The Missing History of Asian America
Kai Wright: This is the United States of Anxiety, a show about the unfinished business of our history and its grip on our future.
Evan Low: I always thought to myself, a significant fear that one day, we too would be marching for Asian Pacific Islander lives.
Daniel Wu: Every attack I see, I think about my mother, my grandmother, and my father.
Patricia Liu: To want to tune out any parts of history that don't have precisely to do with us, I feel is a very understandable thing from an emotional perspective, but it's an incredibly dangerous thing.
Protesters: What do we want?
Protesters: When we want it?
George Takei: Overnight this country was swept up by suspicion and fear and naked outright hatred. We had nothing to do with Pearl Harbor.
Daniel Dae Kim: I think the Asian American community has united in a way behind this that I've never seen before.
Jeannie Mai: So now to come here and not be able to trust the government or the police that are mishandling the situation is just overall traumatizing.
Kai Wright: Welcome to the show. I'm Kai Wright. We now know all of their names, Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Daoyou Feng, and Yong Ae Yue. Eight people killed in and around Atlanta, in yet another act of white violence.
Seven of the victims were women and six of them were Korean and Chinese Americans. I've had a lot of conversations about this violence over the past week, and I'm stuck on a couple of themes that just keeps coming up. The first is just how depressingly predictable the whole thing was, in part because we've all become so accustomed to breaking news about men with guns killing strangers they don't like for all kinds of reasons but also because for more than a year, Asian Americans all over the country have been saying, "Hey, we don't feel safe, there's a problem here. Pay attention."
Which leads me to the second theme that I keep coming upon. So many people can't seem to wrap their heads around this particular brand of American racism. Yes, it's easy and appropriate to drag the police deputy in Cherokee County, who blamed the violence on the shooter's "bad day" but if we are honest, a whole lot more people, including people who consider themselves more woke than the next have struggled to hear the Asian American community. That's been true for a long time, and it's only to all kinds of confusion and complexity around where Asian Americans sit in this country's maddening racial caste system.
We're going to try to untangle some of this at least on this week's show, and we're going to start with history. I'm joined first by Helen Zia. She's an activist, former journalist, and author of a few histories of the Asian American experience. Her award-winning book, Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People, detailed the development of Asian Americans, which the fastest growing population in the United States, by the way, as a self-identified racial group. She's been among those who have been ringing alarm bells about anti-Asian violence over the past year, and for much longer than that actually. Helen, thanks for joining us.
Helen Zia: Thanks for having me, Kai.
Kai Wright: You wrote an op-ed in the Washington Post last April, almost a year ago now, that said this moment was coming. You said it felt a lot like the early 1980s. Can you take us back to that time, the early 1980s? What was it about that that was similar to now?
Helen Zia: In the 1980s, actually, that story begins in the 1970s because America was in a series of economic crises. They were oil crises, where there was an oil embargo against the United States, and gas prices and oil prices just shot up. People couldn't afford to drive their cars anymore. There are American-made dinosaur cars that got maybe seven, or eight, or nine miles a gallon.
Hard to imagine today, but gas was so plentiful and cheap that those cars were adding to the fossil fuel crisis. Then when people couldn't afford to drive them anymore, the whole manufacturing sector of America tanked. We were in a recession throughout the country and a severe depression in the Midwest. I was in Detroit then, I had been an autoworker myself, and got laid off during that crisis. People were suffering. These were very steady jobs, high-paying blue-collar jobs that people wanted to have.
When the auto industry collapse, people who had 30 or more years of work in this industry suddenly had no future at all. Not just them, but their kids who they had hoped to get into that industry as well. What we had was a country that was suffering, a region that was suffering. Initially, people were pointing fingers, the UAW, the workers blamed the companies, the companies blamed the workers. It just went on and on until there was a kind of an aha moment, let's blame Japan. Japan is at fault for America's problems, because they could make fuel-efficient cars, and therefore, Japan was the enemy.
It was like an echo chamber across the country where there was so much hatred that was viewed. Let's send another atomic bomb against Japan, let's get the enemy, let's eliminate the enemy. What do you do when there's an enemy and an existential threat? You kill them, and that was repeated over and over again about Japan. Anybody who looked Japanese had a target on their heads. Until one day, a Chinese American named Vincent Chin was out celebrating his upcoming wedding that week, and two white autoworkers saw him and said, "It's because of you mother S that we're out of work." A fight ensued, and the two white autoworkers stalked him through the streets of Detroit, found him, and beat his brains into the streets.
