May 5, 2016
Open Statement for Community Members During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month:
This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month (APAHM), the Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum (MAWPF) and Asian and Pacific Islander (API) Resistance are asking Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) groups to take a strong public stance against structural Islamophobia, racism, xenophobia, and other forms of systemic oppression targeting communities of color, including AAPI communities. We encourage organizations to use APA Heritage Month as a time to call for justice and collective liberation. This could include making statements about the ways in which our communities are affected by white supremacy and government public policies (such as surveillance and profiling programs) and refraining from supporting companies and public leaders who engage in discriminatory practices.
That is why as grassroots groups that work towards the liberation of API and Muslim communities, we are in particular concerned about the events happening in DC this week, including those sponsored by and attended by a range of AAPI organizations. For example, on May 4th, national leaders and groups attended a gala hosted by the Asian Pacific Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS), a non-profit organization that receives support from Southwest Airlines, a company that has refused to take adequate action to address systemic bias, racism, and Islamophobia in spite of multiple incidents that have profiled Muslim, South Asian and Arab passengers in recent months. While it is heartening to note that many AAPI organizations have stepped up to call on Southwest Airlines to change their policies, the company is still involved with events, organizations and activities during APAHM.
We are also concerned that at the APAICS Gala, AAPI leaders and community members celebrated President Obama (who delivered a keynote address) while not holding him and his administration accountable around policies that have destroyed segments of AAPI communities through national security and immigration policies. This Administration has deported more than 2 million individuals and it is estimated that every day, at least 1000 individuals are deported in the country. This violence impacts API communities. The Administration also engages in programs such as CVE (continuing violent extremism) that profile Muslim community members domestically and abroad, and reduces segments of our communities to national security threats.
Additionally, Pres. Obama has refused to pressure the Department of Homeland Security, including security at airports, to prohibit profiling in their enforcement. If DHS were responsible for kicking an Arabic-speaking, Muslim or South Asian person off a plane, that practice would be legal. By refusing to hold his own agencies accountable, Pres. Obama is enabling the profiling practices that Southwest has consistently engaged in.
The Obama administration has also continued the expansion of War on Terror programs and policies of extrajudicial killings through the use of drones, entrapment and surveillance policies, and banning certain Muslim refugees while deporting others, such as Bangladeshi refugees. In addition, the Obama Administration has expanded its cooperation with state institutions abroad that are using the War on Terror to target local and indigenous communities, such as the indigenous Moro community in the Philippines.
As we acknowledge the specific ways API communities are racialized as model minority communities, we recognize the ways in which our communities are complicit in anti-Black racism, settler-colonial violence, and the erasure of API communities that don’t fit the mold of the model minority. Therefore, we are asking our communities and community leaders to build solidarity internally within API communities at the local, national, and transnational level by centering our margins.
During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, let’s be clear as Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that our communities continue to face oppression at multiple levels and in various contexts. Let’s also be clear about what we stand for, and whom we stand with, as we engage in celebrations and activities. We call upon the leaders of national AAPI organizations to demonstrate their organizational values and commitments through their words and actions.
We urge APAICS and other API organizations to support the following list of demands in support of the API community:
- We demand Southwest Airlines end its racist and Islamophobic policies towards Muslims, Sikhs, anyone perceived as Muslim,immigrant, and people of color broadly.
- We demand Southwest Airlines implement anti-racist and anti-Islamophobia training for its employees and issue public apologies to individuals who have been impacted.
- We ask that until Southwest doesn’t actually concede to these demands that individuals boycott flying on SouthWest.
- We demand that Pres. Obama pressure his agencies, especially the Department of Homeland Security, to enact protections against profiling, as this issue is bigger than Southwest.
- We ask that API organizations and groups address structural Islamophobia within their organizations and ways their engagement with government agencies enables oppression against API communities and communities of color.
- We ask that API organizations reflect on ways the margins of our communities have been invisibilized and move towards building internal solidarity.
APAICS and other API organizations have the power to ask the API community in DC and across the country to stand with undocumented APIs, Muslim APIs, hold Southwest accountable, and hold Pres. Obama accountable. Will you join us?
In Solidarity and Towards Collective Liberation,
Muslim American Women’s Policy Forum