Stop AAPI Hate and Black Lives Matter: Racism Isn’t Only Black and White

Stop AAPI Hate and Black Lives Matter: Racism Isn’t Only Black and White

Hate crimes toward Asian Americans have spiked by over 150% across the United States since the start of the pandemic, but racism towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has been happening all along.

The AAPI community has faced increased targeted violence, racism, xenophobia, and other discriminatory issues that keep them from feeling safe in their communities. When we talk about racism, society often focuses on white on Black hate, which is widespread and deeply rooted in American culture. But it’s important to make sure that we don’t overlook racism directed toward Asian Americans and other communities.

Since the 1880s, Asian Americans faced the “Yellow Peril,” which spread the idea that Asian people were unclean, a threat to American values, and shouldn’t be allowed in the United States at all. These views were based on propaganda and stereotypes, and they still harm AAPI communities today.

Racism is systemic and it affects everyone. We can’t ignore the privilege that even the most anti-racist white people gain from a deeply rooted social structure that prioritizes them. Importantly, racism towards one group doesn’t only affect that group.

Prejudice and stereotypes toward AAPI people harm the AAPI community, but they also drive other communities that experience racism apart from one another. That alone prevents marginalized communities from forming a united front against a systemic problem, while those with privilege and power continue to benefit.

The Stop AAPI Hate and Black Lives Matter movements have come together to fight the injustices both communities experience. It’s important to understand where these movements started, but we also need to talk about how privilege must be used for the benefit of marginalized people.

What Started These Movements?

Stop AAPI Hate is a newer movement, formed in January 2020 in response to the increase in hate crimes against the AAPI community due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate started through the collaborative efforts of three groups—Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department.

This movement has focused on collecting data and sharing it with the public in an effort to bring awareness to the racism AAPI people face. Stop AAPI Hate works to end systemic racism toward all communities, and it acknowledges the fact that racism toward one group never affects that group alone.

They tackle the problem on a systemic level, which means doing things like:

  • Offering resources to AAPI community members
  • Backing community safety initiatives
  • Supporting policies for human rights
Stop AAPI Hate and Black Lives Matter: Racism Isn’t Only Black and White

They also have a place on their website where you can report hate incidents in several languages. Stop AAPI Hate continues to compile data about AAPI hate incidents and racism to educate the community.

However, they also offer support for various communities in addition to AAPI, including Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC). The movement fights racial stereotypes like the “model minority” myth, which has harmed Asian Americans since World War II.

Alongside Stop AAPI Hate, Black Lives Matter has done work to fight racism toward the Black community. Three Black women—Alicia Garza, Patrisse Cullors, and Opal Tometi—started Black Lives Matter in 2013 after Trayvon Martin’s murderer, George Zimmerman, was acquitted. The movement started when these women used #BlackLivesMatter on social media platforms, like Twitter and Instagram. It grew quickly into a larger movement.

The unique thing about BLM is that where other movements have centered cisgender, straight Black men, BLM makes space for Black women and LGBTQ+ folks, too. It has expanded the movement and drawn attention to racism Black people who experience intersectional discrimination. For example, Black transgender women are one of the most targeted groups in the US when it comes to violent crimes.

Black Lives Matter has faced its own hate as a movement. The idea behind BLM is to bring to light the racism, violence, and other systemic issues faced by the Black community and to bring about change. The problem is that racism and white supremacy are so ingrained in the United States that many white people look at Black Lives Matter and get angry. But why?

Many white people believe that by uplifting Black lives, the BLM movement says that their lives don’t matter or matter less. Black Lives Matter isn’t here to say that non-Black lives don’t matter. However, history and white society have treated Black lives as disposable. The movement isn’t meant to put down other lives but to uplift Black ones that have been excluded from history and been refused justice.

More than that, Black and AAPI people should be able to feel safe in their skin, homes, and communities. Rejecting that idea means rejecting equality and allowing ourselves to stay comfortable with white privilege and white supremacy.

What Is the Model Minority Myth?

The model minority myth traps Asian Americans in a space where white society perceives them as a “good minority.” It creates an unrealistic expectation for Asian Americans as people who are smarter, achieve more, and are held to a higher standard than other communities.

