allow the manufacturing plants to be built in China and employ Chinese workers. China did not steal these jobs.

So if China is not at fault, then who is to blame for the devastation caused to American workers?

The answer is plain to see, and it lies within our own shores. The fault belongs squarely with corporate America.

It was corporate America that made these decisions. Corporate America decided to close their American plants and open new plants in China. Corporate America decided to lay off multitudes of American workers and ruin entire American communities.

And who profited from the destruction to American workers? It was the wealthy executives and shareholders of American corporations. They earned millions of dollars for themselves by cutting the costs of their workforce.

This is part of the larger trend of economic inequality that is eroding the entire middle class in America. Wealth is being shifted away from the workers down below and transferred up into the hands of the wealthy executives and shareholders at the top.

Trump blaming China is nonsense. China is not at fault. To be sure, China is hardly an angel and indeed engages in improper trade practices. But even if China agreed to whatever bone-headed demands Trump is seeking, the problem still would not be solved. The truth is that America cannot possibly compete against China on labor costs. The standard of living is much lower in China and thus Chinese workers are willing to accept wages far below living wages in America. So corporate America will continue to transfer more and more jobs to China and elsewhere. If we do not address this fundamental economic reality, then we will never solve the problem.

Trump blaming China has an insidious aspect to it as well. Focusing all the ire upon China is a grand misdirection that conceals the true culprit, namely, the super-rich corporate executives and shareholders in America.

This is part of Trump’s standard playbook. Trump falsely proclaims to be fighting for blue-collar workers, when in truth, Trump acts entirely in favor of the rich at the top.

Surprisingly, this seems to work. Some of the hard-working Americans who are being crushed by Trump’s idiotic trade war and who should be denouncing Trump, nonetheless praise him for standing up to China, believing that Trump is fighting for blue-collar jobs. It is painful to witness such good people falling victim to Trump’s despicable con job.

In order to actually save the middle class, we need to focus on the true cause of the problem. We must direct our great powers of reform where they belong — upon the wealthy executives and shareholders of corporate America who caused this problem in the first place.

The nature of the problem is that corporate America has no incentive to protect American workers. In fact, corporate America has every incentive to harm American workers by shifting their jobs overseas.

So the financial incentives must be reconfigured. If corporate America is going to ship American jobs overseas, it must not be permitted to pocket all the profits themselves and leave their displaced workers with nothing. Instead, corporations that send jobs offshore must be required to sufficiently compensate their displaced American workers. Executives and shareholders must not be permitted to enrich themselves unless and until their workers are financially secure.

Our society must favor people over profits, not profits over people.