Processing in the Narrow Place - Reflections and Moving Forward

Last week, DJJ and Repair the World Detroit held space to process the recent acts of white supremacy and anti-AAPI violence in Atlanta, New York, and elsewhere. Anti-Asian hate is not a new phenomenon; yet, many non-AAPI folks (myself included) even in progressive spaces lack an appropriate understanding of the issues Asian-Americans are facing in the world. As we came together to engage in collective learning during the week of Passover, we thus challenged ourselves to consider all the things that -- lo dayenu -- have not yet been enough.

We learned from Soh Suzuki, a local Asian-American artist, educator, and comrade, about where Detroit falls in the history of anti-Asian racism. Soh shared with us the horrific story of the murder of Vincent Chin, who was killed by an unemployed auto worker who believed Chin, a Chinese-American Detroiter, was to blame for the downfall of the Michigan car industry vis-à-vis Japan. The horrific murder of Vincent Chin, and how little many of us had known about it prior to learning about it from Soh, made me reflect on the work that we do as DJJ. The kind of hatred that spurred the murder of Vincent Chin did not come out of nowhere, and it’d be too easy to condemn this crime without challenging ourselves to explore the roots of the issue. To me, the murder of Vincent Chin is a product of capitalism and white supremacy and should be understood as such. The economic deprivation working class folks are facing due to capitalist exploitation is real, and ought to be overcome. Vincent Chin was murdered because white supremacist ideologies veiled the true cause of the economic deprivation Vincent Chin’s murderers and other white working class folks experience.

Instead of blaming corporate greed, automation, and globalization for the decrease in auto-worker jobs and the socioeconomic implications thereof, the system of racialized capitalism turned Asian-Americans like Vincent Chin into scapegoats. So where do we, as DJJ, go from here? One thing a DJJnik brought up at the event that stuck with me is that Jews both benefit from and are the subject to systems of oppression. While it’s important to work against systems of oppression that actively marginalize us, it is equally important to dismantle oppressive systems that award us privileges. We ought to educate ourselves and our communities on the various systems of oppression that we live with, and highlight the intersections thereof wherever we can. We can truly create change when a critical mass understands that racial minorities, immigrants, or exploited workers in the US and abroad are not to blame for the scarcity and violence that capitalism brings upon our society. Moreover, we have to continue building relationships across communities and continue fostering a mutual understanding that collective liberation is the only way forward. 

In addition to these bigger picture goals, it is crucial that we also engage in tangible action immediately. Sign this letter to hold our elected officials accountable and tell State Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey that his racist rhetoric about COVID-19 is dangerous and unacceptable! Sign up for a bystander intervention training to stop anti-Asian-American harassment and xenophobia led by Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) and Hollaback! Also, check out this resource compilation from AAJC and identify three action steps you can take right now. Lastly, if you’d like to be involved in JOC power-building, contact Kendra ([email protected]).

At the end of the day, we have to acknowledge that none of us have all the answers. After writing this blog post, I’m sitting with some burning questions. Is it our responsibility to engage in the emotionally-fraught work to call-in the members of our own communities who continue to use racist and xenophobic rhetoric? If we don’t, are we genuinely doing our part toward building for collective liberation? But if we do, how do we keep ourselves safe in the process? How do we overcome the misleading machinations of white supremacy to build true multiracial and cross-class solidarity? If you have thoughts on any of the things I shared in this blog post, please feel free to reach out to me ([email protected]) and we can talk about these things over a virtual coffee date.

Always in solidarity,


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