The start of February marks the beginning of “a time when the culture and contributions of African Americans take center stage”, as said by Robert Hughes for the Wall Street Journal. Black History Month signifies a focus on the experiences, values, and efforts of a race historically looked away from. With this shift comes a rise and opportunity in awareness for not only the Black community, but also other minority groups as well. The Asian community in particular has a rich history with Black Americans, and now more than ever do our two communities need to unite for common good in racial equality and societal peace. After all, this would not be the first time great strides have been made for both groups, nor will it be the last.
World War II saw political racial injustices come to fruition on a massive scale, particularly regarding Japanese Americans who were forced into concentration camps by the U.S. government. This targeted attack left shockwaves resonating through minority communities, including the Black community that saw the potential for unrightful internment of Black citizens as well. Thus, a surge of protest and initiative pushed back against the Emergency Detention Act, a law that gave the government the right to detain anyone who was deemed a threat to the nation. Japanese-Americans backed the movement for the law’s repeal, with figureheads like Ray Okamura working as chairman of an ad hoc committee for the Japanese American Citizens League, and the Asian American Political Alliance speaking out at public protests such as Black Panther Party rallies.
Established relations between the Asian and African continents sees precedence in the Bandung Conference, where collaboration between 29 countries saw the enhancement of cultural, political, and economic cooperation, with legacies that last to this day such as the Non-Aligned Movement and continued summits for Afro-Asian correspondence. Collaborations for African-Americans and Asian-Americans continued throughout the years; during the Vietnam War, Thich Nhat Hanh and Martin Luther King Jr’s famous friendship found both activists on common ground, standing up against racism, intolerance, and war. Their meetings, letters, and overall relationship proved a strong bond between two races, two countries, and the chance for other minorities to do the same.
Likewise, modern day alliances between Black and Asian Americans have withstood the test of time. Asian Americans for Black Lives, for example, works to advocate alongside Black communities and the Black Lives Matter movement to bring about meaningful change in tumultuous states and to abolish stereotypes such as the model minority myth that harm all societies. The amount of educational resources and activist initiatives grows every day, promoting conversations on the unique experiences of both parties while also enlightening those on the outside of the status and what to do to change it for the better. Deep-rooted problems such as systemic racism involve an arduous process of reparation and healthy evolution that only the combined efforts of Asian and Black Americans can harness to make the foundations of the country we share a safe and fair place.
With substantial progress in social and cultural equality comes significant challenges that present ripe opportunities for solidarity amongst communities no matter the race or background. There is still more work to be done, building upon the many years of turmoil, growth, and unity. From decades of struggle, decades of movement, for a future of harmony between Asian and Black Americans.
About The Author: Daniel is an ABC (American Born Chinese) and lives in Western New York. He currently attends Brown University concentrating in Computer Science and interns for CSEBRI.
Chang, Ailsa, NPR, 04/02/2021-
Lang, Cady, Time, 06/26/2020 –
Stanford Libraries – https://exhibits.stanford.edu/riseup/feature/asian-americans-and-african-americans-points-of-unity-and-discord
Office of the Historian – https://history.state.gov/milestones/1953-1960/bandung-conf
Greenburg, Jonathan D., USF Blogs: Fierce Urgency, 10/12/2021 – https://usfblogs.usfca.edu/fierce-urgency/2021/10/12/thich-nhat-hanh-and-dr-martin-luther-king-jr-spiritual-brothers-partners-in-nonviolence/
Hughes, Robert J., Wall Street Journal, 1/21/2000 –