Grassroots International
Home » News » Blog » Empire, Anti-Asian Violence and the Challenge of Democracy

Empire, Anti-Asian Violence and the Challenge of Democracy

I’m going to over-simplify the brilliant analysis of Soya Jung and Scot Nakagawa from ChangeLab, as well as Christine Ahn’s article in The Nation, into four words: It’s the Empire, stupid. Anti-Asian and misogynistic violence in the US has always had their roots in empire, land and labor as expressed in both domestic and foreign policy. What’s more, the two are interconnected and playing out from the streets of Atlanta to military bases in Korea.

In their article “Anti-Asian Violence in America is Rooted in US Empire,” Christine Ahn, Terry K Park and Kathleen Richards highlight the interconnectedness of anti-Asian violence and US foreign policies:

Anti-Asian violence through US foreign policy has manifested in the wars that have killed millions, torn families apart, and led to massive displacement; in the nuclear tests and chemical weapons storage that resulted in environmental contamination in Okinawa, Guam, and the Marshall Islands; in the widespread use of napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam, Laos, and Korea; in the US military bases that have destroyed villages and entire communities; in the violence perpetrated by US soldiers on Asian women’s bodies; and in the imposition of sanctions that result in economic, social, and physical harms to everyday people.

These things can’t happen without dehumanization, and this dynamic has had dire consequences for Asian Americans, especially women. Of the 3,800 hate incidents reported against Asian Americans last year, 70 percent were directed at women. Exoticized and fetishized Asian American women have borne a dual burden of both racism and sexism, viewed on one hand as submissive and sexually available “lotus blossoms” and on the other as manipulative and dangerous “dragon ladies.”

It is in this [global] context that anti-Asian violence in the United States has increased more than 150% in the last year. While Trump’s rhetoric during the pandemic encouraged haters to act out their violent impulses, those impulses have existed for centuries, built on a foundation of militarism, fetishism, exploitation and misogyny. 

Racialized capitalism is a global phenomenon that extends beyond the U.S. borders and history to include other regional power structures. The U.S. military presence in Korea, for example, builds on a foundation of Japanese empire and occupation. China and India play aggressive roles in grabbing land and labor elsewhere in the Asia Pacific region and globally. And Europe has a long colonial history throughout Asia, Africa and the Americas. Racism and power levers play out in complex, interwoven and persistent ways, historically and today. While not alone in the world, U.S. foreign and development policies seek to exploit land and labor to feed empire.

Grassroots International has signed on to statements in solidarity with impacted communities, and we continue to raise up voices of grassroots Asian communities working to address the root causes of white supremacy, violence and intimidation. White supremacy is weaponized in multiple ways, not just in the U.S. but also globally. 

In “A Different Asian American Timeline” ChangeLab visually shows that:

We cannot fully understand Asian American history without asking why Asians arrived in the Americas, and what relationship their arrival had to the global conditions affecting people across racial and national boundaries at the time… [R]ising forms of authoritarianism and nationalism… are the products of American empire, which has accumulated power and wealth for the few by producing and leveraging divisions among the many. True democracy will depend on our ability to imagine new ways of being that reject racial subjugation and supremacy in favor of ‘a new society based more on human values,’ as the great Grace Lee Boggs put it so well.

Or as Christine Ahn et al. say: “If we are to successfully stop anti-Asian hatred here in the United States, we must recognize how US foreign policy perpetuates it and end US militarism and wars throughout the Asia-Pacific region.”

In the wake of ongoing anti-Asian violence, and particularly after the shootings in Atlanta, solidarity voices have risen loudly and broadly, filling the streets and the media with calls for justice that reach beyond Atlanta, calling for an end to systems and structures that perpetuate violence.


Locations   |
Tags   |