That would have been bad enough, except that those two white autoworkers were sentenced to probation for killing a Chinese American in an intense climate of hate. A big National Civil Rights Movement, led by Asian Americans with Detroit has its improbable epicenter emerged out of that, where Asian Americans came together and came together with Black, white, brown, Latinx, every walk of life, every faith there is, came together to fight that injustice, and about that hate crime. If we fast forward to today, I have to say that the climate we're in today is remarkably similar to 1982 when Vincent Chin was killed.
Kai Wright: Why is that? What is similar about it?
Helen Zia: Well, instead of blaming Japan, now China is to blame for everything that's going wrong in America. Not only that, we have a pandemic, we all are living in fear of catching this virus, most of us are one degree of separation or less from somebody who has become very sick or even died. There's that terrible pain, and we're in an economic crisis, a global crisis this time, where I haven't heard any economist actually predict a very well when the light at the end of the tunnel might come. People are suffering, people are severely in need. Right now is a lot like the 1980s, except I have to say worse.
Vincent Chin was killed in the third year of that economic crisis. We're just at the beginning of this one. As you said in your lead-in, many of us looked at what happened not only to Vincent Chin but really, throughout the whole history of Asians in America, where we have been the scapegoat for almost every economic crisis.
There have been massacres and lynchings and mass killings and injustices where nobody was ever punished for those things, and then in the 1980s, we saw it again, and here we are. As you pointed out a year ago, many of us were looking at this today and saying, "It's going to get worse." Some of us even voiced that what happened in Atlanta could happen, so here we are at our worst nightmare.
Kai Wright: Yes. I also said in my opening that I've had a lot of conversations with well-meaning people who have struggled to understand this. That's another pattern I gather people across the spectrum struggled to even hear that Asian Americans were at risk at that moment.
Helen Zia: Oh, absolutely. The other part about being Asian in America is being like the invisible people. We're trotted out when it's convenient, trotted out to be scapegoated and blamed, or to be accused of being the foreign invader, the perpetual alien, or to be the interloper and the wedge to attack other people of color, to be used against Black people. That's something-- The quote, model minority racist myth that exists that says, "Well, why complain about race? Look at Asian Americans, they're doing so well." When in fact, that's not even true.
Those falsehoods about who Asian Americans are, come out when it's convenient, and the rest of the time, it's that we're invisible. It's hard for people to wrap their heads around the fact that Asian Americans have been experiencing racism from time immemorial on this continent. That's part of the systemic racism of America. When we talk about systems of oppression that need to change, Asian Americans fit into that but because we've been rendered so invisible, even our allies, even fellow progressives, sometimes they're shocked and it's like, "Oh, you experienced racism, or now you know what racism is like." All we can do is look and say, "No, we know what it's like." Atlanta is a wake-up call, not so much for Asian Americans but really a wake up call for the rest of America.
Kai Wright: I'm going to ask you about some of the longer history you talked about but first, we do need to spend a minute on the tension between Black and Asian communities that you raised. It's flared up in particular, in the Bay Area, it seems like in this past year, because some of the assailants are reportedly Black men. How do you think about this dynamic? There is a very real and present anti-Black sentiment in some Asian communities and vice versa that feels like it's showing up in this moment. How do you think about this?
Helen Zia: Well, it's not surprising, the friction between people who were at the bottom of the scales. I just look at what's happening now and the attention that it got even before Atlanta, as part of people who are the most vulnerable in society attacking each other, and because they are in pain because they're not getting the real resources and needs met by our government, what do they do, they lash out at each other. That is where I put the anti-Blackness in the Asian American community, as well as the anti-Asian-ness and in the Black community. I have to say, it has not always been that way.
This past election cycle, and even before then there's been so much talk about the divisiveness that America has become but part of that includes pitting people against each other. As I was saying earlier, that's part of the role that Asian Americans have been relegated to. This idea that Asian Americans are doing so much better than Black Americans is something that is-- It's complicated. There's a lot to say about that but there's a lot of poverty in Asian American communities. In New York, in New York City, Asian Americans have among the highest poverty rate. What you have are people in great need, who are then fighting each other.
