Thank you for publishing Soching Tsai’s very articulate and powerful commentary (”Asian Americans often treated as lesser citizens because of appearance,” April 9). I am an Indian-born American woman, living in my own privileged bubble, though struggling, as are so many, with the reality of the deep and pervasive racism that continues to not only exist, but to be tolerated and, therefore, encouraged in our country.
Dr. Martin Luther Kin, Jr. said that “in the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” Ms. Tsai’s call for change is a call to action, challenging the continued institutionalized practices of silent acceptance of the Asian American bigotry that has existed for decades. She rightly insists that hate crime legislation be clarified and reinforced, that education be revised to become culturally inclusive and accurate and that Asian Americans be intentionally included in decision-making roles, warrants and demands action from all, collectively and individually.
The current pandemic climate has provided a dark canvas upon which longstanding Asian American racist sentiments and practices now clearly are illustrated. As we know, however, they are not a product of the pandemic but rather a disturbing and discouraging historical trend. Most Americans might point to President Franklin Roosevelt’s order in 1942 incarcerating, disproportionately, individuals of Japanese descent, as the origin of current Asian American racism. However, anti-Asian misinformation and discriminatory legislation can be traced as far back as the 19th century. That was when the Chinese Exclusion Act was adopted setting an unfortunate precedent for restrictions on immigration based solely upon race and the destructive stereotypes that coincide with such decisions. It is no wonder that these tracks of racism are so deep, so pervasive and sometimes, overlooked. They have existed for many years and have taken deep root.
Rather than allowing this history and the overwhelming task before us to deter or immobilize us, it is important that we are energized and ever more committed in our work because of it. I commend individuals, like Ms. Tsai, who have the courage and conviction to speak of realities that create discomfort, disapprove of inertia and command action.
During his recent visit to Dr. King’s hometown in Atlanta, President Joe Biden, together with Vice President Kamala Harris, stated, “Our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out. We have to act.” We must hold our leaders and ourselves to these words and the actions that must follow.
Pooja Chanda Pama, Falls Church, Virginia
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