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Mass. Asian-American leaders stand up for Black Lives Matter in new video

“This is a statement from the heart to our community and a call for action for our community to speak up, to stand in solidarity, and to take action to fight racism,” said Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu.
“This is a statement from the heart to our community and a call for action for our community to speak up, to stand in solidarity, and to take action to fight racism,” said Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu.Jonathan Wiggs/Globe Staff

More than 30 Asian-American leaders and activists across the state declared solidarity with Black Americans seeking equality in a video released last week, though some in their community questioned the sincerity of speakers who issued an earlier, controversial statement on the issue.

The nearly 6-minute video, posted on YouTube Thursday by the office of Boston City Councilor Michelle Wu, calls on Asian-Americans to fight racism against their community and against Black people, while acknowledging that the groups’ experiences are different.

Asian-Americans are asked to speak up for Black people while listening to their guidance on how to advocate for racial justice.

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“We all came together and felt it was important to make a very strong statement of solidarity and support of the Black community, of our sisters and brothers who are fighting racism, and to stand as partners in that fight,” said Wu, 35.. “This is a statement from the heart to our community and a call for action for our community to speak up, to stand in solidarity, and to take action to fight racism.”

The video includes state legislators such as Representatives Maria Duaime Robinson and Tackey Chan, municipal leaders including Quincy City Council President Nina Liang and Wakefield Town Councilor Mehreen Butt, and two aides to Senator Elizabeth Warren, Roger Lau and Nikko Mendoza.

The speakers, some of whom speak in their native language, also include several directors of nonprofit organizations, and four members of the state’s Asian American Commission.

Last month the commission released a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement that was criticized by some current and former members for its claims that “deep roots of anti-Blackness” exist among Asian-Americans and that the community benefits “from the ‘model minority’ myth and our historic proximity to white privilege.”

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Most Asian-Americans support Black Lives Matter, community members said.

But claims theyhave benefited from or participated in racism described in the commission’s statement have divided the community.

As many Asian-Americans push for an examination of what they say is their community’s role in systemic racism, some older members and immigrants say that push ignores the racism they have experienced.


Several Massachusetts organizations representing Asian-Americans have released statements critical of the commission’s message. But even critics said last week’s video from some of the same leaders struck the right tone.

Ye Zhang Pogue, secretary of the Chinese Americans of Massachusetts, which released a statement condemning the commission’s message, said everything she heard on the video sounded right — until she opened her eyes and saw some of the speakers.

Pogue, 33, said she doubted the sincerity of some Asian American Commission members and state legislators in the video who have for years ignored concerns about racism brought to them by their own communities.

“It’s not the message, it’s about the people who delivered the message,” said Pogue, who viewed the video at the Globe’s request. “They are the people in power. … We feel we are marginalized; we are invisible.”

Pogue, who immigrated to the United States a decade ago from Shenyang, in northeast China, said the commission is dominated by American-born members and it is difficult for immigrants, to obtain seats or get the attention of members.

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“They don’t know our pain. They never answer to us,” she said. “They just say whatever they feel adequate and right, without discussion with us.”

Richard Chang, 55, head of school at the Josiah Quincy Upper School in Chinatown, was less critical of the commission and said he was “very much in agreement” with the video, which he viewed at the Globe’s request. He contrasted its focus on positive acts of support with the more critical tone taken by the commission.




Commissioner Sam Hyun, 28, who stressed that he spoke only for himself, said he has heard the complaints that the commission has too few immigrant members, but he doesn’t know how many were born in the United States.

Hyun, who helped compose the commission’s statement and said he stands by it, added that many Asian-Americans, especially immigrants educated outside the United States, don’t know the history of Black Americans.

Hyun, whose parents came from Korea, said there is much Black history that isn’t taught overseas, rattling off a list that included Jim Crow laws, the federal “war on drugs,” the crack cocaine epidemic, and mass incarceration.

“When you don’t know those things, and you don’t know that systemic racism has been an insidious part of the American system, and you come to this country with the notion that the American dream is fully intact … I understand and 100 percent empathize with feeling offended or hurt when somebody says that we have either perpetuated or played a role in systemic racism,” he said.

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“Many who come here as immigrants are just trying to survive,” he added.


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