What happens in systems of oppression is if you can get the people to fight each other and be divided, they're not going to be able to unite, not going to be able to come together and fight for really their common needs. I think in the big picture, that's what's going on. On the ground, it's that there is so much lack of information about each other, so much ignorance within the Asian community about the Civil Rights and the history of what Black people have gone through. Within the Black community, there's not a lot of knowledge about Asian Americans, actually, within all America there's not a lot of-- I call it missing in history or MIH.
Kai Wright: There's is an enormous amount of history that I have only recently learned myself some from reading your work. We don't have a ton of time, but I want to walk through some of it. In particular, the data that's emerged about the anti-Asia harassment and attacks now from the Stop AAPI Hate Coalition, it suggests that it's a disproportionate number have been targeted women and certainly, that's what we saw in Atlanta. There's a history there too about the overlap between misogyny and anti-Asian ideas. Can you talk us about some of that history?
Helen Zia: Well, certainly, just watching the sheriffs in Atlanta say, "Well, it can't be related to racism, because it was women being attacked, and sex addiction and all that stuff." As though one can separate out the gender, and race, and other things that make us human. One of the ways that racism works against any group includes the sexualization of women, and for Asian American women, what that means is being both seen as this exotic sexual object, as well as being passive and submissive, and in many ways that makes Asian Americans a prime target for predators. Because the racist and misogynistic view of Asian Americans is to be a prime victim not fighting back and desirable.
As you pointed out, the Stop AAPI Hate has recorded two the one, that the people being attacked in the self-reported hate incidents and hate crimes are women. That goes back to the thing about people who are vulnerable, or who are seen as vulnerable, Asian American women, Asian American seniors, and elders, Asian American children are being specifically targeted, children who are being harassed by adults. A lot of Asian American parents and families are really terrified of what's going to happen when schools open up, and their kids have to get to school and then be in school but as you were saying, the way Asian American women are viewed, is part of a racial construction, that includes gender.
Kai Wright: What about the Chinese Exclusion Act? Can you just give-- Because, again, the things that we don't know, we could fill this whole hour with, but this is one particular piece of history that, that I'm noticing a lot of people don't know as this story has unfolded. Can you just give us a quick primer on what the Chinese Exclusion Act was?
Helen Zia: Oh, sure the Chinese Exclusion Act 1882 was the culmination of a federal barring of Chinese immigrants to ever become, first of all, to come here to North America, to begin with, but then to ever become citizens. I say it's the culmination because there was a whole period of ethnic cleansing, of trying to eliminate first Chinese but then that was extended to every people from Asia, anywhere in America. There were Chinatown's if you can imagine the state of Idaho at one point had more Chinese than any other race or ethnicity. What happened to them?
Well, they were eliminated. Many were killed, many were chased out, it was part of the great driving out, it's called of Chinese from America and that was locked into law. By the way, Asian American, Chinese American women were the first ones targeted, who were to be not permitted into America but that was followed up by the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was then repeated, renewed over time, and then included anybody from Japan, anybody from India, anybody from the Philippines, and so forth until it became anybody from Asia. What that meant was from those times on into the 20th century, people from Asia could not become naturalized citizens, if they could not become citizens, they could not vote, they could not run for office, they could not participate in this democracy.
When people say, "Oh, those Asian people that culturally they don't want to get involved." That's just so not true. It's that because of then, Asian Americans were barred from becoming involved. What people don't know is that there were so many Asian Americans who fought against all of this. The right to become an American by birthright was from a Chinese American Wong Kim Ark, who fought that Chinese Exclusion at all the way to the Supreme Court. Because of him in the 1800s, every immigrant who came from America except from Asia since that time could become an American citizen by birthright. We owe that to these Asian Americans and all of that is missing in history.
Kai Wright: We have to leave it here but say his name one more time, Helen.
Helen Zia: His name is Wong Kim Ark and every immigrant can thank him for the citizenship of their children in America.
