C.N. Le, ECAASU 2011, and the Politics of Accommodation
C.N. Le’s essay, “ECAASU 2011: Lessons in Mis/Understanding Different Levels of Analysis,” posted originally on Asian-Nation and reposted on the official ECAASU blog, is a good example of the dominant perspective in asian amerikan politics in our time: the perspective of accommodation and assimilation into white society.
Reflected in the vacuous appeals for “inclusion” now emanating from the ECAASU Board of Directors and in C.N. Le’s boring attempt to put on the airs of a learned professor counseling young people to change institutions “from within,” the main trend in asian amerikan politics today encourages collaboration with the white supremacist ruling class and fears autonomy, even while engaging in empty talk about “social change” and “racial justice.”
“A group of American veterans have publicly acknowledged for the first time that they machine-gunned hundreds of helpless civilians in the early days of the Korean war. The massacre took place under the No Gun Ri railway bridge in the South Korean countryside, and the soldiers said that as many as 300 South Koreans could have been killed … Yang Hae-sook, who was 12 at the time of the massacre in July 1950, said she thought she was safe under the bridge. ‘Then the shooting came. Bullets ricocheted off the concrete and hit the people like popcorn in a frying pan. Mother wrapped me with a quilt and hugged me.’ … Yang Hae-sook lost several relatives, including two brothers.”—"US veterans confess Korean War atrocity," BBC News, 29 September 1999
In response to our piece on ECAASU, Anon asks, “Really, we shouldn’t celebrate or even show respect to veterans?” In that spirit, here’s some respect and love for the veterans. Veterans for the people, not veterans for US imperialism. Our veterans, not their veterans. -HTT
P.S. Dig the Mao quote from Huey.
P.P.S. Richard Aoki appears for a second at 3:24 min into the clip. To the Asians in the military who are attending ECAASU: don’t be a PR prop for US imperialism. Learn from and be like Richard Aoki (ex-military).
In fact, the 1960’s breakthrough of ‘ethnic studies programs’ at universities has been dialectically turned around and used against us. We are getting imperialist-sponsored and imperialist-financed ‘Asian studies,’ ‘Black studies,’ ‘Puerto Rican studies,’ ‘Indian studies,’ ‘ethnic studies’ pushed back down our throats. Some of the most prominent Third-World intellectuals in the U.S. Empire are getting paid good salaries by the imperialists to teach us our histories. Why?
U.S. imperialism would rather that all Third-World people in their Empire remain totally blank and ignorant about themselves, their nations, their cultures, their pasts, about each other, about everything except going to work in the morning. But that day is over.
So instead they oppose enlightenment by giving in to it in form, but not in essence. Like ju-jitsu, our original demand that our separate and unique histories be uncovered and recognized is now being used to throw us off our ideological balance. The imperialists promote watered-down and distorted versions of our pasts as oppressed Third-World nations and peoples.
The imperialists even concede that their standard ‘U.S. history’ is a white history, and is supposedly incomplete unless the long-suppressed Third-World histories are added to it. Why?
The key to the puzzle is that Theirstory (imperialist Euro-Amerikan mis-history) is not incomplete; it isn’t true at all.
An important essay by Him Mark Lai, the pioneering scholar on the history of Chinese people in the US, who did not need some (dis)honorary certificate, a.k.a. a degree, from white academia to research and teach in the field.
A point to the Asian American studies / ethnic studies majors and grad students out there: what did our people do before these departments were created? Where did figures like Him Mark Lai (or John Henrik Clarke who did not even have a high school diploma) come from?
In comparison, why do many of us believe today that we need validation from white and/or ineffectual “poc” professors who are on some critical race theory nonsense, who are detached in academia and have no ties to our peoples’ national struggles, to research history and develop living theory for our movements? Where is the initiative to create new things (publications, distribution-publishing houses, conferences, associations) outside of and in opposition to the ruling institutions, as generations before us had to do?
And, sorry, but prefacing “ethnic studies” with the word “critical,” as some are trying to do, isn’t going to rescue its revolutionary character, when the entire ideological framework and vocabulary that one operates in is alienating to the people. Next, we’ll have critical critical theory … like, really critical, you know.
We need to use and develop the concepts of historical materialism, national oppression, and Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, which will never be academically acceptable and never should be, because they are the negation of the university and the mental-manual labor divide. We can take as a model the shipyard workers of Shanghai studying Wage Labour and Capital and Critique of the Gotha Programme during the Cultural Revolution.
In any case, the piece begins: “The history of the left among the Chinese in America is a neglected chapter in the history of the Chinese community. This is a preliminary survey of the left movements until the end of the 1950s.” -HTT
likethefruit re-blogs our analysis on the neocolonial ECAASU conference at UMass-Amherst and says, “A conference I will be attending and opposing.”
