40 years ago, as Japan’s auto industry was on the rise and America’s in a steep decline, Vincent Chin was brutally murdered by autoworkers in Detroit who blamed him for their own unemployment. They sneered at Vincent saying, “it’s because of you [pejorative] that we’re out of work.” Even after the perpetrators pleaded guilty to manslaughter, they were only charged a fine of $3,000 and received no jail time. They claimed that they were not motivated by racial hatred, but this shocking event is what spurred David Shih, the author of this article, to consider himself as Asian American. Shih discusses how after Vincent Chin’s death, the shared vulnerability to discrimination that all Asians faced, united us as a group. Thus, the Asian American identity was grounded in race.
Even today, the rise of anti-Asian violence across America is not explained by ethnicity or nationality, but rather race claims Shih. However, race is only part of the entire iceberg of discrimination and inequality in our society. We saw former president Trump whip up anti-Asian fervor by calling Covid-19 the “Chinese virus,” blaming China for the growing death toll rather than his administration’s insufficient public health response. We see powerful politicians blame communism for deindustrialization, not neoliberalism. As such, we cannot continue viewing anti-Asian violence as a race problem. In his article, Shih states that we must also account for the systemic inequality behind this violence.
I agree with Shih’s statement. While racism is a problem we cannot disregard, I believe it is only a part of the overall problem of inequality in America. Too often, racial reasons are used as scapegoats for more treacherous issues of inequality. Anti-Asian sentiments have risen to the forefront since the pandemic, but when we look back in history, we can see many instances when communities of color became scapegoats for the inequality experienced by Americans. Jim Crow laws and discrimination against African Americans were born out of the frustration and anger felt by White Americans in the vicious cycle of poverty. Strict immigrant laws were passed because of the fear that immigrants, especially from Mexico and Central America, would take the jobs of unskilled Americans. Currently, anti-Asian sentiments are a scapegoat for the inequality present in America’s health care systems. Therefore, anti-racist solutions, such as hate crime legislation, are only mitigating rather than solving the root of the problem that is systemic racism and inequality in American.
This particular article was interesting to me because I am very passionate about not only my identity as an Asian American, but also economic inequality and its connection to systemic racism. In my own research, I found that greater entrepreneurship in disadvantaged communities can help reduce economic inequality. The growth of local enterprises helps strengthen the local economy, provide more jobs to community members, and create more opportunities. An entrepreneur may be able to not only lift themselves out of poverty, but also give back to their community by paying employees a livable wage. As such, I am excited to continue collaborating with TechTown to explore how their programs and support may be helping to reduce economic inequality and address racism in Detroit.
Article: "How I became Asian American"