To the Editor:
Just days after Martin Luther King Jr. Day, we stumbled upon an article titled “CSA leaders add their perspectives on diversity.” The presidents of the Chinese Student Association, Kevin Fan and Dan Wu, and co-director of Freshman Formation Program (a leadership/mentorship group under Asian Caucus), Andrew Chough, weighed in their thoughts on diversity.
Chough and Fan said they attended the “Silence is Still Violence” March. Fan expressed, “‘I felt like I should show support because they deserved it, but also because that movement benefits other minority groups.’”
Participating in a movement only because it’s palatable and popular is not activism; it is both reactionary and performative. Performative activism is being hyper-visible but empty of solidarity, intent, and impact. And it’s evident in the complacency and nonaction of the majority of AAPI on this campus.
It’s also opportunistic when non-Black minority groups claim victimhood and marginalization as an addendum, or an aside, to the real issue of anti-Black hate crimes when it’s convenient for the progressive rhetoric. We still seem to be unable to confront our own critical position of race and racism in America.
Finally, Chough said, “‘I don’t think [being angry] solves anything. Then it’s just toxicity on both sides and people being angry at each other.’” We can’t equate institutionalized racism with targets of racism and anti-Blackness. It is unfair to thrust the burden on Black and Brown people with fighting their own oppression.
AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) has a unique history of positionality of race in America but it also has a history of complacency in the oppression of our own people and of Black bodies. Anti-Blackness within the AAPI community is manifested through the inability to confront that unique role in relation to White-Black binary and partaking in the myth of model minority.
In “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Dr. King said those “more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice,” are those “who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice.” By suggesting that “‘we need to take a different approach,’” Chough misunderstands the purpose and impact of direct action.
We acknowledge that Fan and Chough’s words weren’t malicious but they still echo historical and ongoing anti-Black attitudes. It makes us weary that a co-director of a mentorship program for Asian and Asian American underclassmen and leaders of Chinese Student Association that foster a relatively big space for AAPI students are disingenuous and disconnected from the fight for justice and safety for Black students.
Michelle Yan, MCAS ‘20
Fidelia Ge, LSEHD ‘20