Reflections on AACC’s Statement on Anti-Asian Violence and COVID-19 by Andrea Smith
It is important for all of us to support the Asian American Christian Collaborative’s statement on Anti-Asian Violence in the Time of COVID-19, not just because it is important to be in solidarity with Asian Americans, but because anti-Asian racism impacts everyone. For instance, racism against Asian Americans and Indigenous people in the United States is intertwined. Dillon S. Meyer oversaw the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II. He then used that knowledge when he became the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to implement the termination policies directed towards liquidating Indigenous lands and relocating Native peoples from their homelands to urban areas. When the U.S. invaded Iraq, it described the lands it was invading as “Indian Country.”
These racisms are linked because anti-Asian racism follows a logic of war, which is also an underpinning of anti-Indigenous racism This logic can be difficult to discern in an Asian-American context because some (although by all means not all) Asian Americans are labeled as model minorities with proximity to whiteness. But if we understand Asian Americans as racialized through a white supremacist logic in which they are positioned as permanent foreign threats, then it is their proximity to whiteness that allows this logic of to operate. That is, while their proximity to whiteness may bestow some racial privilege, it is also what allows Asian Americans deemed to be “model minorities” to be cast as a “civilization” that is inferior, but is still strong enough to pose a threat to the U.S. This privilege then, is not a signal that they will be assimilated into the U.S., but that they will always be marked as perpetual foreign threats to the U.S. world order.
Similarly, in State v. Foreman, the court justifies the conquest of Native peoples on the basis that they naturally exist in a state of war. In particular, Native peoples exist in a statue of nature where the strong kill the weak as a matter of course. Hence killing a white person killing a Native person is like a lion killing a zebra. As the court explained:
That mere wandering tribes of savages, or such as have a stated place of residence, should claim a vast extent of forest, as hunting grounds, for the nurture of wild animals, and exclude the cultivation of the earth, is unreasonable and unjust. The earth belongs to all men in general, destined by the Creator to be their common habitation; and all derived from nature the right of drawing from it their subsistence and those things suitable to their wants. This it would be incapable of affording was it uncultivated. Every nation is, then, obliged by the law of nature to cultivate the ground that has fallen to its share…
And foes to each other, and foes to all men, our ancestors found the North American savages, the main business of their lives being war, and that a war of extermination (the foe taking no prisoners, save for the exercise of a refined cruelty–to burn him at the stake); a people that had no government, and with whom the right of the strongest alone was respected.
True, their lands might have been acquired by conquest. For although one nation cannot justly or lawfully make war upon another for the mere purpose of subduing it to the dominion of the invader, yet it is settled (8 Wheat. 543) that “conquest gives a title which the courts of the conqueror cannot deny, whatever the private and speculative opinions of individuals may be respecting the original justice of the claim which has been successfully asserted.” State v. Foreman (1835) 16 Tenn. 256, 266-344
Anti-Asian racism and anti-Indigenous racism are not the same, but they are mutually reinforcing and connected through the logics of war and militarism. Thus, ending anti-Asian racism is essential for furthering justice for Indigenous peoples. The Asian American Christian Collaborative’s call to end anti-Asian racism is important for ending racial oppression for everyone.
Andrea Smith, Evangelicals 4 Justice and NAIITS