WEDNESDAY WISDOM: Social responsibility and communal justice

During this highly charged political season, racial and ethnic communities are riled by social issues, some of which allow for easy solidarity but others have created tensions. Immigration reform and the Black Lives Matter movement present the Asian Pacific American community with challenges about one community’s responsibility to support the issues that affect other marginalized communities. The following interview and essays thoughtfully delve into these questions of social responsibility and the continuing fight against injustice:

[Democracy Now!] Jose Antonio Vargas: There’s Nothing More American Than Fighting for Immigration Reform

[New York Times Magazine] Jay Caspian Kang: How Should Asian-Americans Feel About the Peter Liang Protests?

: Essay: With Great Privilege Comes Great Responsibility

Journalist Jose Antonio Vargas has been the strongest Asian American advocate for immigration reform and against government policies that trigger inhumane deportation of undocumented immigrants, mostly affecting Hispanic and Latino communities. In the interview, he stands with Representative Luis Gutierrez, who has been waging a long legislative fight for his constituents affected by a broken immigration system.

Jay Caspian Kang parses the mixed emotions and nuanced conflicts raised by the trial of NYPD Officer Peter Liang. Although younger Asian American activists have expressed solidarity with the African American community’s protest against fatally racist policing, the Asian American support for Liang conflicted with Black Lives Matter activists calling for justice for Akai Gurley. Kang is troubled “that the first massive, nationwide Asian-American protest in years was held in defense of a police officer who shot and killed an innocent black man.”

Frances Kai-Hwa Wang presents a mother’s perspective on acting responsibly when unjust situations interrupt daily family living routines. As a working and privileged journalist who is aware of issues of societal injustices, she hopes that while being protective as a mother should be, she is also imparting the correct lessons of social responsibility to her children.

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Jose Antonio Vargas: “I mean, that’s why, for me, this is way more than just DACA and DAPA. This is a greater understanding of what it means to be an undocumented person in this country, to survive and to work. And, you know, every day—I have to tell you, just sitting in that courtroom yesterday, surrounded by all these undocumented people, of many different backgrounds—a lot of Mexican, Central American, Korean—sitting there, it was—it was like we can’t undo that. We’re not going anywhere. We’re not going anywhere. This is our country. And there’s nothing more American for us than to fight for it.” Read more


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Jay Caspian Kang: “This cultural aphasia comes from decades of political silence. Asian-Americans, for the most part, have been absent from modern social-justice movements, partly by their own choosing. Last year, while reporting an article for the magazine on the anti-police-violence activism of DeRay Mckesson and Johnetta Elzie, I attended Black Lives Matter protests across the country. In each city, I grew angrier and angrier at the lack of Asian faces among the marchers. I had long lost faith in storybook solidarity, but I had never expected to see the divide between blacks and Asian-Americans laid out so starkly.” Read more


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Frances Kai-Hwa Wang: “Ever since the day after September 11, 2001, I have taught my children the importance of watching out for their friends and standing up for their friends. Because they can. As my children grow older and learn more about other cultures, religions, and histories, they make more and more different kinds of friends, and their circle of concern naturally widens with experience. But I sometimes feel sad about some of what my children know.” Read more


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Photo credit: Screenshot from DemocracyNow.org “Jose Antonio Vargas: There’s Nothing More American Than Fighting for Immigration Reform”

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