Kai Wright: Which means pretty much all of us. Helen Zia is an activist and author of the award-winning book, Asian American Dreams, The Emergence of an American People, among others. Her latest book published last spring is Last Boat Out of Shanghai: The Epic Story of the Chinese Who Fled Mao's Revolution. Thanks so much, Helen.
Helen Zia: Sure. Thank you for having me, Kai.
Kai Wright: Coming up, we turn from the past to the present. The data on anti-Asian attacks over the past year suggests that New York City has been the undisputed epicenter. Arun Venugopal from WNYC is Race and Justice unit will share his reporting on how this fact has landed in the community and we will take your calls. I'm Kai Wright. This is the United States of Anxiety.
Kai Wright: Welcome back. This is the United States of Anxiety. I'm Kai Wright. We've been talking about the history of anti-Asian violence in America leading up to the horrific attack in Atlanta. Now, we're going to talk about what's been happening over the past year, particularly here in New York City, which has been the epicenter of these attacks, at least according to the data that's emerging. I'm joined by Arun Venugopal from WNYC's Race and Justice unit. Hey, Arun.
Arun Venugopal: Hi, Kai.
Kai Wright: Arun, I want to ask about you. You've been reporting on how Asian American communities here and around the country are dealing with this harassment and violence. I have talked on the show about the emotional toll of covering anti-Black violence, and I just wonder how you're doing right now.
Arun Venugopal: Kai, well, thanks for asking. I got to say, this week has been unlike anything in the entire pandemic. We've been through this for a year now and I think, I got the impression. I was like, "All right. You're in a routine. You're in a groove. It's not great but it is what it is." Then when this happened, I guess it really hit me in a way that I was not really expecting. I think just talking to people who are Asian American, or who are East Asian American who are feeling this the most directly, who are really, I guess, terrified. They're grieving. I don't know. It feels like this has just gone to a whole new level entirely and it's scary. It's very depressing.
Today I went to a rally. It's sunny today in New York City, it's a beautiful day. Thousands are people coming. After a few days of feeling the way I've been feeling, it was nice to see people coming out and to re-recognize what the city is like, that people will come out, show up. It's a moving target. I don't know where this is headed. We are going to go back to this scary incident but at least for today, there was a little moment of feeling like, "Oh, this is what the city can be."
Kai Wright: Arun, help us understand the details of the violence we've seen. First off, as I said, New York City seems to be an epicenter, at least from the anecdotal reports. Is that what you found as well and if so, why?
Arun Venugopal: Well, yes. This is really in some ways catching a lot of us off guard because we have this sense that New York is a safe place for people of whatever background. This is a place where people come to be among others who are like them. The fact that a lot of these incidents of racial hatred and the less obvious ones, the ones that you hear when you talk to enough people who are in the community, where it's like, the microaggressions and things don't rise to the level of where police are called, which don't necessarily arise to the level of obvious violence but are humiliating or violent in their own way.
A lot of these things are happening in Asian majority neighborhoods, like Flushing, Queens, like Manhattan Chinatown. People who are committing these acts, the understanding is that they're coming to these communities partly because they can easily find Asian Americans. That is the sense, the perception that Asian Americans themselves have is that they're seen as easy targets and that these acts of whether it's just humiliation, or people being spat upon or being stabbed very violent instance, they're often happening in these places.
It's definitely objectively higher than it is in many cities. The number of hate incidents alone went from three in 2019 to 28 last year in New York City, a very sharp increase. I think it's like 833% if you're going to measure it that way. It's much greater than what you're seeing in many other cities. A lot of people are just really worried right now. They're scared. They're not stepping out of their homes.
Kai Wright: I mentioned earlier that I found a lot of people have trouble taking this seriously or wrapping their head around it. We already got one caller from a whitelist, or who we're not going to put on because we specifically asked for Asian American listeners in this moment. They asked, is this primarily about racism, or is it really about guns and shaming of sexuality? Why do people want to jump to the race issue? Let's start with that. That's a common sentiment. Start with that in terms of how much are you hearing that and how do you respond to it?
Arun Venugopal: I think that's not just happening with the people who are calling into this show. It's happening with very prominent, national pundits, commentators who are asking the same questions, and they're as they see it, I suppose, pushing back on the narrative. They think some segments in the media, and I suppose the Asian American community leaders themselves are jumping the gun on this. I see it personally as something that's being done in bad faith, often. I think that the real question in the wake of incidents of what we saw in Georgia is not simply what is in the mind of the assailant.
