Standing with Asians and Asian-Americans: Statement by Semillas del Pueblo

3/26/2021

“Convinced that any doctrine of superiority based on racial differentiation is scientifically false, morally condemnable, socially unjust and dangerous, and that there is no justification for racial discrimination, in theory or in practice, anywhere…” — United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965

Semillas stands with allies and relatives around the world in denouncing hate-motivated crimes against Asian peoples, including Indigenous Peoples of Asian national origins, and recognizes the rise in violence targeting Asian persons and communities in the US and elsewhere, as crimes against humanity.

We share our deepest condolences for the victims and families of the hate-motivated attack against the eight Asian women and their community in Atlanta, Georgia, USA.

The perpetrators of these crimes must be held accountable through criminal investigations and prosecution where merited.

Recognizing that these types of crimes are a symptom of deeper social dysfunction, we call for the immediate investigation of these crimes by the appropriate local, national and international agencies. We all call upon the local, national and international community to denounce xenophobic attitudes, violent social norms, and strategic misinformation targeting Asian-Americans and Asians. We call upon our communities to recognize and dismantle the mechanisms of systemic racism in the US and across the global diaspora of European colonization that have given rise to the historic and present state of normalcy given hate targeting Asian persons, particularly women and children.

This is not America. This is the USA.

Semillas will continue to strengthen our organizational, educational and advocacy work in alignment with the struggles for the rights of Indigenous Peoples and an end to all forms of racism, particularly confronting attacks against our communities, Black peoples and Asian peoples.

A history in common

As Indigenous Peoples and persons we recognize this hate.

Just as the mass proliferation of examples of white supremacy and systemic racism in policing is evidence for the world how racism is harbored, practiced and weaponized by police officers in the USA, regardless of their individual skin color, so it is too in education.

Anahuacalmecac (and Academia Semillas del Pueblo before it) was founded in resistance to the District’s systemic racism and the State of California’s anti-Indigenous legalization of cultural genocide, linguicide and racist assimilation of our children. Our school was founded in resistance to LAUSD’s role in the oppression of students and communities of culture through overcrowding, mandatory English-only instruction, school to prison policing, and virulent high-stakes testing practices which have all since then been largely recognized as violations of our communities’ constitutional rights to educational equity and contrary to the State of California’s educational obligations.

Today, while billion-dollar school buildings sit empty and scattered across the District as a testimony to the facade of educational reform, our children and youth continue to face the realities of the school to prison pipeline that LAUSD is best known for, historically high push out and chronic truancy rates for Indigenous youth continue unabated and have only been exacerbated by the pandemic and the government’s suppression of righteous civil unrest.

Part of our response to these realities includes reimagining education not as schooling but as an act of self-determined agency for human liberation, community cultivation and international understanding. For Anahuacalmecac, this has included ethnic studies pedagogy, multilingual learning and internationally-minded inquiry. This has also included maintaining living relationships with Asian organizations, community leaders, families and communities.

Our existence is our resistance.

Still, we know that White supremacy is embedded and expressed in government schooling in all of its interstitial and institutional forms from hiring, to teaching, to learning, to assessing, to policing — “White is Right” is always the correct answer.

Anahuacalmecac has a long trajectory of consciously working against anti-Asian hate.

Upon the founding of our school, we recognized the importance of fostering strong and meaningful relationships with Asian allies and neighborhoods we share community with in Tovangaar territories now Los Angeles County.

To address this, we included Chinese language and culture education in our regular school day, we fostered long-term and meaningful relationships with community elders, scholars and culture keepers both locally and in Asia. We joined local and international networks to promote the appreciation of Asian peoples and languages including the Mandarin in Schools Strategic Planning Committee hosted by the Asian civil rights organization now known as Asian Americans Advancing Justice. We joined and have been supported by international organizations like the Asia Society and their partnership with Hanban supporting education about Chinese peoples, language and culture. We have also maintained various long term relationships with martial arts masters from Wing Chun to Wudang Shan, beginning with local Cantonese speaking elders playing Tàijí quán in El Sereno Park.

All of this has caused our school and educators to also come under attack over time using anti-Asian hate as additional bias and motivation to make us disappear from the face of the earth.

Chinese and Asian students and families have been a part of our community and instructors/teachers have been a part of our staff since we opened. Pictured in this statement is Lau Shifu. Lau Shifu was one of our first instructors at Semillas. When we opened in El Sereno Park in 2002, he would watch our teachers and students practice basic Tai Chi forms as a part of our daily routines. Lau Shifu led local Chinese elders in their daily Tai Chi practices at the park. One day he brought his TaiChi sword and offered to demonstrate his forms to our school community. After that, he became a regular Tai Chi and gong fu instructor and elder-in-residence at our school. On at least two occasions, he was assaulted by teenagers on the local bus as he went about his business. Afterwards, he would explain to me that he didn’t want to hurt the youth when they attacked him, he only defended himself to make them stop. Even so, he never lost his sense of love for the youth at our school even bringing them candy which he would happily hand out.

We miss him.

Targeting our sincere community relations and inclusive educational mission of international indigenous education, we have been red-baited as Maoists, ridiculed for teaching Mandarin, SWATted when our students have practiced martial arts in the playgrounds with false police reports of weapons on campus, and even targeted for surveillance by national hate groups posing as extreme far-right policy centers who have gone so far as to publish our students’ innocent private journals of travel abroad in China as a part of formal student exchange programs coordinated with UCLA as evidence for nativist hate speech. All of this has been given widespread media attention at the instigation of local right-wing bloggers and shock jocks and has played out over the course of almost ten years.

We recognize that we too have been attacked for the self-affirmation of our cultural and political identities as Indigenous Peoples.

We have been attacked for our resistance to forced cultural and linguistic assimilation through government schooling passed for as educational policy and pedagogy.

We have been attacked for recognizing that in these indigenous territories now called Los Angeles, we share community with Asian peoples of many national and linguistic cultural origins.

Yet, throughout all of these attacks we have been supported by many Asian relatives, neighbors and allies near and far.

In the spirit of collaboration towards the end of all forms of racial discrimination and white supremacy in our society and in our schools, we commit ourselves to continue to foster long-term and meaningful relationships with our relatives and communities of Asian national origin or descent. We commit to maintaining and growing our community and students’ cultural appreciation of Asian peoples and ways of knowing through our curriculum and our enrichment programs. We commit to maintaining and strengthening our bonds with local and national leaders to end anti-Asian hate and all forms of racial discrimination. We plan to uplift and cultivate opportunities for cultural exchange with Indigenous Peoples across the Asian continent and diasporas.

As one small but important step, we call upon local elected officials and agencies, as well as the government and President of the United States of America to implement the terms of the United Nations International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, as agreed to including the following:

(a) Declare as offense punishable by law all dissemination of ideas based on racial superiority or hatred, incitement to racial discrimination, as well as all acts of violence or incitement to such acts against any race or group of persons of another color or ethnic origin, and also the provision of any assistance to racist activities, including the financing thereof;

(b) Declare illegal and prohibit organizations, and also organized and all other propaganda activities, which promote and incite racial discrimination against People of Color and Indigenous Peoples, and recognize participation in such organizations or activities as an offense punishable by law;

(c) Prohibit public authorities or public institutions, national or local, to promote or incite racial discrimination.

The violent attacks against the women, mothers and Asian communities in Atlanta and across the world demand a certain sense of urgency and vigilance. Until dominant society can reckon with the omnipotence and fragility of white supremacy in all its forms, our children and communities will need to continue to organize across our differences and beyond our shortcomings towards our common humanity and beauty.

Born of the desert. Teacher. Learner. Organizer. Dreamer.