originally shared 3.13.21 at the Love Our Communities, Build Collective Power event at the Japanese American National Museum
Good afternoon everyone, I’m TiDo, she/her pronouns, I’m a volunteer organizer with Chinatown Community for Equitable Development or CCED. We are an all-volunteer, multi-generational, multi-ethnic grassroots organization building power for community control in Chinatown.
I want to acknowledge that folks coming here today are coming here with lots of feelings — grief is a different process for everyone. There’s shock and pain, anger, sadness, perhaps guilt. Today, we process and make space for all of those feelings. Hopefully, the combined efforts of all of today’s speakers will move us through the helplessness of grief into power.
On behalf of CCED, among our offerings to you is, frankly, anger at the societal problems surrounding these racist incidents. Because of the work and the relationships CCED is grounded in, our understanding of the violence our communities face is broad. We invite everyone to join us in thinking broadly about the systems we live in: How the systems devalue the lives and dignity of our people. How the systems make these attacks, and so much more violence, possible. And how it does NOT have to be this way.
So today, we’re here, in community together, to BUILD. We are building on the long tradition of the Asian American revolutionary movement.
Expanding Upon “Hate”
Cause if we take a look at our collective history, we know that hate — — hate is nothing new.
Don’t get me wrong. These attacks are TRAGIC. Hate crime incidents against Asian Americans are increasing exponentially. But it is not unprecedented. It’s not.
Cause “hate” is just white supremacy.
And white supremacy has been around ever since white people stole indigenous lands. When they forcibly enslaved black folks. The Chinese Exclusion Act. Japanese incarceration. The legalized Islamophobia after 9/11.
So, this is not just about hate. This is about the structural violence that white supremacy inflicts upon our communities. So, this is a political moment for how the Asian American community will respond to white supremacy.
Rejection of Being the Model Minority
And we are here to say that WE WILL NOT BE SILENT. We are here to show that we are organized, we are politicized, and we are ready to fight and demand what our community needs.
At least that’s why I’m here. And I hope y’all will join me beyond the moment and help me in building the movement. Because I have to tell you.
I AM SO FUCKING PISSED.
I’ve BEEN pissed that our elders have experienced increased violence FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR NOW. I’ve BEEN pissed for the entire fucking pandemic because our community has been left to suffer. But I’m particularly EXTRA pissed this past month.
Cause I asked myself, why are these incidents of anti-asian violence only picking up traction now, with the media and all the middle class and wealthy Asian Americans? Why now?
Well, let’s think about last year. During the pandemic, the movement to defund and abolish the police, which CCED supports, gained more grounds.
Huh. So I wonder why the media is highlighting these incidents now? Why is it bigger news if a perpetrator is Black?
I ask you to reflect upon our community’s anti-blackness. I ask you to think hard about whether we are truly anti-racist if we make this only about anti-Asian violence.
Cause it is not a coincidence that this media bubble is happening so soon after Black abolitionists took steps to successfully begin defunding the police. They are trying to further sow anti-blackness into our communities.
For non-Black Asians, our proximity to whiteness & complicity to anti-Blackness is the reason why elected officials even bother to address anti-Asian violence while they continue to cosign the police brutality inflicted on black and brown and yes, Asian communities too. We are in many ways being used as a distraction from and tool against the movement to defund the police.
So we’re here. To say. HELL NO. WE REFUSE TO BE THE WEDGE. WE ARE NOT YOUR MODEL MINORITY.
HARM AGAINST OUR ELDERS WILL NOT BE USED AS A TOOL TO ADVOCATE FOR MORE POLICING AND THEREFORE MORE HARM AGAINST OUR BLACK AND BROWN SIBLINGS.
We are here to tell the world — DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE USE OUR COMMUNITY TRAGEDIES TO FUND THE POLICE.
We are here to absolutely reaffirm our solidarity with black liberation movements.
So when I said before, we are here to build.
First, we are building upon the past, upon our history of fighting the violence of white supremacy in this country. In solidarity with our indigenous, black, and brown communities. We will not be truly free and safe until ALL of us are free and safe.