Listen, we're journalists, we know that stories have different dimensions to it. I think really, the first question is, how does this impact Asian Americans who are just feeling besieged across the country? It's a terrifying moment. When I see people trying to put the emphasis on that, where that's their front foot, I definitely think I'm just very cynical about those things and I think it's not done in good faith.
Kai Wright: Well, what about those where it is done in good faith though? I think how Zia and I talked about some of the tensions between communities of color in particular and how in the Black community, it can be difficult to get people to pay attention to anti-Asian violence and there is anti-Blackness amongst Asians. How much have you seen here in the city, at least the tensions between the communities? We have a pre-dating debate here in the city because of schools and the effort to change admissions policies that has led to a fight between Asian American communities and Black communities in the city as it is. How much have you seen that come up?
Arun Venugopal: Well, certainly, this is something that you hear a lot among organizers and at rallies, like the one I attended today in Manhattan Chinatown, which there must have been 3,000, 4,000 people who came, a very well attended rally. That was definitely one of the main points that was made over and over again, both by Asian American speakers and attendees and in the signs that people were holding the crowd, as well as by African American speakers and attendees.
I think there is a real grappling with this issue is how do you both show up for victims and communities who are feeling besieged right now, as well as how do you forge the ties that are necessary to overcome these very real and substantive, and thorny debates, whether it is with schooling, access to schooling, or with other areas, in which the communities are fighting it out? I got to tell you, Kai, I watched the other day, these congressional hearings that happened. They were planned before the attacks, but played out actually, just two days after the attacks took place, and it was fascinating because a lot of speakers who are Asian American, both congressional leaders and otherwise.
There was such a sharp divide between the Democrats, of course, who are trying to give history lessons and, talk about how deeply rooted anti-Asian sentiment is in this country. Similar to what Helen was talking about just now on the show. Then you saw the Republican response, which, beginning with the first speaker, Representative Chip Roy but then also continuing with Asian American members of Congress who are Republicans, they were really trying to get away from the issue of violence. They were stressing things like access to LE colleges access to schools, framing this as actually the real problem is that Asian Americans are being discriminated against when it comes to schooling. It was both striking to me in terms of how much they did not want to talk about the violence, because obviously, this gets tied into language of xenophobia, but then also, into this issue of the real violence is, a Republican talking point, it's about affirmative action or the problem with that. It was dispiriting because they were completely not trying to address the problem at hand.
Kai Wright: Let's hear from Ben. Ben, welcome to the show.
Ben: Thanks, guy. Thanks for having me on. I just wanted to comment on your two-part, question. I actually got to give the media some credit here, for finally giving some light to Asian American history. Even just your last interview, learning about Wong Kim Ark, for instance, I think that's just amazing the impact that a Chinese American has been able to provide for all of the immigrants. As an Asian-American kid growing up, you're a proud American, but I don't hear too much about my history and impact the Asian Americans have had. I think it's been great listening to that.
Your second part, as far as any positives, or anything that-- I've always been involved, as far as the community goes but never so much, where more recently, in the last year, I've been working with my company to bring about more of inequalities and workplaces and systemic racism. This is like your typical Fortune 500 marketing agency but just to show allyship for Black Lives Matter and the horrible things that have been happening this past year, I think that's really brought together more of a sense of community, to some of my peers.
Kai Wright: Ben, can I ask you, for yourself, has this past year changed anything for you in terms of your political identity around being Asian-American, I guess is the best way I can put it? Has anything shifted for you in that regard as a consequence of this?
Ben: I don't think anything has changed as far as expectations of how society views me. Unfortunately, I've always had to stand up for the fact that I am American and I've had to explain to people why I'm American. Honestly, it has made me more cynical. I think it's been a horrible reckoning of where we are as a country and how much more work we have to do to really work together to become one nation really.
Kai Wright: Thanks for calling Ben. I'm talking to Arun Venugopal of WNYC's Race and Justice unit about the recent surge in anti-Asian violence, particularly here in New York City, which has been an epicenter and we are taking calls from our Asian American listeners. This is the United States of Anxiety. I'm Kai Wright. We'll be right back.
