A Message of Solidarity from Global Asian Studies and its Asian and Asian American Campus Partners

Solidarity Statement from the University of Illinois at Chicago’s (UIC) Asian and Asian American Communities | June 8, 2020

Asians for Black Lives

“Our continuing struggle for economic and political freedom is inextricably linked to the struggle of Indochinese refugees who also seek freedom. If our government lacks compassion for these dispossessed human beings, it is difficult to believe that the same government can have much compassion for America’s black minority, or for America’s poor.”

— New York Times ad entitled “Black Americans urge admission of the Indochinese refugees,” written by Bayard Rustin, African American civil rights activist and advisor to Martin Luther King Jr., signed by 80 Black leaders, and paid for by the International Rescue Committee, 1978; [Research Credit: Sokunthary Svay]

 

“There is so much similarity between the position of the Untouchables in India and of the position of the Negroes in America that the study of the latter is not only natural but necessary.”

–Letter from B.R. Ambedkar, Jurist, Intellectual, and Dalit Activist to W.E.B Du Bois, 1946

 

“From the March on Washington movement I learned that a movement begins when large numbers of people, having reached the point where they feel they can’t take the way things are any longer, find hope for improving their daily lives in an action that they can take together. I also discovered the power that the Black community has within itself to change this country when it begins to move. As a result, I decided that what I wanted to do with the rest of my life was to become a movement activist in the Black community.”

–Grace Lee Boggs, Chinese American Radical Detroit activist, Living for Change: An Autobiography, 1998

 

As faculty, staff, and students who represent the diverse Asian and Asian American communities on campus, we stand in solidarity with the Black community, our colleagues, our community partners, and comrades in the fight for racial and economic justice. We condemn and denounce the violence that has taken the lives of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, Sean Reed, Ahmaud Arbery, Sandra Bland, Rekia Boyd, Laquan McDonald, among a devastatingly long list of Black individuals.  We recognize that these murders stem from a long colonial legacy of systemic state-sanctioned violence that is rooted in ideals of white supremacy, racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, militarism, and supported by a carceral state which has targeted Black, Indigenous, and other people of color. These forms of violence have only been magnified over the course of the past six months by the global pandemic; a pandemic where Black communities have been markedly and disproportionately affected, as evidenced by the fact that more than 20,000 African Americans or one in every 2000 African Americans have died from COVID-19. These realities are only too familiar to many of us who live and work in Chicago, where a legacy of anti-Black structural racism conspires with the neoliberal state and ongoing crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic to deny Black livelihoods, joy, and life. This lesson is further underlined for us as students and educators in the University of Illinois system, a land-grant institution intended to democratize education even as it was founded on Native American dispossession and remained almost exclusively white until well into the 20th century.

As educators and students of Global Asian Studies, a Program that emphasizes the study of Asian and Asian American histories, cultures, and politics, and shifts in US racial formations including Islamaphobia, new Orientalisms, and anti Arab/South Asian/Muslim racisms, our intellectual projects are anchored by a commitment to understanding and historicizing the inequalities that face our communities, engaging in dialogue about power and resistance, creating pedagogical spaces that are transformative and engaged with the communities that surround us, and working toward forging solidarities to address social injustices. This is a commitment informed by a genealogy of resistance that can be traced through Black power and liberation movements and the coalitional praxis of the Third World Liberation Front. The Asian American movement that led to the formation of ethnic studies programs was inspired by Black freedom movements that emphasized liberation, community control, and self-determination. Following the 1968 San Francisco State University strike, these were the movements that fueled the establishment of ethnic studies programs and centered the importance of culturally relevant education. These are the movements that pushed for racial equity and civil rights, fought against war and militarism in Southeast Asia, outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, sex and national origin, eliminated bans on interracial marriages, and ended racist and xenophobic bans on immigration, thereby paving the way for migrations from Asia and elsewhere that make up the contemporary social body in the U.S. And beyond the horizon of the U.S., these were also the movements that supported thousands of Southeast Asian refugees in the aftermath of the Vietnam War as the letter penned by Bayard Rustin indicates; that informed B.R. Ambedkar’s call to end caste discrimination against Dalits in India, and later inspired the formation of the Dalit Panther Party; that led Grace Lee Boggs to dedicate her life to Black struggles and fight for racial and economic justice; that led Ida B. Wells to fervently oppose America’s occupation of the Philippines and Angela Davis to endorse the Boycott, Divestment and Sanction Movement and the end of Israeli occupation of Palestine.

We honor this legacy and the Black sacrifices and solidarities it engendered, and through our work, we strive to pay tribute to it.  We remain committed to working actively to dismantle the model minority myth that has been used to pit Asian and Asian American communities against Black communities. We remain committed to contributing to the efforts to recruit, retain, and support Black students and to working toward making UIC an educational space that refuses anti-Blackness. We remain committed to teaching about and working to end forms of structural racism that disproportionately affect communities of color, notably Black, Latinx, and Indigenous communities. We remain committed to dismantling white supremacy and forms of anti-blackness embedded in our communities that materialize in and through silence in the face of police brutality and state violence against Black bodies. We remain committed to forging cross-racial and anti-colonial global solidarities in the tradition of the Third World Liberation Front. We remain committed to the urgency of divesting from police and the carceral state and affirm the Black Lives Matter movement’s call to promote community control of public resources in order to build a more just and equal world.

We express our support and stand in solidarity with the Movement for Black Lives and the diverse communities of protestors across the nation and the world who have rallied in memory of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Manuel Ellis and the immeasurable loss of Black lives at the hands of state-sanctioned police violence and white supremacy. We condemn the unconscionable use of force by city and state police, the National Guard, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), and private police forces in response to protests, and the unlawful detention of those exercising their civil liberties. Government responses to protests in the form of disrupting essential services and jail overcrowding have caused further harm to minoritized communities during a deadly pandemic.

Enough is enough.

We #SayTheirNames as we honor their lives.

#SayTheirNames #BlackLivesMatter

#SayTheirNames. #BlackLivesMatter

In Solidarity,

UIC Global Asian Studies Core, Affiliated, and Visiting Faculty
UIC Global Asian Studies Student Advisory Board (2019-2020)
UIC Global Asian Studies Graduate Student Collective
UIC Asian and Asian American Student Collective (AAASC)
UIC Asian American Resource and Cultural Center (AARCC)
UIC Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institutions Initiative (AANAPISI)
UIC Chancellor’s Committee on the Status of Asian Americans (CCSAA)