In an earlier unrelated post, someone from an Amherst-based company that sells Japanese stationery and other products expresses similar apprehensions about ECAASU 2011, which no doubt cross the mind of any non-comatose thinking person upon glancing at the conference website:
"As great as the conference sounds, I also have to admit some hesitancy. What is up with the sponsorships? Heavy, heavy, heavy on the military and related agencies … Looking at the variety of workshops that are available, I think they are as varied as the Asian American population and I would hate for the sponsorships to undermine that reality. Was this the only set of options for sponsorship? If so, that’s kind of sad and there has got to be more."
(via Japanistic/Blog). Jury’s still out on whether many Asian students these days are “non-comatose” and “thinking.” The dope of white supremacy, assimilation, and self-hatred is a helluva drug, man.
Our piece was also re-blogged at SELUCHA, which by the way has some wonderful revolutionary tunes from Latin America, where the people are well familiar with US militarism and why it is bad.
Write your own thoughts on the assbackward politics of ECAASU and the Uncle Tomization of the Asian student movement - or reblog ours - and hit us up by email. -HTT
Update (2/13/11 1:30 AM): The API Movement website is now running the piece. Keep reposting it on Facebook and listservs, passing it on to the youth, the movement elders, and anyone who has had ties with the conference in recent years. A protracted effort is needed to take back ECAASU, but it can begin by creating a groundswell of opposition and public opinion.
ECAASU HAS BECOME A NEOCOLONIAL INSTITUTION! ASIAN PEOPLE MUST TAKE IT BACK!
a.k.a. why is Vijay Prashad speaking at a conference funded by the US military?
ECAASU today has become a neocolonial institution that betrays the legacy of the Asian American movement, especially its principles of anti-imperialism, autonomy, and Third World solidarity. Asian students need to take the conference back from the opportunists and comprador traitors within ECAASU who have sold out our people.
The East Coast Asian Student Union (ECASU) held its first conference in 1978, a product of the long sixties (60s-70s), two decades of intense struggle by Third World people in the US against the forces of imperialism and white supremacy. Asian students founded ECASU as a political and cultural instrument for our liberation.
Asian American Political Alliance (AAPA) rallies against the Vietnam War in 1968.
Through ECASU, Asian campus groups got together to protest the Bakke ruling, a Supreme Court decision giving legal cover to the spurious claim that affirmative action policies constituted “reverse discrimination” against white men. Campus groups got together to defend the Asian American Studies Department at CUNY’s City College, at the time the only one on the East Coast and under attack by administrators. They got together to demand justice for Vincent Chin, to protest racist anti-Asian films, to speak against the removal of working-class tenants in Chinatown, and to organize cultural events as sustenance for our people.1
ECAASU today (renamed in 2004) is funded in large part by the US military. It allows the US military to participate in its career fair to sign up Asian youth to kill other colonized-oppressed people elsewhere in the world and to die for the US Empire. It features workshops that celebrate service to US imperialism, such as “Duty, Honor, Country: The Asian-American Experience at West Point” at this year’s conference.
ECAASU today is also funded by big white-owned corporations, such as Target, who are allowed essentially to buy workshops and turn them into advertising space for their companies, such as the Target Corporation’s workshop “Taking the Lead: Leadership Skills from Campus to Career” this year. Yet, no apparent ties are made with Asian-owned small businesses as sponsors and workshop facilitators.
At the same time, panels are held on topics such as “Solidarity: The Concept in Practice” (discussing “anti-colonial, international solidarity among student leaders”) and workshops are held on student, labor, and community organizing.
The contradiction cannot hold. Keynotes, cultural workers, workshop presenters, and attendees who participate in the conference and fail to speak against the sources of funding and the participation of the US military and the white monopoly bourgeoisie only lend legitimacy to the betrayal.
There needs to be creative exposure, protest, and disruption at every ECAASU conference until the politics of anti-imperialism, autonomy, and Third World solidarity are put back in command. All students who disagree with the current direction of the conference, both outside ECAASU and on its leadership body, need to step up.
1. See the articles “ECASU: Strength through Collective Action” and “A Look At Today’s Asian Pacific Student Movement” in East Wind Magazine, Vol. 2 No. 2 (1983).
