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Panel on AAPI in the Struggle for Racial Justice Activism

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An Intergenerational Panel on Asian Americans in the Struggle for Racial Justice Activism and Intersectional Resistance was held on Thursday, May 27th, via Zoom. 

The meeting started with Dr. Betsy Hasegawa reciting the Land Use Acknowledgement. Facilitator and faculty at North Seattle College, Deepa Bhandaru, affirmed this panel discussion as a ‘brave space’.

Bhandaru then proceeded to ask questions to the panelists, of which the first question was “How does the community inspire you as an activist?” 

The first panelist, Cindy Domingo, has been an activist for fifty years. Domingo reflected her identity as a Filipino American and Internationalist. She also explained her family background as an activist.

The second panelist was Nathan Duong, who is also a senior at Monroe High School and a co-organizer at AAPI Organizing Coalition Against Hate and Bias. Duong shared his father’s story of being a refugee from the Vietnam War, and his mother is a Chinese immigrant from Indonesia. Duong’s goal through activism is to empower refugees and immigrants to get involved in communities and the political process. 

The third panelist, Alicia Ing, a full-time student at the University of Washington and a co-organizer at AAPI Against Hate, expressed herself as a second generation American. Her parents are of Chinese-Vietnamse heritage and they fled from Cambodia. Ing shared her story growing up in Renton, and that she did not realize her privilege until she was older. She was in a society with different diversities and she marked herself as one piece of a greater community. 

The fourth panelist, Lika Smith, explained that she came from a long line of fighters and warriors. The final panelist was Mia McFarland, a member of the Pacific Islander Health Board of Washington. McFarland identified herself as a Pacific Islander growing up with activist hard-hitters. She expressed: “Part of our culture is to help people and to be part of the culture itself.” 

Bhandaru raised a question for Domingo: “How do you understand the current rise of anti-Asian American and Pacific Islander hate and violence from between 2020 and 2021?” 

Domingo recommended a book called The Forbidden Book by Abe Ignacio. “The book contains cartoons used to justify the Filipino American.” Domingo explained that because stereotypes still exist, people don’t know anything about democracy. She mentioned that US history is still inherently racist, and so is the education system since they do not mention anything about the Chinese Exclusion Act. Domingo explained that Asians were brought to the United States for economic reasons and to exploit the resources of their countries. She asserts that racism today is the consequence of imperialism and colonialism. Duong gave examples of imperialism abroad and capitalism at home. He explained that a lot of the US’s war crimes during the  Vietnam War, like the use of Agent Orange, has left the aftermath of health defects and has affected several generations. Not only that, the Chinese labourers were brought into the US as a result of white supremacy. 

Next on the discussion, Bhandaru focused on the struggles of the Pacific Islanders. McFarland explained how the data about genocide is being aggregated within the AAPI community in terms of health and education. “A lot of native students can achieve great things but are told that it will not happen to them,” she expressed. 

Bhandaru raised another question, “How do we build solidarity with other BIPOC siblings?” 

Ing told the audience that when her parents first set foot in the US, they were essentially forced to adhere to stereotypes, staying under minority status and expected to keep quiet when opportunities were taken away or denied. “We cannot fall into the same isolation mindset that has defined our grandparents. We cannot shy away from uncomfortable conversation,” Ing exclaimed. “Colonizers taught us to fight each other and not fight them,” McFarland added. She said that we need to unlearn judging others and work together to solve this issue. 

Near the end of the discussion, Bhandaru raised a final question to the panelist: “As the Seattle Colleges are educational institutions, what are your thoughts about what schools, colleges, and universities can do to nurture AAPI activism? How do we get younger AAPI involved in the struggle for racial justice beyond this moment specifically?” 

Duong shared his experience with how his high school responded to racism. He surveyed ninety people about what kind of racism they’ve experienced at school. The results concluded that 80% of the respondents never reported their experiences of racism due to lack of trust and over-normalization of those issues. For the remaining 20% who reported their experience, most of them did not feel any safer since little to no action was taken after the report. “We have to dive deep into our school system and disciplinary system and how they won’t discipline racism at all. We should use education as a response to restore and rebuild our community,” said Duong. He suggested that the most effective and systematic way to disempower someone is to not teach them their history. Not teaching students of color about their history allows schools to directly disempower their own non-white students. “It is still important to look at the resistance and organizing history,” Domingo added. She explained that younger people have new tactics regarding this problem, and how the elders have the understanding of how the system was built. There should be more conversations between generations to trade insights. 

Finally, Bhandaru thanked the panelists and the audience that participated in the discussion. McFarland concluded that everyone should continue supporting student organizations fighting for racial justice, and not just focusing on an individual race, because we all have to be aware of and support the racial justice movements in all communities. 

A young STEM student aspired for Mechanical Engineering and a staff writer at the Collegian. She's interested in design, machines, and the advancement of technology. Her dream is to use her design and technology skills to achieve a significant role in a dominantly male field. She enjoys playing video games, cooking, and mostly spending her time studying.

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