This myth spreads the idea that Asian Americans aren’t subject to racism by saying that they rose up through hard work, playing by the rules, and getting better education. This idea puts enormous pressure on Asian Americans, which leads to mental health struggles that many healthcare professionals fail to recognize. It also creates a disparity between the AAPI community and other marginalized communities.

People compare Asian Americans to Black people, ignoring that both communities face their own stigmas and have been restricted by racist legal policies that make it harder for them to succeed, like the Immigration and Naturalization Act of 1965 which began the model minority myth.

The model minority myth has been used to spread the idea that Black communities could achieve the same “model minority” status if only they tried hard enough. That completely ignores the regulations in place meant to prevent them from doing just that, along with other social factors that affect both the Black and AAPI communities.

The model minority myth groups people of the AAPI community into one big generalization rather than the diverse peoples that exist within it – representing about 50 countries that make up the largest continent on Earth. It equalizes Black and Asian racism when the two aren’t the same. It also says that racism can and should be overcome only through the efforts of marginalized communities, rather than alongside the efforts of anti-racist white people.

How Do StopAAPIHate and BLM Come Together?

Since Stop AAPI Hate was created, Black Lives Matter has helped uplift the voices of AAPI folks. Stop AAPI Hate also looked to BLM as an example for creating their movement.

The AAPI community protested with the Black community when George Floyd’s murder sparked protests across the country and the world, demanding justice, accountability, and equality. In the process, AAPI folks called out anti-Blackness in their own communities. Likewise, Black activists have stood by AAPI communities through the increased hate throughout the pandemic, including after the murder of six Asian American women in Atlanta in March 2021.

These communities have shown how racism towards one impacts others, always. Putting Black communities at a disadvantage benefits other communities, and the model minority myth encourages that. Legislation historically favors certain people—mainly white—over others and then says that those marginalized people should just work harder to solve their problems.

Stop AAPI Hate and Black Lives Matter come together to fight injustice and racism against BIPOC as a whole. When several communities come together with a common goal, they have a louder voice against white supremacy. However, that also means that white people with power and privilege need to listen and enact change on both a small and large scale.

What Does Justice Look Like?

If racism and violence doesn’t stop, there’s no justice. In June 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets to peacefully protest after the murder of George Floyd. Since then, Derek Chauvin has been charged and convicted with his murder. But that doesn’t mean the Black community got justice or that this action alone fixes the problem.

Justice would be these hate crimes not happening. It would be systemic change. These crimes have happened so many times that there is an endless list of names people whose murderers have not been held accountable.

Likewise, Robert Long was charged for murdering eight people at an Atlanta spa, but that doesn’t erase the fact that it happened, and that people are still committing racially motivated crimes. People in the Black and AAPI communities still can’t exist safely, and until they can, there is no justice.

Justice is more than accountability. It involves large-scale change and the erasure of disproportionate advantages for white people. It requires both an acknowledgement of a system of white privilege as the cause of inequality and action to be taken against it.

How You Can Help

It’s not just up to marginalized communities to advocate for themselves. Fighting racism is exhausting for people who experience it and expecting them to do all the work on their own is not only unfair, but it prevents the a real solution to the problem. Here are some ways you can get involved, educate yourself, and help fight hate toward BIPOC communities.

  • Interact with BIPOC communities: You can’t fight racism without interacting with the affected communities. You can read books (and there are many to choose from!) and do research, but that alone won’t prepare you for understanding the lived experience of BIPOC people. There’s also no single experience that represents all people within a given community. However, when you do interact with these communities, make sure it’s not for the sake of making them do the labor of giving you information or talking about their trauma.
  • Buy from AAPI businesses and creators: With small businesses specifically, you’re putting money directly into the AAPI community and supporting someone who will notice it. Many AAPI individuals have been marginalized in mainstream business, and by supporting small businesses you actively demand recognition for AAPI creators and entrepreneurs. 
  • Examine your own privilege: This might start as a private thing, where you learn about how racism and xenophobia has affected AAPI people, but it can’t stop there. Especially if you’re white, you have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable with your privilege. Accept that you’ll make mistakes, thank people when they correct you, and learn to do better.
  • Move your support to the public: Speak out against AAPI racism. Communicate to others in your circles about racism and have hard conversations. Pay attention in public and learn to recognize racism when you see it, because it shows up in more places than you probably think. Learn how you can step in and stop racist actions when you see them while supporting AAPI people.
  • Call and email your representatives: Ask them to support bills that benefit BIPOC people. Ask how they’re supporting the AAPI community and what they’re doing to fight racist policies.

