A prominent Chinese American group has taken issue with the language of a statement by Massachusetts’ Asian American Commission expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement following George Floyd’s death.
Wilson Lee, co-founder of the Boston chapter of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance — one of the country’s oldest Asian American civil rights organizations — complained that the commentary from the Asian American Commission expressing support for the Black Lives Matter movement is “divisive and inflammatory” because it suggests Asians benefit from “white privilege” and are racist against black people.
Lee said also it promotes violence by invoking the controversial civil rights-era Black Panther Party.
“I’m saddened when an organization funded by my tax dollars says there is hatred in the Asian American community for blacks,” Lee said Monday. “In the past there have been misunderstandings between the Asian and black communities, but a blanket statement like that doesn’t help the situation. It’s putting gasoline on the fire.”
Asian Americans have been marching with demonstrators in Boston and elsewhere in the country calling for an end to police brutality against black people, he added.
“We sympathize with the black community. We feel the same oppression,” Lee said. “In some ways, we suffer from discrimination more than blacks because we’re not accepted by the white community but we’re not accepted by the black and minority community, either.”
Vira Douangmany Cage, who chairs the state Asian American Commission, declined to comment on the concerns, saying the agency wants to “ensure that the conversation remains centered on the voices, pain, and experiences of our Black neighbors.”
In the statement released late last week, the commission said it supports those seeking justice following George Floyd’s death last month, and calls on others in the Asian American community to help push for change.
The commission also said Asian Americans need to confront their role in “anti-Black racism and oppression,” noting that one of the officers on the scene when Floyd died in Minneapolis was of Asian descent.
Asian Americans “will never fully understand the Black experience” because they “continue to benefit from the ‘model minority’ myth and our historic proximity to white privilege,” the statement reads in part.
“We acknowledge the deep roots of anti-Blackness within the AAPI community and commit to an ongoing and necessary process of healing those wounds,” the statement reads, referring to the acronym for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The commission also cites a number of ways that Asian and black movements for equality have been linked through history, including how activists in India in the 1970s drew from the Black Panther Party’s efforts a decade earlier to form the Dalit Panthers to combat caste discrimination.
Large scale demonstrations, rallies and vigils have taken place in Boston and surrounding communities nearly every day since Floyd was killed May 25.
On Monday evening, a silent vigil was planned in the city’s West Roxbury neighborhood. No speeches were expected and participants were encouraged to bring signs instead.