We must all break down barriers and phobias; build working relationships; but also understanding, recognizing that each ethnic group has its own primary issues, and need ethnic privacy and leadership. However, as a united force, together, we can challenge the system where those with wealth and political power live high off the toil and desperation of the marginalized. We must see one another as friends and neighbors and sincerely be concerned of one another’s plights and problems. – Yuri Kochiyama.
A similar quote can be found in an essay entitled “A History of Linkage”.
Yuri speaks about how there is a lot of overlap in African/Asian and Black Amerikan/Asian Amerikan history, while mentioning Ho Chi Minh and Malcolm X. Unfortunately, however, the historical interactions between oppressed peoples are often downplayed or not even taught at all.
For example, gentrification is happening across different communities today – Chinatown/Lower East Side, South Bronx (Mott Haven and Port Morris, in particular), and Harlem, Williamsburg, Fort Greene, just to name a few. Real estate capital is making moves and invading our communities, raising real estate values. When landlords realize that their property can be worth more, they hike up rent to kick tenants out of their homes so that the gentrifying middle/upper classes can move in. Oppressed peoples are gradually being pushed out to the suburbs as more and more white middle/upper class people move into cities. This phenomenon is similar to how Paris, France is structured: the middle/upper class live in the city while the so-called “others” (immigrants from neo- and colonial countries) live on the outskirts – in les banlieues (Paris suburbs). Out of sight, out of mind.
Police brutality is still a problem in our communities: Yong Xin Huang, a 16-year old honors student from Brooklyn, was shot in the head by a pig in Sheepshead Bay in 1995; Fong Lee, a 19-year old Hmong youth who was shot to death by the Minneapolis police in 2006; Wu Yi-Zhou, a 64-year old Chinese man who was nailed to the ground by several New York Pig Department officers about a week ago.
The economic crisis adds to this pile of problems. Many people are unemployed. Unemployment rates are disproportionately high in Latino and Black communities. Asian Amerikans who have bachelor degrees have a hard time finding jobs. But imagine how bad the situation is for Asians who don’t even have BA degrees.
Teachers are getting laid off as schools are closing and more prisons are opening. NYC is trying to shut down 22 public schools. CUNY is hiking up tuition, making higher education unaffordable for Blacks and Latinos. Students and teachers are rising up and protesting against school closures, budget cuts, and tuition hikes. However, those who are rising up tend to be Black and Latino students. Asian students, who attend CUNY schools, are missing in action.
As we celebrate the birthdays of Yuri Kochiyama, Malcolm X, and Ho Chi Minh, we must remember the commonalities we share as oppressed peoples. When we fight these common problems together, we fight for not just our own liberation, as Asians, but all other oppressed peoples’s liberation. As Malcolm X once said, “Study history. Learn about yourselves and others. There’s more commonality in all our lives than we think. It will help us understand one another."