- by Agnes Kwong and Natacha Foo Kune
There are so many ways one can stand for social justice. Recently, I have been contemplating ways of challenging oppression that feel culturally and personally congruent to me given my own intersecting identities and cultural background. I am posting here a recent article a colleague and I wrote for the Division on Women of the Asian American Psychological Association (Summer 2010 Newsletter, Vol. 15, Issue 1).
Asian American Women Rising Up as Allies
In addition to our professional roles and our roles as co-chairs of DoW, we are also queer Asian women who reside in the U.S. but do not hold American citizenship. There have been many hate crimes and political developments of late that have deeply disturbed us both because we are committed to social justice and because of the intersections of our identities. Amidst our feelings of fear, hurt, anger, indignation, and more, we thought about the different ways in which we are already allies in the face of oppression and the barriers that get in the way of our being able to be more effective and/or consistent allies. In our attempt to share with you some of our thoughts, we reflected on a few specific oppressive events that occurred recently and discuss some of the personally and culturally congruent ways of challenging oppression.
Recent Oppressive Events
Over the past several months, there has been an onslaught of hate crimes perpetrated on campuses throughout California. Early in the year, someone spray-painted a swastika on a UC Davis campus building and a month later, a swastika was found carved in the dorm room of a Jewish student at UC Davis. During Black History month, a noose was found hanging in the library at UC San Diego. In March and at UC Davis, anti-gay slogans were found spray-painted on the exterior of the LGBT center. At UC Riverside, two students were physically assaulted by three people who were hurling anti-gay comments at them both before and during the assault. In April, a transgender student was attacked in a restroom and the word “it” was carved in the chest at California State University at Long Beach. At the University of Missouri, students spread cotton balls outside of the Black Culture Center. Unfortunately, these are just a few of the many, many hate crimes that occur both in California and across the nation.
As frightening to our sense of safety and worthy of our indignation is the passing of the SB 1070 Immigration Bill in Arizona in April. Consistent with our personal views, AAPA’s official position on this law is that it will “inevitably be a form of racial profiling, discrimination, and hostility toward racial and ethnic minority group members” and there is significant concern that “anti-immigrant sentiments that underlie this Arizona legislation would put Asian American and Latino communities at increased risk of harassment and discrimination.”
Personally and Culturally Congruent Ways of Challenging Oppression
How does challenging oppression interact with some of the values that many Asian American women hold such as maintaining harmony, saving face, and collectivism? As social-justice oriented AAPI women who value relationships and harmony, how do we make our voices be heard in the face of bigotry, hatred, and prejudice? We pose these questions because we sometimes feel slightly stuck as relational, harmony-oriented AAPI women about how best to challenge oppression.
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