During National Asian Pacific Heritage Month and on the third day of a national protest for the murder of African American George Floyd in Minnesota by a white police officer, Asian-American and US Latino leaders met virtually at “Strength Thru Unity” to explore the evils of racism and virtues of collaboration based on a common history of migration and discrimination.
Award-winning journalist Sonali Kolhatkar of KPFK, acclaimed filmmakers Renee Tijama-Pena and Moctesuma Esparza, and novelist Robert Alvardo offered these insights.
While Asian Americans and Latinos have a common history, we know little of this because both groups are invisible in American history books and have been pitted against each other by the white establishment.
Racism in California rose right after the US took Mexican lands during the Mexican-American war in 1843 that included what was then known as Alta California and now the Golden State.
- US immigration agents round up over 400 mostly American citizens of Mexican Heritage from Overa Street and deports them to Mexico.
- We share an ugly history of segregation in school, housing and primitive racism.
- Because of the color of their skin, Chinese-Americans were the first immigrants to be banned by the US.
- Under Executive Order 9066, in 1942, Japanese-Americans were rounded up and sent to concentration camps throughout the US. Their homes, businesses and farms were stolen by white Americans while they were caged helplessly.
- The first Dreamer was Theresa Lee, of Korean Heritage and born in Brazil.
- Filipino and Mexican-Americans join forces under the United Farm Workers Union to launch a global boycott to stop the exploitation of farm workers at the hands of white farmers.
- Many feel the raft for speaking in our native tongue; if you speak another language other than English you are stupid, lazy or worthless.
When we stand up together, we can succeed. “Based on our common history, in 1903 you had (successful) Oxnard Beat Strikes led by Mexican and Japanese-American workers together,” says Renee Tajima-Pena, producer of PBS’s “Asian Americans,” a five-part series that takes a look at 150 years of this communities’ role to help build America.
Our struggle isn’t just about justice for workers. “Strength Thru Unity” aims to bring marginalized communities together so we are treated equally under the law. “Right now, it feels like 50 years ago for all of us” says legendary filmmaker Moctesuma Esparza. “There is a tremendous yearning to be recognized as humans and to be accepted into the human family” and “coming together to bring justice for everyone.”
“Strength Thru Unity” is in honor of all those Americans subjected to racism, Americans protesting peacefully nationwide and George Floyd who died at the hands of police brutality.
In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King’s words, “So we’re going to stand up amid horses. We are going to stand up right here amid the billy-clubs. We are going to stand up right here amid police dogs, if they have them. We are going to stand up amid tear gas! We are going to stand up amid anything they can muster up, letting the world know that we are determine to be free.”
Let this not be the time to give up the fight and King’s Dream. Together we can move forward. Juntos Vamos Adelante.
“Strength Thru Unity”” was hosted by the Asian American Professional Association, Asian American Community Fund, US Guatemala Chamber of Commerce and media partner is KPFK-FM.
Strength Thru Unity” was a production of Innovate Marketing Group and LAVA in Los Angeles.