You can also donate to AAPI organizations that fight racism every day. Here’s a list of places to get you started:

  • Hate is a Virus: Hate is a Virus is a nonprofit organization dedicated to dismantling racism. It has resources to help people take action against racism and hate toward AAPI folks and BIPOC as a whole. On the website, you can find educational tools to help you spread awareness and become an informed bystander. The organization is founded and run by Asian Americans. You can learn more about Hate is a Virus in this article written by the CEO and co-founder, Tammy Cho
  • Stop AAPI Hate: Stop AAPI Hate works to fight racism on a systemic level. Created in response to the rising hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has compiled resources, data, and statistics to educate people about how the pandemic has affected the AAPI community. You can donate directly to them to help them continue to fund their mission.
  • Asian Mental Health Collective: The Asian Mental Health Collective works to break down the stigma toward mental health in Asian communities. It makes mental health more accessible and provides mental health resources to Asian Americans.
  • AAPI Women Lead: AAPI Women Lead is centered around AAPI women. It works with the #ImReady Movement to give voice to AAPI women and increase visibility of the struggles and strength in the AAPI communities. It helps AAPI women step into leadership positions and take part in decisions that affect them.
  • National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance: NQAPIA increases visibility for LGBTQIA+ AAPI folks within the AAPI community and beyond. It helps provide resources to organizations for AAPI LGBTQIA+ people. The alliance offers education and promotes engagement to create space in the community for LGBTQIA+ AAPI people while challenging homophobia and transphobia alongside racism.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. It’s only a few of the many organizations out there doing the work that need support in their missions. Keshoume believes in contributing to greater causes and making positive impacts on people’s lives. This is why we donate 10% of proceeds to organizations, like these, that align with our values. Click here for more information about organizations we’ve contributed to.

It’s not enough to be non-racist. We must be actively anti-racist to make a difference. Fixing a systemic problem requires everyone to take part, not just marginalized communities. Those with privilege who have benefitted from racism must participate if change is going to happen.

Edited: Faatimah Saarah Monawvil 
Sarah Wood - June 10, 2021

Sources:
Yam, Kimmy. “Anti-Asian hate crimes increased by nearly 150% in 2020, mostly in N.Y. and L.A., new report says.” NBCNews. https://www.nbcnews.com/news/asian-america/anti-asian-hate-crimes-increased-nearly-150-2020-mostly-n-n1260264. Accessed 30 April 2021.

De Leon, Adrian. “The long history of US racism against Asian Americans, from ‘yellow peril’ to ‘model minority’ to the ‘Chinese Virus.’” The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-long-history-of-us-racism-against-asian-americans-from-yellow-peril-to-model-minority-to-the-chinese-virus-135793. Accessed 30 April 2021.

Home Page. Stop AAPI Hate. https://stopaapihate.org/. Accessed 30 April 2021.

“HerStory.” Black Lives Matter. https://blacklivesmatter.com/herstory/. Accessed 30 April 2021.

 McFarlane, Nichia. “Philanthropic Investment in the Transgender Community is Not Commensurate to the Threat Transgender Women of Color Face.” National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy. https://www.ncrp.org/2019/06/philanthropic-investment-in-the-transgender-community-is-not-commensurate-to-the-threat-transgender-women-of-color-face.html. Accessed 30 April 2021.

Cohut, Maria. “The ‘model minority’ myth: Its impact on well-being and mental health.” Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/the-model-minority-myth-its-impact-on-well-being-and-mental-health#The-myths-impact-on-mental-health. Accessed 30 April 2021.

Chow, Kat. “’Model Minority’ Myth Again Used as a Racial Wedge Between Asians and Blacks.” NPR. https://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2017/04/19/524571669/model-minority-myth-again-used-as-a-racial-wedge-between-asians-and-blacks. Accessed 30 April 2021.

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