Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are increasingly targets for violence and hatred. This is the direct result of anti-Asian and anti-China rhetoric spread by former President Donald Trump, his allies and the media, to distract from their failures to confront COVID-19.
John Rash's column "A cold start to Biden-era China relations" (March 27), which promotes a hard-line approach to China, unwittingly supports this and ignores our country's long history of anti-Asian sentiment.
Anti-Asian hate reports surged from nearly 3,800 to over 6,600 in March 2021 alone. We've witnessed repeatedly that elders, women and children in big cities are the hardest hit. These aren't just statistics. Right here on the east side of St. Paul, two months ago, a Hmong grandfather and veteran dropped off his grandson at the bus stop and encountered a woman berating Asian parents "to get out of America, or they'll be killed."
Anti-Asian hate is nothing new. It has historically been tied to U.S. involvement in Asia. From the United States' colonial war in the Philippines, through the American nuclear bombs dropped on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and the Korean and Vietnam Wars, the governing American political consensus has been to execute sustained violence to maintain power over people in Asia.
This bloody history was fed by racism that devalues Asian lives. It continues today, as powerful foreign policy decisionmakers from both parties position China as America's greatest 21st-century enemy.
Republicans, who are at ease selling-out their constituents, find it convenient to use China as a scapegoat. Many Democrats are too timid to fight for popular legislation that helps people. Instead, they use anti-China politics as a way to build bridges to the Right, much as an earlier generation sought to please Wall Street, causing the 2008 financial crash.
Anti-Asian rhetoric increases anti-Asian violence. Both are unacceptable and both must be stopped. Instead, let's listen to and act on what Asian Americans say they need to be safe and supported.
Elected officials tell us that they don't have the money to support people who are hurting most. This is a lie — perhaps the biggest we've been told by a system rooted in white supremacy. Our government spends an absurd amount of public dollars to police us with military hardware and tactics. This punishes the poor and leads to mass incarceration and tragic family separations.
Decisionmakers do all of this without asking us what we need. They say more police will make us safe, but it does nothing to end the tide of anti-Asian or anti-Black hate, which caused a police officer to murder George Floyd in May 2020, and another to gun down Daunte Wright just a year later. We're proud that Minnesotans united, fought back and sparked thousands of people-led protests throughout this country to demand racial justice and an end to police brutality.
Justice Is Global, a project of People's Action, presents another way. The majority of people around the world face shared challenges: the pandemic, the climate crisis, global poverty, and rising authoritarianism and nationalism. We can meet these shared challenges only through international cooperation, working together to build a more just and sustainable world that creates shared prosperity. We can confront the climate crisis and create millions of good green jobs worldwide if China and America work together to build a new global clean energy economy.
Rash's piece acknowledges this, but we must make meeting shared challenges a centerpiece of our foreign policy, not a footnote. As we rise to meet challenges together, we must raise the bar everywhere on human rights and labor, and this includes China. We have a greater chance of making progress when we set that moral example at home.
Foreign policy that targets Asian people and countries as the enemy will not make any of us safer. To combat anti-Asian hate we need leaders from Washington, D.C., to St. Paul to lift up global justice, not endless competition and a new cold war.
Violence and militarization do not advance the well-being of people in America and in Asia. Collaboration anchored in human rights will.
Nelsie Yang is a member of the St. Paul City Council. Tobita Chow is director, Justice is Global.