Kai Wright: Hey, your program note, just a reminder to always check your episode notes for our recommended companion listening for any episode. This week, go check it out for a conversation with Arun from some of his previous reporting on Asian Americans as a model minority, and the violence directed to them. That's there in your show notes and you can always find that and other recommendations every week. Check it out. I hope you'll enjoy.
Kai Wright: Welcome back. This is the United States of Anxiety. I'm Kai Wright. I'm joined by Arun Venugopal senior reporter in WNYC's race and justice unit and a general friend of the show. We've been talking about the history of anti-Asian violence in America leading up to the horrific attack in Atlanta. Arun, I want to go back to the caller we had just before the break talked about history. I want to bring a little bit of that back into the conversation. I'm going to play you something that historian Beth Lew Williams said to me earlier this week. I was hosting The Takeaway, another WNYC show. I asked her why so few people know any of the history of anti-Asian violence that Helen Zia was describing. Here's what Beth Lew Williams said to me.
Beth Lew Williams: A lot of this violence was effective, unfortunately. It did something. When it comes to the 19th century, a lot of that violence pushed people out of communities. I studied how groups expelled large numbers of Chinese immigrants out of more than 165 communities across the American West. These expulsions erased that history effectively. This violence is tied to that outsider status.
Kai Wright: What do you think about that Arun that the violence worked and erased these communities. I wonder about that in the current context. Can we think of this harassment and violence as having a purpose now and if so, what is that?
Arun Venugopal: Yes, that's such a great question. I think that it certainly creates an awareness among entirely new generations of people but it also often introduces them to people who've been trying to shepherd that history, who might have been doing the work, out of view of say, younger or less, historically informed Americans. One thing that I was thinking of when you were playing that tape was the last time a Congress had hearings like this was in 1987, which was mentioned at the beginning of these congressional hearings a few days ago.
One thing that was brought up was not only the killing of Vincent Chin, which had happened four or five years earlier but also the fact that right in that same year, 1987, there were Indian Americans who were being killed and attacked in New Jersey. There was this whole phenomenon called the Dotbusters. I think for a certain generation of Indian American, that's familiar history, but so many people in the Indian community arrived, the vast majority of the population arrived after those incidents. The work is challenging because you have to keep on reintroducing the stuff.
To some extent, I think part of the challenge of say, model minority framing is that you can either not really feel connected to those histories of violence and marginalization or you just discount it. That's something that happened back then. I think it's part of the challenge, not only of resurrecting the history but also say like, how does that history that affects us, as say Indians? How does that bring us closer to say, Asian Americans during the pandemic? That's the work that organizers are constantly doing is to keep on resurrecting history and try to amplify it, hopefully using people who are in the community and have say, bigger platforms nationally.
Kai Wright: Well, in that context, you and I have talked on the show previously about the shifting political consciousness amongst South Asians in particular. In this moment, it seems like we're talking mostly about East Asians, in terms of being targeted. I wonder in your reporting if you have seen any similar shifting in political consciousness in any direction?
Arun Venugopal: In the East Asian community?
Kai Wright: Yes.
Arun Venugopal: Right now, it's so anecdotal at this point. I haven't seen anything that is statistical if you will. I think definitely, there was something that someone sent me a couple of days ago, it was remarks by someone who was on the cast of that show of Riverdale, which some people might have heard or have watch, which I think is like, an Archie Comics come to soap opera form or whatever. He's Asian American and he wrote this very powerful account, saying, for years, I distanced myself from my identity and this history because it was embarrassing to be associated with something that was made fun of.
When people made fun of the smell of my home and the cuisine or certain name, that kind of thing, the language. You realized, after this, that there was just no going back to that because you realized distancing yourself from your history only serves a certain short-term goal. The long term is you have to address the history, you have to own it and you have to hold it up before the histories of other communities if you want to understand where you stand in relation to one another, and perhaps how you can find commonality in the face of something like white supremacy.
Kai Wright: Let's go to Muhammed on line one. Muhammed, welcome to the show.
