The truth is that #StopAsianHate is incapable of reckoning with the historical and ongoing role of the U.S. government in perpetuating anti-Asian violence both within and outside its borders in its violent, insatiable quest for global hegemony.
CW: anti-AANHPI violence, sexual violence, military and police violence against BIPOC
By Elizabeth Tang
I don’t like the #StopAsianHate hashtag. First of all, Asians are not the ones doing the “hating.” And second, why are we calling it “hate” at all? Anti-Asian violence is systemic—it cannot be reduced to individual feelings.
Look—I don’t want to stop “hate.” I want to end U.S. imperialism. I want to end the white supremacist institutions that seek to dominate, control, rape, extract from, and dispose of Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) people.
I don’t mean that we shouldn’t talk about the issues dominating the #StopAsianHate discourse. Everyone should know about the Chinese Exclusion Act and the incarceration of Japanese Americans. We should all keep talking about the 1871 Los Angeles lynchings, the 1885 Wyoming massacre, the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin in Detroit, and the 2021 murders of six Asian women in Atlanta.
But anti-AANHPI violence isn’t just a few blips—it’s mundane and it’s everywhere. Police are twice as likely to target Pacific Islanders than white people. The FBI, CIA, and TSA routinely surveil, detain, and torture Muslims and South Asians. ICE has deported Southeast Asians for decades, including under Biden. Not to mention, (white) U.S. mainlanders are currently flocking to Hawaiʻi, ignoring repeated warnings that the islands cannot handle an influx of COVID cases.
The truth is that #StopAsianHate is incapable of reckoning with the historical and ongoing role of the U.S. government in perpetuating anti-AANHPI violence both within and outside its borders in its violent, insatiable quest for global hegemony. #StopAsianHate cannot articulate that the Atlanta shooter’s murderous hyper-sexualization of Asian women—which, incidentally, fell on the anniversary of the Mỹ Lai massacre—can be traced directly to white U.S. soldiers invading AANHPI countries, killing AANHPI people, raping AANHPI women, and bringing back new AANHPI wives and grotesque fetishes that are jokingly known today as “yellow fever.” The simplistic rhetoric of #StopAsianHate cannot express what Japanese American activist Mike Murase wrote in 1972: “The systematic dehumanization of ‘g–ks’ in the military affects Asians in America as well, because it is to America that trained killers of Asians return.”
Acknowledging U.S. imperialism would mean admitting that U.S. soldiers have been the baddies all along. We would have to confess we were wrong for invading Vietnam and Korea, carpet-bombing Laos and Cambodia, and brutally suppressing the Filipino struggle for independence (Did you know the Korean War never ended, that Laos is the most bombed country in the history of the world, and that we seized the Philippines from Spain after starting a war to “free” it?). We would have to make amends for our nuclear annihilation of Japanese civilians and our dozens of nuclear weapon tests in the Marshall Islands (Did you know that our atomic bombs had “nothing to do with” ending World War II but were likely an opening salvo to the Cold War? That our nuclear weapon tests in the Marshall Islands created decades of horrifying cancers and birth defects?). We would have to pay reparations for our devastating drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan (Did you know that, at one point, 90% of U.S. drone casualties in Afghanistan were civilians? And that, because of us, Pakistani children are terrified of blue skies?). And we would have to end our ongoing occupation of the Kingdom of Hawaiʻi, Guam, the Northern Mariana Islands, and American Samoa (How can the “leader of the free world” still have colonies?).
In a 1967 speech condemning the Vietnam War, Dr. King said that the U.S. government was the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world.” Are we ready to admit that this was true then? And is still true today?
When someone tells you who they are, you should believe them. The U.S. Department of “Defense” openly declared in 2019 that the Indo-Pacific is its “priority theater” of war. I believe the U.S. government. After the Atlanta shootings, U.S. officials claimed—from a “security” conference in Asia—that anti-Asian violence “has no place in America—or anywhere.” And yet they think anti-Asian violence has a place in Asia?
I want to live in a world where anti-AANHPI violence has no place anywhere in the world. #StopAsianHate is inadequate because it merely pleads with our oppressors to exempt us, the “good Asians”—the ones who live inside the empire and pledge to it our allegiance. But I reject the colonizer’s logic. The location of my birth, the enunciation of my English, and my contributions to the national GDP cannot be the arbiters of whether or not I deserve rights, protection, and safety. And I don’t seek assimilation—not when the U.S. military happily kills people on my ancestral continent. Not when my government labels people who look like me as political, economic, and cultural enemies of the U.S. And certainly not when there are AANHPI people within the empire who want sovereignty, not U.S. citizenship.
If I am to be painfully honest, the U.S. is not ready to stop killing AANHPI people. If it were, we would begin ending our innumerable methods of imperialist violence. Instead, our president is trying to increase our $740 billion military budget while fearmongering about China. Meanwhile, our Congress has already increased our $115 billion police budget—despite a momentous year of nationwide protests to defund police—under the guise of stopping anti-AAPI “hate crimes.” And look, this is not even surprising. The ruling class has a deeply bipartisan interest in preserving the existing social order. Enter our military and police, who do the same work outside and inside our borders: kill and suppress Black and brown people in order to uphold white supremacy and capitalism.
So where do we go from here? Well, we can start by letting #StopAsianHate go. There is so much more we must do to truly end anti-AANHPI violence. I hope that we can build a solidarity that is pan-AANHPI, cross-racial, cross-border, and cross-class. I dream that we will one day abolish imperialism and borders and police and prisons and capitalism and rape culture and all of the oppressive systems under which we live. I want us to believe that a better world is possible, and then, to build it together.
 I use “we” and “our” to describe U.S. violence against my own community, because I am a U.S. citizen, and I live in the imperial core.
Elizabeth Tang (she/her) is a civil rights attorney for sexual assault survivors and an organizer with her union and with anti-imperialist and abolitionist groups in DC.
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