The Missing History of Asian America

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We’ve been here before: A time of national stress, Asian Americans made into scapegoats, and violence follows. The community saw it coming. So why didn’t everybody else?

A mass shooting in Atlanta follows a year of warnings from Asian Americans who have said they do not feel safe. But the violence has forced to the surface old questions about where Asian Americans sit in our nation’s maddening racial caste system, and community leaders have struggled to get people across the political and racial spectrum to take the moment seriously.

Helen Zia, activist and author of Asian American Dreams: The Emergence of an American People and other books about the Asian American community, was spokesperson for the Justice for Vincent Chen campaign in the early 1980s. She tells the story of that era’s scapegoating of Asian Americans, and draws a line all the way back to the 18th Century.

And Arun Venugopal, senior reporter in WNYC’s Race and Justice Unit, shares his reporting on the community in New York City, which has emerged as an epicenter of day to day reports of harassment and violence.

Companion listening for this episode:

The (Un)Making of a ‘Model Minority’ (1/4/21)

An odd racial pecking order puts Indian Americans in a curious place -- outside of whiteness, but distinct from other people of color. How’d that come to be? And is it changing?

'Community' Is a Verb. And It’s Hard (6/12/20)

Racism is not a Black and white challenge; communities of color are often pitted against one another. A story from Chicago about how the pandemic challenged, and strengthened inter-community alliances. Plus, a dispatch from one of the hardest hit neighborhoods in the country, where the community has had to fend for itself.

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