Call It What It Is: White Terrorism

We at Columbia Riverkeeper stand in solidarity with Asian Americans and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and condemn the escalating racism and violence BIPOC people are facing. 

Tuesday’s anti-Asian terrorist attack in Atlanta, Georgia and a report from the group STOP AAPI Hate highlight the increasing threat facing AAPI communities during the last year of the pandemic, fueled by Trump’s extreme racist rhetoric scapegoating China.

This white gunman was not having “a bad day.” To perpetuate the narrative of this attack from the perspective of the gunman ignores the racialized history from which he operates. 

“Here in the United States, in particular, we can’t disconnect race from sexism or race from — racial violence from gender violence. That’s kind of first and foremost in addressing the police officer’s narrative around what took place. I think there’s a long-standing history around the hypersexualization, the ongoing sexual violence against Asian women. This has happened across the globe. This occurred during racialized colonial wars in Vietnam, Cambodia, the Philippines, Korea. And so, our country has had a long history of sexual violence against Asian women.

And so, for the police officer and the national narrative to act as if this is not something based upon race is a little bit of a problem. Centering his narrative, instead of the survivors’ or the victims’ narratives, is also a part of the huge racial violence that this country is essentially guilty of.”

 -Dr. Connie Wun. Shco-founder of AAPI Women Lead organization and a researcher on violence against girls of color.

Anti-Asian violence is systemic. We must acknowledge this attack, that violently and deliberatly stole the lives of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent, for what it was: White Terrorism. 

This is just the latest chapter in the long and insidious history of racism against Asian communities in the United States and especially in the West. Cemented with The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882—the first federal law to explicitly ban a racial group from immigrating, we have continued to create a system hostile to people looking for opportunity—here in the nation of immigrants. 

"Beginning in 1882, the United States stopped being a nation of immigrants that welcomed foreigners without restrictions, borders or gates. In the process, the very definition of what it meant to be an 'American' became even more exclusionary." - Erika Lee, a professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of Minnesota, from her book At America's Gates: Chinese Immigration During The Exclusion Era, 1882-1943.

Only 60 years later, we forced Japanese Americans into concentration camps. A fact that lives within the recent memory  of Hood River, where Columbia Riverkeeper has it's main office, which gained notoriety for the area's level of racist vitriol towards Japanese descent during World War II. It is worth noting the Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943, only to continue to limit Chinese immigration to 105 Chinese individuals per year, the year AFTER Roosevelt authorized Executive Order 9066, authorizing Japanese American internment. Ironic because there tends to be very little time spent identifying the correct racial background of Asian Americans. 

The events of Tuesday and the increased violence towards AAPI communities is only part of the larger picture of racism in America. The continued violence and systemic racism towards the Black community, which many in the Asian community have been complicit in, are the results of a system designed for White prosperity. 

Our work to protect clean water is directly tied to social and racial justice. For ways you can support the AAPI groups right now, check out these Georgia advocates to lend your support in the communities affected by Tuesday’s attack: 

-Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Atlanta 

-Asian American Advocacy Fund

-9to5 Georgia

-National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum – Atlanta

Locally check out APANO and read their statement here. For more about the escalating violence and anti-Asian racism in the United States, read “Yes, Asians and Asian Americans experience racism” a Seattle Times Op Ed by Paul Youngbin Kim, a professor of psychology at Seattle Pacific University. For tips on how to show up for the AAPI community check out Kim Saira on Instagram, and to read more from Dr. Connie Wun, we recommend her piece Ignoring The History Of Anti-Asian Racism Is Another Form Of Violence. 

For ways to fight white terrorism please support the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, Black Lives Matter, and see our statement for more organizations working for social justice.  

Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion:

Our vision is a Columbia River that unites people to fight for clean water, abundant fish and wildlife, and our climate.