The Department of African American Studies at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign stands in solidarity with educators, students, and community members nationwide in denouncing the escalating violence directed at Asian and Asian American communities this past year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. We denounce the surge of attacks directed at Asian and Asian American communities and mourn the lives that have been lost to this violence.
We recognize the long and rich history of Afro-Asian solidarities. In his classic book Souls of Black Folk published in 1903, the scholar-activist W.E.B. Du Bois wrote: “The problem of the twentieth century is the problem of the color-line, --the relation of the darker to the lighter [people] in Asia and Africa, in America and the islands of the sea.” He understood the global nature of white supremacy and the importance of forging Afro-Asian solidarities for fighting against racial capitalism and imperialism. We look to the Third World Women’s Alliance, a U.S. women of color feminist organization of the 1970s that centered the politics of solidarity and understood the connections among capitalism, heteropatriarchy, white supremacy, and imperialism. We embrace Yuri Kochiyama, the Japanese American anti-racist, peace, and human rights activist and confidant of Malcolm X, who declared: “I don’t think there will ever be a time when people will stop wanting to bring about change.” We also acknowledge the Chinese American philosopher-activist Grace Lee Boggs, an accomplice of James Boggs and C.L.R. James. She committed most of her life to organizing for Black liberation and the participatory, transformative forms of education, work, and governance needed to heal our society and world.
Looking toward the future, we reject solutions to anti-Asian violence that call for increased policing and incarceration. We reject the criminalization and vilification of migrant and undocumented communities of color, as well as of low-wage sex workers. We call on Black people and everyone to reject racism and xenophobia directed at Asian and Asian American communities. In the spirit of the long history of Afro-Asian solidarities and recent global protests against racism and police killing of Black people, we believe that forging a politics of solidarity is essential for advancing intersectional social justice and global transformative change.