What We Can Learn from Black and Asian Feminist Solidarities
an article by Siona Wadhawan
Dear Asian Youth,
Throughout the past months, we all have witnessed the ways in which COVID-19 has meddled with our lives. This pandemic has revealed that America is drastically unprepared when it comes to protecting its people in times of crisis. The virus has claimed thousands of lives, with over six million recorded cases in the U.S. alone. Some of us have lost loved ones, and families continue to be ripped apart without even getting a chance to spend their final days together. People across the nation are struggling to make ends meet—overworking and endangering their lives simply to afford healthcare, food, rent, and other necessities. Meanwhile, corporations are hoarding billions and Jeff Bezos is on the precipice of becoming the world’s first trillionaire.
Sadly, this is not a surprise, but rather embodies capitalist America at its very core: a system that has sustained itself on exploitation and white supremacy. A system that has always put profit before human life.
The racial and class disparities have never been clearer. Asian and Black communities are being hit the hardest by this pandemic. Studies across the U.S. show that Black people are contracting and dying from the virus at disproportionately higher rates than any other racial group, not to mention the severe outbreaks in prisons and detention centers. Xenophobia has also been rampant against the Asian-American community, with our own president referring to COVID-19 as “the Chinese Virus”. At the same time, we continue to bear witness to the senseless killings of the Black community by police officers, alongside the brutality waged against protestors across the nation. It is becoming apparent that our government will not keep us safe, so how shall we protect ourselves? How do we come together as a community and stand in solidarity at a time where we need it the most?
I believe that we are learning more and more about building solidarity from the the histories and legacies of BIPOC feminist liberation movements, especially from the works of Black and Asian American feminists who have consistently organized cross-racially and fought alongside one another.
There are countless examples of Afro-Asian solidarity being displayed in uprisings throughout American history, many of which were led by women. During the Civil Rights Movement, Asian American leaders were inspired by and supported the revolutionary work of Black freedom fighters. Asian activism and struggle against the Japanese internment camps imposed during WWII were amplified by the voices of Black leaders. These communities fought together against systemic racism, colonization, and imperialism throughout history, believing that true liberation could only be achieved through collective struggle. These ideologies and the power in advocacy across identities lie at the praxis of BIPOC feminist movements.
From the Third World Women’s Alliance and the Combahee River Collective, feminists of color have long emphasized the importance of intersectionality within their respective movements. They’ve understood the ways in which they faced a unique intersection of oppression, a result of both their race and their gender. Black feminist movements especially understood this intersection as they often felt neglected by Black liberation movements which were very male-dominated, neglecting women, queer, and transgender people. On the other hand, white feminist movements did not address the racial oppression that women of color face. This understanding galvanized them into building solidarity and cross-racial liberation movements which is evident from the ways that Asian and Black women have historically stood up for one another.
Black and Asian female activists such as Audre Lorde, Grace Lee Boggs, Fran Beal, Gwen Patton, Yuri Kochiyama, Loretta Ross, Pat Sumi, Miriam Ching, Yoon Louie, and countless others were radical organizers in their communities. They not only advocated for themselves, but also understood the ways the communities around them were impacted by white supremacy. They united themselves against a common oppressor while continuing to recognize that their lived experiences differed because of identity.
Thanks to the work of so many revolutionary Black and Asian American women before us, we are now seeing contemporary approaches to social justice struggles. Particularly, the BLM movement through a feminist framework, highlighting the importance of building intersectional solidarities with one another. Many feminist collectives are collaborating with one another, demonstrating how Black liberation is intrinsically tied to the activism work they are doing within their own organizations. For example, the Black Women Radicals and Asian American Feminist collectives have recently been working closely with one another, launching a series of collaborative events and resources emphasizing cross-racial coalition building. I highly recommend checking out their Black and Asian-American Feminist Solidarities reading list.
I encourage all of you to read up on histories of social struggles all across the world to learn why building solidarity across different groups is so vital to achieving liberation and will end with my personal theory for social change:
“Social change occurs when we commit ourselves to fight together for each other while examining the different ways in which we are impacted by intersectional systems of oppression. It means standing in solidarity with one other, building shared connections and intimacy. It means understanding that our liberation lies in the collective, our joy lies in the collective, and our power lies in the collective.”
- Siona Wadhawan
More Resources on Asian American and Black feminist solidarities:
Black and Asian-American Feminist Solidarities: A Reading List
South Asians For Black Lives: A Call For Action, Accountability, and Introspection
Black and Asian Feminist Solidarity Letter – Asian American Writers' Workshop
Cross-Cultural Solidarity: Black/Asian History
Cover photo source: Asian American Feminist Collective