THE FUCKIN’ LOUDEST ASIANS got our hands on this leaflet from students in CUNY, a 23-campus system in NYC where women and oppressed nationalities form a large majority of the student body. Very few people know that Asian students took over a building for three days at CUNY’s City College (renamed Harlem University by activists) in March 1971 to demand Asian American Studies, following on the heels of the system-wide Open Admissions strike in Spring 1969. City College also had the first Asian Studies program on the East Coast. We look forward to the day Asian students in CUNY, and everywhere, reclaim our legacy of militant struggle. -HTT
ORGANIZE A GENERAL ASSEMBLY! OPEN CUNY TO THE PEOPLE!
Students and Youth of CUNY, prepare for the long-haul, prepare for the struggle!
We’re faced with the states’ new round of assault on us, another attack on the higher public education system. It has found a new bulldog enforcer in newly elected goon, Gov. Cuomo. It is aiming its sights right on the people, to smash their gains, eliminate our rights, all in the effort to make New York economically viable for Wall Street business. Since 2003, CUNY’s tuition has increased by 44%, it slashes our budgets by the tens of millions, it hammers away particularly against all the gains won by our struggles after decades of strikes, occupations, and organizing.
This is all happening within the context of world crisis, where throughout the globe there is the same basic struggle for the reorganization of society between different sections of the masses and the states of each country. In Europe, students and workers are rising against cuts and austerity measures proposed by their ruling classes; in the Philippines students unite with the broad democratic struggle for both the right of education, but also the human rights abuses of a despotic state; in Puerto Rico, the people are fighting the colonial administration’s police state measures against the students and workers. The bold policy of New York state, in its attacks against students and youth, occurs in this world moment of crisis. All this occurs at the same time, while many state governments - from sea to shining sea - are actively trying to enact the same measures.
CUNY students have courageously fought against these cuts in recent years by organizing walkouts, demonstrations, filing lawsuits, etc. However, these are not enough. We must mount an insurgency, we must foster a movement of tens of thousands of students and young people united with our communities against these attacks. The current organization of students in New York City lacks what the masses need and demand from us. The current parameters of our fighting organization are also in deep malaise and the worth of their transformation through their own mechanisms is not worth the time of day considering the need to develop deep ties to the social bases of our campuses and communities.
We propose a solid break, a new process, one which would enable the fighting spirit of one and all to move forward and foster the insurrectionary potential of the masses in and around CUNY.
We’re proposing the first General Assembly of CUNY Students and Youth. We’re proposing this to happen on Sunday, March 6th and depending upon your response to this call - we will prepare such an assembly with an agenda, a program, and a platform forward with you. Those responding to this call can help us develop this idea forward and contribute to the building of a mass movement at CUNY.
Power to the Students and Youth! All Power to the People!
Jane Kim is the first Korean-American elected official in SF and former civil rights attorney. I’m sure we at THE FUCKIN’ LOUDEST ASIANS disagree with her on many things, but I’ll just say this: Asians need a little more of her righteousness and a little less of the widespread patriotic kowtowing. -HTT
I was reading Yuri Kochiyama’s memoir, Passing It On, when I came across one of her son’s articles that he wrote when he was in the seventh grade. It is extremely telling of how much education has changed since then. Jimmy Kochiyama’s article is entitled “The Chinese in America”. It was published in a junior high school newsletter:
In the 1850s when all the racism and violence focused on the Indians and Mexicans, when a government inspector stated that the ‘great cause of civilization must exterminate Indians,’ a new dark-skinned foreigner had reached the United States coast, the Chinese. Violence found a new victim.
In 1857, a newspaper the Shasta Rep., said that ‘thousands of Chinamen have been slaughtered in cold blood by desperadoes that infest this state, yet we heard of but two or three instances where they were brought to justice.’ This was not surprising, for California had passed a law prohibiting Chinese from testifying in any case involving a white man.
In Los Angeles, in 1871, a white man was shot in a Tong war. A mob stormed the Chinese community, killed six and hanged fifteen, including women and children, from handy awning and lamp-posts. Anti-Chinese feeling and violence spread through San Francisco in 1877. Tacoma’s Chinese community was burned that year. Members of ‘anti-Coolie’ clubs drove the Chinese out of fifteen towns. Discrimination was no longer a little thing. It was now organized.
Politicians saw advantages to this. Parties rose to power with anti-Chinese slogans. Politicians were extremely interested in the labor vote, and no party platform was complete without a strong anti-Chinese plank. The Democrats were ahead in the demand for the exclusion of Chinese. Discrimination soon become a general practice. A number of discriminatory acts were passed at all levels.
Finally California turned to Washington. In 1882, with the support of the southern Congressman and Senators, the West Coast legislators put over the Chinese Exclusion Act. This effectively halted Chinese immigration.
How many of you learned this when you were in school? I’m one of those that didn’t read any of this history throughout my years in school… until I found it myself.