Not Just Race, It’s Also About Class
But this is not just about race. It’s also about class. And when we talk about class — it’s about money — plain and simple. About how money becomes more important than people’s lives. If we want to talk about violence — ask yourself:
Are we making the same noise and paying attention — when our elders and families are being evicted from their homes? Especially during a PANDEMIC? Isn’t it community violence when Chinatown’s multilingual hospital closes? When our full service grocery stores are pushed out? Where does that leave our elders? How can our elders be safe when what they need is destroyed around them? This is the economic violence that our working class Chinatown community has faced. This is what happens with an influx of luxury developers and city politicians who value profit over people.
At Hillside Villa, 120 families are at risk of eviction because of a 150% rent increase. At 920 Everett, 5 families are fighting off greedy landlord, Victoria Vu, who wants to collect fifteen thousand dollars of backrent during a pandemic. At 651 Broadway, another slumlord who is also Asian, constantly harasses his tenants and refuses to improve the dire conditions of the building. Meanwhile, the publicly funded private security force in Chinatown run by the developers and landlords on the “Business Improvement District” do things like drive out our local erhu musician, harass our elder street vendors and our houseless community members.
This is gentrification. And it’s not just white people, it’s rich Asians inflicting this violence. Gentrification is killing our people and our communities. And I’m not being metaphorical.
As a Hillside villa tenant said at a protest last week, “Eviction is death.” Gentrification is the influx of middle-class amenities and people at the expense of the working class community. They call it “revitalization”, but we on the ground know — that that word is just code for displacement.
Here in Chinatown Los Angeles, gentrifiers and luxury developers say that shit all the time. They adopt this narrative that “we’re just trying to make things better” but what they mean is the erasure of our vibrant community because it doesn’t fit their aesthetic or profit margins. They do not see the heart of what makes the Chinatown community what it is. And what is Chinatown? Chinatown is a working class ethnic community, with people who know and look out for one another. How can you have a Chinatown without its working class immigrants? Without our elders?
Defund the Police
Against this economic violence, who protects our working class people? Not the police. They’re the ones helping the landlords evict our elders.
Did you know the LAPD budget is $3 billion dollars?
Can you imagine what our community could do with $3 billion dollars? Right now, the city could just use their eminent domain powers to buy Hillside Villa and preserve affordable housing for 120 families.
That money — it could be used for public health. We are in a pandemic. 22,000 people died, but these deaths were preventable.
The city let us die even though they have the money and the power to make sure we are cared for. All of our working class, ethnic communities are intentionally neglected and underfunded by the city, the county, the state, this entire country. This is how structural violence leads to physical violence. How can our communities be safe if people in power actively withhold resources our communities need? How can we be safe if politicians collude with interests that see people like our elders as “undesirable”? How can we be safe if there is more money in selling out our communities than nurturing them?
$3 billion dollars for policing to protect wealth & property rather than housing and feeding us. The state doesn’t give a damn about us.
We Keep Us Safe
But guess what. We care. We keep us safe.
Even when shit gets worse, cause it will get worse. We are not done dealing with the economic fallout of this pandemic or climate change. Which means communities of color will continue to be scapegoated. They will try to find ways to divide us.
But our best defense is our solidarity, our collective power. We must be in solidarity with our Black siblings and learn from their history of abolitionist organizing. We must practice mutual aid, community care, and in this particular point in history: eviction defense. In addition to other forms of self-defense, we must protect our elders in their homes. We cannot protect them in the streets, if we can’t even protect them in their homes.
So we are not looking for you to have rallies, but to organize for the long road ahead of us. And organizing is just relationship building. We ask that you organize your neighbors, your friends — to have those vulnerable conversations with them about implicit biases, about how we might contribute to anti-Blackness. Organize your neighbors and friends for direct action — to stop evictions, to stop deportations, to empty the detention centers, the prisons, to remove U.S. military bases from other countries and then burn them down. Organize to nurture the land and return it to indigenous hands. We must build a grassroots, intersectional, working-class movement for our collective liberation.
So as you listen to the rest of today’s speakers and their stories, remember these are the histories of our survival. And it’s up to us to not just keep surviving. But organize together and thrive.
We build on our radical histories. Draw strength from our roots to envision and create new futures. We will build a world grounded in abolition: a world that divests from police and invests into our communities with resources like housing, healthcare, and food.
We have the tools — in one hand, a sledgehammer to dismantle and abolish the police, and in the other hand, the seeds of care. So let’s do this, together.