Asian and Black Solidarity — The Power of Unity
with John C. Yang of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC
For decades, Asian and Black communities have participated in powerful social justice movements together, making leaps toward racial justice.
John C. Yang, Executive Director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice – AAJC, joins host Tetiana Anderson for a conversation about this shared history in the fight for racial equality. John discusses the current state of relations between Asian and Black Americans, and the power of communities of color when unified.
May 01, 2023
Anderson: Anti-Asian hate crimes surged from 2020 to 2021, with reported incidents increasing by 339% over that time. The struggle for racial equality in the United States impacts many diverse populations, but there's a history of solidarity to create change. Hello, and welcome to "Comcast Newsmakers." I'm Tetiana Anderson. Black and Asian Americans have a centuries-long tradition of joining forces to advance justice. John Yang is the president and executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice -- AAJC -- and he's joining me to talk about this shared history in the fight for racial equality. And, John, thank you so much for being here.
Yang: Thank you for having us.
Anderson: So give us a state of the relationship as it stands now between Black Americans and Asian Americans.
Yang: I think one of the things that we've learned in these last three years is how much we share together. And unfortunately, some of that is the tragedies that we've shared. Whether it is in Buffalo for the Black community, whether it's in Atlanta for the Asian American community, whether it is the violence that we've seen -- George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery -- whether it is the anti-Asian hate that we've seen. So certainly we have seen how our communities can come together. Now, let's be clear. There have been times that our communities have had tension, too. And so that's part of our job, is to make sure that we continue to work on that, continue to show how communities of color can stand together and be strong during all of this adversity.
Anderson: And as you touched upon, if you look back, there is a strong tie between Black Americans and Asian Americans. Can you give us a few examples through history about how these two groups have really worked together to advance one another?
Yang: Absolutely. It goes back to the 1800s when you have Frederick Douglass talking about how Chinese Americans, Asian Americans, belong in this country and opposing immigration type bans. It goes to Reverend Jesse Jackson speaking after the murder of Vincent Chin in the 1980s. It goes to people like Grace Lee Boggs, who was part of the Black -- Black Power movement, or people like Yuri Kochiyama, who stood with Malcolm X during the 1960s. So certainly historically, there have been so many places where our community have stood together, and we need to continue to do that now.
Anderson: There have been some misconceptions about the relationship between Black Americans and Asian Americans. What does that mean and how damaging has that been to the narrative?
Yang: Yeah. And so one of the biggest pieces of misinformation that we see out there right now as it relates to anti-Asian hate is that it is Black Americans that are committing those acts of hate. And to be clear, we do see videos of that. And I'm not saying those videos are fake. But if you look at the actual statistics, there's a study done by the University of Michigan, another one done by NIH, over 70% of these acts of hate committed against Asian Americans are by Caucasians. African Americans actually underrepresent with respect to the statistics. Now, how is this dangerous? It feeds into these myths that the Black community and the Asian American community are somehow opposed against each other. It feeds into stereotypes that people are trying to create about our communities. And so certainly what we see is, again, our communities trying to be used as a wedge against each other and weaponized against each other in a way that is not helpful.
Anderson: And it really strikes me that advancing Asian justice is also about doing the same thing for other communities. So what do you need from your allies in the future to really make sure that your work continues to benefit all people?
Yang: It's for us to talk about each other's struggles and where each of us have needs, right? So for allies to the Asian American community, it could be something as simple as if I get asked the question, "Well, where are you really from," for my friend to say "He's from Chicago. That's a Midwestern accent that you hear." Just like for me, if I see a Black friend get asked, "Well, why are you saying Black lives matter," for me to take on that role and not for her or him to have to take on that responsibility of explaining that. So at a small level, a micro level, that's the types of things that we can do. But then at the policy level, making sure that everyone's voices are heard and making sure that all of our stories are told, not just stories about our own community, but by communities of other communities of color, other vulnerable communities.
Anderson: People are going to want to know a lot more about what it is that you do. What's the website? Where should they go?
Yang: So our website is www.advancingjustice-aajc.org.
Anderson: John Yang with Asian Americans Advancing Justice, thank you so much for being here.
Yang: Thank you very much.
Anderson: And thanks to our viewers as well for joining us. As always, for more great conversations with leaders in your own community and across the country, just visit comcastnewsmakers.com. I'm Tetiana Anderson.