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Asian-American leaders declare solidarity with Black Americans, double down on controversial message

Members of the Massachusetts Asian American Commission stood together during a protest outside the State House in March.
Members of the Massachusetts Asian American Commission stood together during a protest outside the State House in March.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Asian-American and Pacific Islander community leaders and elected officials from across Massachusetts declared solidarity with Black Americans demanding racial justice in a statement Tuesday that doubled down on a controversial message from the state’s Asian American Commission.

The statement signed by a coalition of 115 leaders, demanded an end to “Black lives lost due to acts of bigotry, bias, and brutality” and reaffirmed the commission’s assertion that Asian-Americans need to examine racist ideas within their own communities.

“We must do more by addressing the anti-Blackness in our families and our communities; refusing tactics to divide our communities of color; rejecting the ‘model minority myth’; and centering the people who are constantly living at the margins and most impacted by systemic racism in all of our work,” the group said.

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The Tuesday statement’s signers include Vira Douangmany Cage, chairwoman of the Asian American Commission, who stood firm against criticism of the panel’s earlier statement, as well as another seven commissioners and the panel’s executive director, program director, and community outreach coordinator.

Other signers include state representatives Tackey Chan and Tram T. Nguyen; Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui; Roger Lau, a senior advisor to US Senator Elizabeth Warren; Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu; Lowell City Councilor Sokhary Chau; Wakefield Town Councilor Mehreen N. Butt; Democratic State Committee Member Wayne Yeh; and Massachusetts Cannabis Control Commissioner Shaleen Title.

Their statement said the United States “was built on the foundation of racism, ranging from the genocide of indigenous people, chattel slavery, racial profiling of young men of color, and a criminal justice system that tears families apart.”

It added that lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer Americans who are Black, indigenous, or members of other communities of color face additional hardships.

“We condemn all injustices that continue to perpetuate violence in our communities and devalue Black lives,” the group said.

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In a June 4 statement, the Asian American Commission offended some community members when it said “deep roots of anti-Blackness” exist among Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders and the community benefits “from the ‘model minority’ myth and our historic proximity to white privilege.”

Some local Asian-Americans — including several commissioners — pushed back forcefully against the statement, saying immigrant elders worked backbreaking hours and experienced vile racism.

State Senator Dean A. Tran said the commissioners responsible for the statement “should consider resigning.”

Tuesday’s statement directly acknowledged criticism of the commission, saying it supported the intent behind the panel’s message and will “continue to hold our communities accountable.”

The group made four pledges and urged other Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders to join in its commitment.

  • The group will support the state’s Black and Latino Legislative Caucus and the Massachusetts Elected Officials of Color’s “Ten Point Plan” of police reforms and other antiracism measures.
  • It will advocate for greater participation of people of color in the US Census and in elections at all levels.
  • It will call for breaking down government data by race and ethnicity to help address disparities in income, housing, education, food access, and health care.
  • It will advocate that all state, local, and federal panels and task forces include people who are Black, indigenous, or members of other communities of color.

Jeremy C. Fox can be reached at jeremy.fox@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeremycfox.