In Kamala, Can Blacks & Asian Americans Find New Social Glue?
Black & Asian Americans have historically had close political relationships, drawing on shared struggles.
Kamala Harris is the daughter of a Jamaican father and Indian mother; she is Black and South Asian. She celebrates both sides of her ancestry, which unites two racial groups that are often seen in the United States as being opposed to each other.
In electoral politics, research on multiracial legislators indicates that those with dual nonwhite backgrounds like Harris have the potential to serve as bridges between groups and use their backgrounds to influence policy that serves multiple communities.
Harris’ nomination as Joe Biden’s Vice Presidential Running Mate is an opportunity to understand the history of the relationship between America’s Black and Asian communities.
It’s also a time to consider the possibility for political coalition building between Blacks and Asian Americans in this moment when racial discrimination is an urgent subject for much of the country.
Pitted Against Each other by Govt, Media
The 1991 killing of a Black 15-year-old named by a Korean store clerk, and the that was partially stoked by that killing, are perhaps the most prominent instances and depictions of violence and conflict between Black and Asian American communities.
We’d argue that Black and Asian American people are pitted against each other by media, government and society to maintain the United States’ social hierarchies.
during World War II, for instance, is one example in which Japanese Americans were considered security threats to the United States. They were forced by the federal government, through various methods, from their homes into camps.
The ‘Blasian’ Alliance
Yet, despite the stereotypes of these two communities in opposition to each other, Black and Asian American communities have historically had close political relationships, drawing on shared struggles to build solidarity. These connections are also mirrored on a personal level.
is increasingly common, although intermarriage between Black and Asian American communities is not new. Between the 1880s and early 1900s, South Asian men working on British ships abandoned those ships in Louisiana and New York and worked as in New Orleans and New York City.
Some intermarried with women from Black communities, such as when Bengali Muslim trader Moksad Ali married African American Ella Blackman in New Orleans in 1895.
Black feminist scholars like use the notion of . This means that individuals can use their identities, such as race, gender, sexual orientation and class, and their stature within their own communities to build relationships between groups.
She built relationships with those engaged in Black struggles including defending political prisoners, but also worked with other groups such as Puerto Ricans in their struggles against police violence, for better schools and dignified housing for all working-class communities.
The Binding Factor
American wars have also inspired solidarity between Black Americans and Asians globally. During the waged from 1899 to 1902, some Black troops known as the Buffalo Soldiers between American anti-Black racism and American treatment of Filipinos. A number of them defected from the United States to fight alongside Filipinos.
During the Vietnam War, anti-racism activist and boxer famously protested against deployment to Vietnam, saying that Vietnamese people did not subjugate him to the anti-Black racism he experienced in the United States.
Today, Black and Asian American communities may find common ground on the issues of policing and immigration. Although policing may commonly be thought of as a “Black issue” and immigration commonly thought of as an “Asian (or Latinx) issue,” public opinion paints a more complex picture.
Data from the African American Research Collective shows that in 2018, 76% of Black survey respondents believed that “immigrants just want to provide a better life for their families, just like you and me.”
Much of the discussion about Kamala Harris has focused on her background in law enforcement, her , the contradictions between her platform and identities, and the meaning of these for community trust in her leadership.
Harris in essence may become a mirror for these communities to reflect on the ways their two groups have been historically divided by government policy and social tensions.
And her selection may also offer the opportunity for members of the two communities to consider grassroots coalition building on issues – beyond electoral politics – that affect their everyday lives.
(This is an opinion piece and the views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for the same. This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article here.)
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