FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 2, 2020
The Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago Stands in Solidarity with George Floyd’s Family and the Larger African American Community
The Asian American Bar Association of Greater Chicago (AABA) is deeply saddened by George Floyd’s death. We mourn his loss, and our hearts go out to his family.
Across the nation, we hear cries of grief and frustration. As protests rise up in so many cities, we see Americans of all colors chanting “Black Lives Matter” and “I can’t breathe.” We feel the anguish in the eyes of those holding up signs that read, “My skin is not a weapon,” and “Why are you so afraid of me?” Like many in this country, we are greatly disturbed by the circumstances of Floyd’s death. While we often use our voices to advocate for the Asian American community, the current situation calls on us to stand with the African American community, and thus, we direct our voice inwards to our Asian American community.
Over fifty years ago, Martin Luther King, Jr. said, “America can and should be […] a moral power, a power harnessed to the service of peace and human beings, not an inhumane power unleashed against defenseless people.” These words still ring true, as violence is wielded to oppress unarmed Black Americans today. Yet, in that speech, MLK was not giving voice to Africans Americans. He was speaking on behalf of Asian victims of the Vietnam War. Despite the unpopularity of his position at the time, with many of his allies pleading that he not take away the spotlight on the fight for the lives and rights of Black Americans, he stated that his conscience left him no choice but to stand with victims of the war. A few years earlier, MLK had written the famous phrase in his letter from Birmingham Jail, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” He took his own message to heart and stood up for Asians with whom he shared little other than the lived experience of pain, suffering, and oppression.
We at AABA take this message to heart, too, and we call on the broader Asian American community to do the same. Now is not a time to hunker down in our bunkers, let alone incite violence as the President has done. Rather, it is time to stand in solidarity with the African American community, to mourn together, and to rise together.
We understand that the Asian American community is hurting right now. The rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic from the highest position of this country has empowered many to treat Asian Americans as scapegoats for the fears, anxieties, and uncertainties of a worldwide health crisis. But, we must recognize that the African American community has been hit hard in the past several months as well. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor are exhibits on a long list of evidence of an unjust system of policing and the use of violence to oppress African Americans in this country. And while the rhetoric around the COVID-19 pandemic has recently been weaponized to oppress Asian Americans, the pandemic has actually killed African Americans at a higher rate than any other group, almost three times the rate of White Americans.
While we as Asian Americans struggle with our current reality—living in fear of harassment and violence in public spaces—we must recognize that this struggle has been a constant reality for Black Americans in this country. Due to the increased hostility toward our community, some of us might argue that this is a time to keep our heads down and to stick with our own. Some of us might propose that this is a time to work harder to show our American-ness. Yet, at AABA, we recognize that racism is wrong, and a system that perpetuates racism is broken and must be fixed. Hate takes on many forms and shades. No matter how hard we work to show that we should not be hated, it is a disease that constantly adapts to the situation to infect us. Instead of focusing on how we can change ourselves to fit in, we should center our discussion on how we fit into the work needed to make change.
We recognize that our fight to advocate for Asian Americans is inextricably linked to the great struggle against racism in this country. If we want to no longer be treated as perpetual strangers in this country, then we must work with our natural allies—the African American community, the Latinx community, and others who have been marginalized—to push for antiracist policies and to shape this country into one that welcomes people of all colors. Remember Vincent Chin. Remember Fred Korematsu. The Asian American community has a long history of fighting against racism in this country, and it is time that we are again at the forefront of that fight.
We hope that the whole Asian American community will join us in standing in solidarity with the African American community and saying: You are not alone. Your tears are our tears. Your freedom is our freedom. Your fight is our fight. Only when Black Lives Matter, can all lives matter.