US Acts Decisively to Protect Asian Americans, But Trolls To Protect Black Americans
As the COVID-19 hate crime law has passed through Congress with fanfare, a human rights report on police violence has been largely ignored, and the bill to tackle police violence is under respiratory assistance.
In May, President Biden enacted the Hate Crimes COVID-19 Law. The law condemns the recent upsurge in anti-Asian harassment and violence and proposes to address it by streamlining the prosecution of such attacks as “hate crimes” and by funding state law enforcement programs and local people who seek to prevent or punish “hate crimes”. . “(Expressing prison sensibility, the law has drawn criticism from those who say it contradicts Black Lives Matter’s focus on ‘funding’ the police and abolishing the prison system.)
The COVID-19 hate crime law was passed by the House with strong bipartisan support and by the Senate in a 94-1 vote – a remarkable event in this highly partisan era. The media reported passing the law with approval, a sign of the federal government’s concern for Asian-American communities and its commitment to stem anti-Asian attacks.
But the COVID-19 hate crime law isn’t just what it seems. To see this, we have to examine the law against two other official documents that are not getting the public attention they deserve.
The first document was released in March by an international team of human rights experts and is titled “Report of the International Commission of Inquiry into Systemic Racist Police Violence Against People of African Descent in United States. United “.
The second document is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Bill, which seeks to reduce police violence against marginalized communities and is currently under consideration in the United States Senate.
If we consider these three elements together – the COVID-19 hate crime law, the police violence human rights report, and the congressional bill to tackle police violence – what can we do? to learn about race and power in 21st century America?
Let’s start with the human rights report. In it, human rights experts around the world document the systematic violation of the rights of black Americans by the police and associated institutions in the United States. They conclude that police violence against blacks is so severe and widespread that it constitutes a “crime against humanity” – a term used in international law to describe only the most heinous and destructive acts. The report calls on international bodies to investigate and demands that the US government recognize that slavery and colonialism were indeed “crimes against humanity” and establish a congressional commission to study reparations.
In the tradition of Malcolm X and the Black Panther Party, as well as previous black internationalists like William Patterson and Paul Robeson, the report is an effort to bring international opinion to bear on the treatment of black Americans by the US state. Despite the seriousness and importance of this topic, the report was largely ignored by the US media and government.
Likewise, the George Floyd Justice in Policing bill was inspired by the resurgence of the Black Lives Matter movement after the murder of George Floyd by four Minneapolis police officers on May 25, 2020. It was the largest mass mobilization in the world. US history: Between 15 and 26 million Americans have taken to the streets to demand justice for Floyd and an end to police violence, according to the New York Times.
The George Floyd Justice in Policing Bill seeks to curb racial violence and racial discrimination on the part of the police by banning, among other things, certain policing practices that are used disproportionately on blacks (including strangulation and carotid socket) and making it easier to hold violent agents accountable in court. The bill passed the House in a close vote along party lines, and is now stuck in the Senate, where he may well die. Police unions and Republican senators strongly opposed the bill.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act swept through Congress with fanfare, as the human rights report on police violence was ignored by the U.S. media and government, and the bill to combat police violence is on life support in the Senate. What explains this combination of developments?
To understand the full scope of the COVID-19 hate crime law, we must understand not only what it explicitly says, but also the unspoken message it conveys. The unspoken message is that the lives of Asian Americans are more important than the lives of blacks and that the US government cares more about Asian Americans than blacks.
The U.S. government will act decisively to protect Asian Americans, but drag its feet to protect black Americans, even in the face of domestic and international pressure to do so, and even though racial violence against blacks is both more frequent and deadlier than racial violence. against Asian Americans.
In fact, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is part of a long historical model of the US state favoring Asian Americans over blacks. The pattern began in the days of racial slavery, when Africans were seen as particularly enslaved and the Chinese as ineligible for slavery, and it continues today. Structurally disadvantaged compared to whites, Asian Americans are also structurally disadvantaged compared to blacks – in terms of which neighborhoods they are allowed to settle in, what schools they can attend, what jobs they can get, whether they can get bank loans, if they are targeted by the police, disproportionately jailed, etc. For nearly 200 years, since the arrival of the first Asian immigrants to the United States, whites have functioned on the principle Better Asians Than Blacks. Sometimes a law is not just a law, but also a lesson in racial positionality.
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is how the government claims to be doing something for Asian Americans while doubling down on black oppression and fortification of the prison-industrial complex.
The Human Rights Report and Tackling Police Violence Bill challenged the US government to tackle the singular oppression of blacks, and the US government has responded in a dedicated fashion. instead doing something for Asian Americans. It was a way to fight racism on the cheap (without having to disrupt structural anti-Blackness), to denigrate the value of black lives (as not worth protecting) and to strengthen the system. mass incarceration (remember the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act promotes prison solutions).
The COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act is how the government claims to be doing something for Asian Americans while doubling down on black oppression and fortification of the prison-industrial complex. There is no evidence that labeling the attacks “hate crimes” and giving the perpetrators longer sentences reduces the incidence of anti-Asian violence.
All this only gives the impression of acting. The safety and well-being of Asian Americans does not depend on more police and prisons, but on moving towards a just society where race no longer organizes the distribution of blessings and harm. This is the dream that the struggle for black freedom has always pursued, and it should be the dream we all embrace.
Tune in on August 24 for a related episode of Ms. “On the Issues With Michele Goodwin” podcast: Being Asian in America.
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