Asian Americans have still not achieved full equality in American life… they occupy unique and constantly shifting positions between black and white, foreign and American, privilege and poverty.
– Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America, 2015, 8
Erika Lee cites historian Ellen Wu as she explains how Asians have been, and to this day are, treated as “definitely not white” (7). Even the so called “good Asians” or “model minority” are not exempt from this discrimination. Below are some ways Erika Lee has revealed as part of today’s masked racism (6):
colorblind racism: assumes that race no longer exists and in doing so ignores the pervasive racial discrimination that still infects us today
cultural racism: supplants race with culture and judges people based on oversimplified perceptions of beliefs or behaviors, which are claimed to determine the group’s overall superiority or inferiority.
micro-aggressions: everyday insulting actions towards people of color
I learned the other day, from Joy Buolamwini, a panelist on MIT’s live webcast of Cornel West’s lecture, “Speaking Truth to Power,” that racism even takes place in the coding of our software, specifically in the making of AI recognition technologies. Just how deep do these malicious energies flow? I am grateful knowing that we have people like Joy critiquing and revolutionizing new technologies. I hope, that through my work, I can de-create harmful values and find respectful ways to revolutionize design that are – accessible, equitable, multiple, and – “definitely not white.”
The idea of Asia remained central to the invention of America, and European colonization on both sides of the Pacific Ocean led to the first migrations of Asians to the Americas.
– Erika Lee, The Making of Asian America, 4
The Spanish and British Empires, and later the United States Empire occupied and extracted people and resources from India, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia, East and West Malaysia, Laos, Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Timor, Brunei, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, the Cocos Islands, and China (5). One could say Asians were subject to the colonial forces of “yank and shove,” to then be exploited and eliminated.
Further movement of Asians to America was “pushed” by violence and social, political, and economic instability in their home countries, and “pulled” by dreams of education, freedom, and peace (4-5). Though I imagine it could be argued that the “yank and shove” still happens today.
Make fruit only when you can afford it. That makes sense. But trees grow and accumulate calories at different rates depending on their habitats… But they don’t. If one tree fruits, they all fruit – there are no soloists… The trees act not as individuals, but somehow as a collective. Exactly how they do this, we don’t know yet. But what we see is the power of unity. What happens to one happens to us all. We can starve together or feast together. All flourishing is mutual.
– Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 13-16
Mast fruiting is the “boom and bust cycle” of certain plants, which instead of making fruits and seeds in a consistent yearly cycle, produce a huge amount crop at seemingly random times (14). In order for mast-fruiting trees to sustain themselves, each one fills their roots with sugar and starch to their very tips. When the time is just right, they make fruit all together, all at once, enough for feeding the forest and for birthing new trees (15).
… trees are talking to one another. They communicate via pheromones, hormonelike compounds that are wafted on the breeze, laden with meaning… The trees in a forest are often interconnected by subterranean networks of mycorrhizae, fungal strands that inhabit tree roots. The mycorrhizal symbiosis enables the fungi to forage for mineral nutrients in the soil and deliver them to the tree in exchange for carbohydrates… [They] may form fungal bridges between individual trees, so that all the trees in a forest are connected… they weave a web of reciprocity, of giving and taking. In this way, the trees all act as one because the fungi have connected them. Through unity, survival.
– Robin Wall Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass, 20