Women of color have suffered greatly during the pandemic.
Whether it is being among the most highly infected with COVID-19, being forced out of jobs at an alarming rate due to lack of childcare and support, or making up a large portion of the essential workers who put themselves at risk to keep the country going, women of color continue to bear the brunt of inequality and our nation’s broken systems.
So it was another substantial blow when six Asian and Asian-American women were murdered in a mass shooting on March 16 in Atlanta at their places of work. In the immediate aftermath of the shootings, police officers described the white male assailant as having a “bad day” and naming his sex addiction as a potential motive.
This initial assessment from law enforcement was massively disappointing if not surprising, least of all to Black women. After all, days before the shooting, thousands mobilized to mark the one-year anniversary of the death of Breonna Taylor, who senselessly died at the hands of police officers.
Yet, despite this shared understanding and mutual experience of what if feels like to be targeted for who you are, a dangerous media narrative has re-emerged. In the wake of a recent spike of anti-Asian violence and with little evidence, many have begun to point to a divide between Black and Asian Americans as the real issue facing our communities, instead of naming the true culprit: white supremacy.
They conveniently ignore the fact that Black and Asian communities, especially women, not only have a shared history of oppression in America but also a long and storied tradition of solidarity.
Black and Asian women know what it means to be “othered.” We have each had harmful stereotypes cast upon us that date back centuries and continue to affect our lives today.
From the fetishization of Asian women to the trope of the angry Black woman, these stereotypes have real life consequences.
Both Black and Asian women report being discriminated against, pigeonholed in the workplace or simply held back in their careers due to assumptions made by their bosses or peers.
We’ve both felt the sting of being called a racial slur or told that we are “articulate” because someone is surprised at how well we speak English. But these painful experiences are not the only things that bind us.
The famed Third World Women’s Alliance was born out of the Black feminist movement and the efforts of Black women leaders to create space for other women of color, including Asian women, who were interested in civic engagement, combatting racism and sexism, and ensuring liberation of all forms.
Asian American activists like Grace Lee Boggs and Yuri Kochiyama fought alongside Black women activists and lent their voices to the movement for civil rights. We’ve built alliances and worked together to not only identify the problems that plague both communities and hold women back, but also to exchange ideas on how to create a society that works for everyone.
Many Asians and Asian Americans attended last summer’s Black Lives Matter rallies across the country and joined Black Americans in the call for an end to police brutality.
And now, as Asians and Asian Americans increasingly suffer attacks, Black activists have shown up and marched with them. When our communities stand together, we are more powerful than we know.
We’ve also seen the many ways that Black and Asian women in elected office have supported each other and the causes that matter to their communities. At Emerge and Run AAPI, we want to continue to empower Black and Asian women to run for office so that they can keep speaking truth to power, build even stronger alliances and make it possible to combat white supremacy through policy and political reform.
Time and time again, generations of Black and Asian women have come together during the darkest times in our nation’s history to create incredible progress and move our democracy forward. As white supremacy continues to be as big a threat as ever before, our solidarity will be essential to defeat it.
A’shanti F. Gholar is president of Emerge, which recruits and trains Democratic women who want to run for office. Linh Nguyen is executive director of Run AAPI, an Asian American and Pacific Islander political engagement organization.