Muhammed: Hello. Thank you so much for taking my call. I'm calling from Queens. I belong to Queens, New York. I am originally from Pakistan from the north, from the Himalayan Mountains. First of all, I want to thank you, the media to paying attention on Asian American identity, and also paying attention towards the history of any contribution but I'm also very sorry, what happened in Atlanta City. I think that if we have done much of education and understanding and we have paid attention over years, we could not have seen such horrible experience and I see that I could be-- it rises the fear of being Asian here in the world's most diverse city in New York. It could be someone else, it could be me, it could be anyone else. We should not give any space for hate against any group.
Kai Wright: Muhammad can I ask you for yourself, as you say being in the most diverse city in Queens, the most diverse county in the country, have you changed in any way over the past year in terms of what you're building and your connection to community as a consequence of this?
Muhammad: Yes, I've seen a lot of the-- seeing the rise in the hate. Personally, I feel more insecure. Unfortunately, I didn't experience personal attack on this side because we see 100% rise in the hate crimes against Asians so that's so much to think about and so much to pay attention at educational level and communal and policy level.
Kai Wright: Thank you Muhammad for calling in. Let's go to Julie in Sunnyside Queens. Julie welcome to the show.
Julie: Hello, my name is Julie Won and I'm a City Council candidate in Sunnyside for District 26 that's Long Island City, Sunnyside, Westside, and Astoria and I wanted to call in about some of the heartbreaking moments that we've had as a nation as well as what it's been like to organize the last few years throughout the last presidential cycle because it's definitely the rhetoric that we've seen nationally has increased the tolerance as well as it seems like people are more brave in ways that they should not be to say a lot of hate speech and to behave in ways that are not acceptable in any shape or form when it comes to violence not just towards Asian Americans but towards Black and brown folks as well.
Kai Wright: Thank you Julie and good luck on your campaign. Let's go to Henry in Englewood, New Jersey. Henry welcome to the show.
Henry: Yes definitely. Thank you for picking my call. I guess I have a lot to relate, but I first thank you both for actually taking a moment and reflect Asian American history. Actually I personal hear the story of Mr. Wong the Supreme case from Corey Johnson in Chinatown during the 150 years anniversary of the cross-country railroad worker who actually built and connect the cross-country railroad. In term of the crime in Atlanta, I have two I think profound feeling after observing US politics society for about 25 years never after a massacre, law enforcement was trying to pardon a suspect like this time. This is really shocking but let me get to my question. The question is what can Asian American, particularly Chinese Americans, can learn from the history and deal with the great crisis of the moment especially with the clash of Titans between China and US?
Kai Wright: Thank you, Henry. Arun, to that general question what can we take from all of this history to move us forward?
Arun Venugopal: Yes, one thing that we as journalists, as historians, as storytellers often emphasize is the long history of vilifying Asian Americans. The other flip side is that why are some Asian Americans valorized? That is relatively more recent history. We're talking about postwar and it has a lot to do with courting Asian countries. Both things, vilifying and courting, valorizing them they have the effect of tying Asian American lives to Asian nations and it's an extractive very mercenary approach to Asian Americans because it's using them as proxies for larger geopolitical interests and all that kind of stuff and that's what we're seeing is that both in the way that we hold up Asian Americans better than other people say better than Black lives as well as the fact that this discourse around attaching what happens in China to someone who's in Chinatown here in New York City, both of these things are deeply problematic and we have to hold up that history to understand how Asian Americans have been manipulated by nationalism and larger things and take that apart.
Kai Wright: Arun Venugopal is senior reporter in WNYC's Race and Justice Unit. He was one of the founders of this show back in 2016. Arun, thanks for coming.
Arun Venugopal: Thanks, Kai.
Kai Wright: The United States of Anxiety is a production of WNYC Studios. Joe Plourde mixed the podcast version, Kevin Bristow and Matthew Marando were at the boards for the live show. Our team also includes Carolyn Adams, Emily Botein, Jenny Casas, Karen Frillmann, and Christopher Werth. Our theme music was written by Hannis Brown and performed by the Outer Borough Brass Band. Veralyn Williams is our executive producer and I am Kai Wright. You can keep in touch with me on Twitter @Kai_Wright and of course, I hope you'll join us for the live show next Sunday, 6:00 PM Eastern. Stream it at wnyc.org or tell your smart speaker to play WNYC. Till then, thanks for listening, take care of yourselves, enjoy this break.
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