Racism against AAPIs is not new; it is literally anchored deep in American history. Rep. Lieu attended this week’s episode to discuss some of the reasons why violence against AAPIs is escalating and how we can fight back. He explicitly cited the long history of discrimination, xenophobia, and violence against AAPI communities, including the Chinese Exclusion Law, the internment of more than 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent during World War II, and the assassination of Vincent Chin in the 1980s.
Addressing the role of the “model minority” myth in damaging the fight for justice for AAPIs, Moulitsas stated that conservatives love to arm this concept of the AAPI community against black and Latin American communities. Lieu responded that it was important to note the significant diversity of the AAPI community, often obscured only by numbers or by those seeking to advance the myth of the exemplary minority. He also emphasized the importance of protecting the AAPI community at a time when it is growing rapidly in the US, noting that AAPIs are expected to be the largest minority in the country by 2055.
Lieu linked Donald Trump’s decision to use racially motivated language to describe the virus with the rise in violence, indicating its impact on the safety and wellbeing of AAPIs:
We had a hearing last week on the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans, and the panel’s experts showed that there is a link between the former president’s rhetoric and the rise in hate crimes and incidents against Asian Americans. One reason for this is that the distinction between the actions of a foreign government and Americans of Asian descent is becoming blurred. It was our government’s inability during World War II to distinguish between the actions of the Japanese government and the Americans of Japanese descent that resulted in internment. And if you keep using racist terms like “kung flu” it will only help to blur that distinction. And so I just ask my Republican colleagues to stop using ethnic identifiers to describe the coronavirus. It has an official name – use it.
Moulitsas is concerned about the continued use of these racist idioms by Republicans and their refusal to drop the language despite increasing violence against AAPIs. Believing this to be part of a larger trend, Eleveld pointed to the GOP’s tactics of fueling cultural hot spots, which they believe is a strategy that will lead to 2024: “Republicans are not running on what they can do, to help you … it’s cultural hotspots of xenophobia, “breaking culture”, things that transgender youth are involved in, things like that … it’s the only way to imagine fueling their base because they cannot imagine what they can actually offer their base. “
Some members of Congress in particular seem to like this inflammatory language. Lieu launched the Texas Rep. Chip Roy interrogation during a hearing last week to address discrimination against Asian Americans. Quoting Roy’s rhetoric, Lieu said, “He focused on communist China. He essentially blurred the distinction again. Because I have nothing to do with the Chinese Communist Party. But that has nothing to do with Americans being attacked. “
Moutlisas and Eleveld then proceeded to a discussion on the reform of the bail, an issue that is important to Lieu. Lieu believes the whole concept of bail is detrimental to our judicial system: “There really is no connection between the cash you have and your dangerousness.” He noted that the House of Representatives has passed legislation to address this very issue. The difficulty, he said, is making sure this bill gets through the Senate.
Merkley was the next guest, and he presented the view from the Senate Chamber. Focusing on the filibuster’s deleterious effects on progress, he noted that it has been used in the past to prevent the amalgamation of black power in Congress. Before the civil war, the filibuster was often used to protect the interests of the slave states. Democrats, including the President, are considering switching to a “talking filibuster,” which would require Senate members to stand and talk all the time.
Merkley called on Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell to abolish the filibuster, noting that the Democrats have a responsibility to strategically use this moment and conversation about the filibuster:
We have a constitutional responsibility to find out … I am convinced that we will find a way – whether it works out the suffrage law … whether it is all constitutional things … whether it is a deal with them Republicans gives if you filibuster those particular bills that are constitutional then we will act to get rid of the filibuster. Many ways are possible here, and as a group of 50 we have to find out – and we have to find out. We have a constitutional responsibility; We took an oath.
Most recently, Merkley described the “power over principle” that seems to govern how Republican Congressmen currently vote and how dangerous it is. It is all the more important to pass new voting rights through the For the People Act (SR 1). As Republicans continue to lose influence among voters, they continue to undermine who can vote, how to vote, and when to vote, and use gerrymandering to change district demographics to favor Republican candidates – everything proven voter suppression tactics.
People love [voting by mail] because they want to exercise their rights … and they know they cannot be manipulated [by the restrictions of voting in person] … when you know that you have the right to vote by post. So there are a number of powerful reforms in place, including publicly funding elections, not from government funds but from funds derived from fines for corporate misconduct. There is a certain beauty to this: companies that misbehave fund public funds so that individuals can serve officials without going to the richest Americans to raise campaign money. These are powerful reforms that protect this core government vision of, by, and for the people.
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