Unfortunately, hate crimes are not new nor uncommon in the US. Although most media outlets have focused on the black/white binary, as of late it has become more and more obvious that other marginalized communities in the US suffer from deep-rooted historical racism as well.
The recent rise in anti-Asian racism may seem out of the blue, but if you do a little digging you will realize that hate crimes against Asian Americans aren’t as new as they seem. Today we share a list of books compiled by experts to improve our understanding of the history of anti-Asian attitudes in America and gain a deeper understanding of the discrimination AAPI communities face, so we can move forward with better-informed strategies for equity.
The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee. Historian Erika Lee writes about the different waves of Asian immigration to the United States. From Chinese laborers in 1850s California to Hmong refugees in 1980s Minnesota, Lee covers Asian immigrants who came to the US during the period when the Chinese Exclusion Act made Asians the first group of people explicitly banned from immigrating to the country.
Drive Out: The Forgotten War Against Chinese Americans by Jean Pfaelzer. In this book, Pfaelzer, a professor of American studies at the University of Delaware, writes about how Chinese Americans were violently rounded up, driven out of their homes, or killed as an act of ethnic cleansing in towns across the American West. Pfaelzer recounts these acts, which started in 1848 and continued right up until the 20th century and also writes about how the persecuted Chinese Americans fought back.
Contagious Divides: Epidemics and Race in San Francisco’s Chinatown by Nayan Shah. This book will help explain the long, racist roots of Trump’s repeated invocation of the false idea that Asian Americans carried Covid-19 into the US. In the 19th century, Chinese immigrants who entered the US were constantly demonized as disease carriers by the public health authorities at that time.
Serve the People: Making Asian America in the Long Sixties by Karen L. Ishizuka. Before the 1960s, Asian immigrants were classified by white America as “Orientals”. Ishizuka, a documentary film producer and museum curator, shares the story of how activists from Chinese, Japanese, and Filipino communities forged a common political identity as Asian Americans. Her work stands in opposition to the narrative of Asian Americans as silent victims.
Orientals: Asian Americans in Popular Culture by Robert G. Lee. This piece outlines some of how Asian Americans have been othered and exoticized as well as how popular culture’s ideas about Asian Americans were not forged by Asian American people themselves. These are the stereotypes against which the activists in Serve the People were fighting against.
Vestiges of War: The Philippine-American War and the Aftermath of an Imperial Dream 1899-1999 edited by Angel Velasco Shaw and Luis H. Francia. This is a great resource for those who want to educate themselves on how anti-Asian racism in the US is tied to imperial wars in Asia.
To Save the Children of Korea: The Cold War Origins of Korean Adoption by Arissa Oh. Arissa Oh investigates the history of Korean American international adoption, and how the US-Korea relationship would serve as the template for future international adoptions systems. She exposes how this relationship has its roots in colonialism and contributes to American ideas about Asian women and children.
The Color of Success: Asian Americans and the Origins of the Model Minority by Ellen D. Wu. Historian Ellen D. Wu explains the myth of the “model minority” and why it’s damaging to the Asian community. She demonstrates how it shapes the way Americans think about race and what it means to be American.