The murders of six Asian women in Atlanta were a stark reminder of the U.S.’s history of racist violence against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities. From March 2020 to March 2021, over 830 incidents of physical violence were reported in the United States. They were part of over 6,603 hate crimes against AAPI people reported nationwide in the past year. This is almost double the previous period according to Stop AAPI Hate.
Unfortunately, there is nothing new about today’s racism. In the late 1800s, the first Chinese laborers arrived in the U.S. seeking a better life. Instead, they encountered beatings, lynchings, and racist legislative restrictions.
Chinese women in particular were subjected to brutal treatment. The Page Act of 1875 barred Chinese women from emigrating to the U.S. and the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act sealed the border. Competition over jobs is part of the origin of anti-Asian racism, which has deep roots in the profit system.
From the internment of Japanese Americans during WWII to the current attacks, violence has been a constant threat in the Asian American and Pacific Islander community.
Undoubtedly, Trump’s incessant references to Covid-19 as the “China virus” and “kung flu” added fuel to a smoldering ember. His racist rants, amplified by Fox mouthpiece Tucker Carlson and other right-wing pundits, contributed to the rise in violence against AAPI people. But that is not the whole story.
Global superpower. Plenty of politicians have spewed anti-China vitriol, including Biden, who has ramped up China-bashing since taking office. His administration has retained Trump’s tariffs, which apply to 66% of China’s exports.
China is the U.S.’s main economic competitor and the largest recipient of foreign direct investment. China is the primary trading partner of Japan, Germany and the European Union, a role previously filled by the U.S. Currently it is the beneficiary of the world’s largest trade deal, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), signed by 15 Asia-Pacific countries.
So, China is a massive threat to the profits of U.S. capitalists and the politicians who cater to them. While the U.S. economy continues to flounder, China is experiencing an economic recovery, even as it leaves many in rural areas impoverished.
Republicans and Democrats attempt to demonize China as the destroyer of democracy. Another enduring myth is that the Chinese are the perpetual foreigner that can never be assimilated or trusted, especially since they are communist.
Despite the rhetoric, China is “communist” in name only. Its economy is capitalist, based on profit, not collective ownership. Chinese millionaires and billionaires are getting rich on the backs of their workforce in China just like their U.S. counterparts. The truth is that China may be a more lucrative capitalist country than the United States these days.
The attacks on China inevitably become attacks on AAPI workers. They are blamed for forcing U.S. jobs to go overseas. AAPI people are scapegoated for supposedly “stealing jobs” from “real Americans.”
Add the pandemic to this toxic brew and the result is a perfect storm for bigots and xenophobes.
A strong defense. But the escalating attacks and brutality have brought out waves of support, in the AAPI community and beyond. Marches and rallies have taken place throughout the U.S., including a national day of protest. People of all colors are standing shoulder to shoulder to demand prosecution of these crimes and an end to the racist attacks.
Over 70% of those who reported being harassed or attacked are female, stemming from the perils of stereotypes targeting Asian women. Regardless, AAPI women are fighting back, defending themselves, and organizing.
AAPI women need to be in the leadership of an intrepid movement. Their life experiences connect the racism, xenophobia and misogyny that must be tackled head on to end the violence.
Everyone can do something — from participating in community defense to speaking out against China-bashing. Young activists of color are initiating actions to curb the violence, especially against seniors. When Jacob Azevedo put out the call for volunteers to escort seniors in Oakland’s Chinatown, hundreds responded. Compassion in Oakland was born and now has a second chapter in San Francisco’s Sunset District.
The National Comrades of Color Caucus of the Freedom Socialist Party and Radical Women wrote in response to the Atlanta murders and rising violence, “We can fight these assaults through solidarity from other communities of color and whites, and with militant Asian American leadership.” The statement “Stop Anti-Asian attacks with a multiracial community defense,” exhorts people to intervene when witnessing an attack or abuse. Document everything. Build multiracial alliances including a democratic union movement. (Read entire piece here.)
And, of course, politicians must be held accountable for instigating racist violence and scapegoating China and by extension the AAPI community.
International efforts. Workers in both countries can reach across the borders to make common cause. In China there have been over 470 strikes since November 2020. And in the U.S. in 2018 and 2019 a massive wave of strikes and work stoppages occurred. Low pay, high-priced housing, and a general struggle for survival — these are things workers are fighting around in both countries.
The historic legacy of violence against AAPI people in the U.S. is based on labor exploitation and keeping the most exploited divided from their natural allies. International solidarity among workers of all colors and nations is the best way to improve conditions for everyone.
The fight between global capitalists is not the working class’s fight. But the fight against the profiteers is.
The author’s family was interned during WWII. Send feedback to her at firstname.lastname@example.org.