An Open Letter: Atlanta – what exactly happened?

On April 16, 2021, one month after the horrific shootings in Atlanta, korientation—a network for Asian-German perspectives with a socially critical view of culture, media and politics—published an open letter against anti-Asian racism and silence, demanding concrete actions to be taken to address anti-Asian racism. diaCRITICS and our publisher, the Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network, were signatories of this important letter. We’re proud to re-publish the English translation of this letter along with a note from Kien Nghi Ha, Assistant Professor for Asian German Studies at the University of Tübingen.

View the original letter here.

“In Memory. In Resistance” – Demonstration in Berlin against the anti-Asian attack in Atlanta on 28.03.2021 in front of the Brandenburg Gate and the US-Embassy (Photo: Uli Kretschmer).

Groundbreaking in Several Ways: On the Significance of this Open Letter in the Asian-German Context

by Dr. Kien Nghi Ha (Assistant Professor for Asian German Studies, University of Tübingen). May, 16th 2021

The open letter was co-sponsored by 32 Asian-German and Asian-Diasporic organizations and 235 self-identified Asian individuals at the time of its publication. In addition, there are another 175 individuals in solidarity as well as 93 supporting organizations like Amadeu Antonio Foundation, Federal Youth Organization of the Workers’ Welfare, Asia House Foundation and the Association of Advice Centers for Persons Affected by Right-Wing, Racist and Anti-Semitic Violence. Also the major immigrant associations operating nationwide are first signatories of the open letter: BAGIV (Federal Working Group of Immigrant Associations), BKMO (Federal Conference of Migrant organizations), DAMOST (Umbrella Association of Migrants Organizations in East Germany), DaMigra (Umbrella Association of Females Migrant Organizations), ndo (New German Organizations) and VIW (Association for Intercultural Welfare, Empowerment and Diversity).

After the open letter was published, many more co-signatures followed. By May 16, 2021, more than 46 organizations and 601 individuals had additionally signed the letter, including umbrella organizations such as the Anti-Discrimination Association of Germany, local alliances such as Space for Cultures in Neuss or the nationwide IAF (Association of Binational Families and Partnerships), AmF (Action Alliance of Muslim Women in Germany) and the ISD (Initiative of Black People in Germany). Likewise, other Asian-German initiatives followed the call such as A.Unit / Afro-Asian Art Project (Vienna), SrirachaHotNews (Offenbach am Main) and Diverse Vietnam (Frankfurt am Main).

This open letter is groundbreaking for the Asian-German context in several ways: for the first time, a very broad and strong coalition of diverse Asian-German and Asian-Diasporic organizations have come together to publicly demonstrate mutual, transnational, and intercommunal solidarity against anti-Asian racism. Likewise, the growing support from NGOs of Color and other progressive organizations has been impressive. Last but not least, this open letter has encouraged Asian Germans, Asian diasporic, Asian and Asian identified people living in and outside of Germany to raise political demands. The intergenerational, cross-cultural and socially inclusive composition of supporters from very different Asian communities is also striking: it ranges from cooks, security professionals and tradesmen to the usual suspects including activists, academics and cultural workers. There are veteran and well-known community members, but also many new names of Asian students and, in some cases, even pupils who can be found in this letter. Equally essential is the fact that people with names from the Arabic, Turkish, South and West Asian languages identify themselves in this open letter as Asian Germans – for many also for the very first time. For all these reasons, this common and equality-based coming to voice is immensely important. It can be assumed that this open letter will not only be a milestone in the formation and diversification of the Asian German Movement, but will hopefully also prove to be a historical document on the way to a post-migrant and post-colonial Germany.

~

For Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie Tan and Yong Ae Yue

Open Letter: Atlanta – what exactly happened?

Against anti-Asian racism and silence!
For cross-community solidarity and decolonized remembrance!

Berlin, 16th April 2021

Exactly one month ago today, on March 16, 2021, six Asian immigrant women from China and Korea and two white clients were murdered in three Asian massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia by a young white Christian fundamentalist. Activists from Asian-diasporic communities held a candlelight vigil for the victims of the racist and sexist attacks at the Peace Statue Against Sexual Violence Towards Women in Berlin on March 23, 2021. A rally was also held in front of Brandenburg Gate across from the U.S. Embassy on March 28, 2021.

We are a diverse group of people with different stories, from different Asian German communities, as well as from other Asian diasporas. We demonstrate transnational solidarity with Asian American communities. With our political engagement and action, we want to raise awareness for and oppose anti-Asian racism. This can only be done in solidarity with the fight against other forms of racism as well as sexism and classism!

With dismay, we notice that the socio-political significance of this anti-Asian mass murder continues to not be recognised in the U.S. and, to an even lesser-degree, in Germany. Politically, the massacre of innocent and unarmed victims has not yet been classified as a terrorist attack, nor has it been prosecuted as a racially-motivated hate crime. Yet, there is no question that the murders were premeditated and targeted Asian women in Asian-diasporic areas with inhuman brutality. Given the scale and gravity of this event, we are disappointed and angry; however, we are not surprised that the majority of German media has paid little to no attention to it. Furthermore, insufficient information was reported on the historical and social context and background. German politics and society have also failed to acknowledge these murders. These failures perpetuate a tradition in which anti-Asian racism is systematically underestimated in society, institutionally negated, and still, too often, made invisible.

We reject the vilification and refuse to be scapegoats for the COVID-19 pandemic. More than 3,750 attacks against Asian Americans have been recorded in the U.S. since the beginning of 2020. In Germany, too, verbal and physical attacks on Asian Germans have risen drastically. The fact that statistics on anti-Asian racism only started to be gathered and documented recently, is telling. Yet, anti-Asian racism is not a new phenomenon in Germany. A system of anti-Asian racism established roots in Germany when Germany colonized Chinese and Pacific territories in the 19th century. The racist pogroms in Hoyerswerda in 1991 and in Rostock-Lichtenhagen in 1992, as well as the murders of Nguyễn Ngọc Châu and Đỗ Anh Lân in Hamburg in 1980, Phan Văn Toản in Fredersdorf in 1997, Duy-Doan Pham in Neuss in 2011, and the rape and murder of Yangjie Li in Dessau in 2016, among others, demonstrate examples of historical continuity. Our commitment against anti-Asian racism is fundamentally connected to anti-racist struggles and historical experiences of other communities of color. This includes, for example, confronting NSU terrorism, the attack in Hanau, and our support for the Black Lives Matter movement.

One year after the racist terrorist attack in Hanau, there is still no federal strategy to combat racism. It remains unclear how the measures presented by the Kabinettausschuss gegen Rechtsextremismus und Rassismus (Cabinet Committee for the Fight Against Right-Wing Extremism and Racism) are to be implemented. The CDU’s blocking of the Demokratiefördergesetz (the Democracy Promotion Law) also demonstrates, once again, that the fight against racism and right-wing extremism is not prioritized and that the commitment of civil society organisations is not valued.

Our demands

  1. We call on the German government to recognise anti-Asian racism and recognise Asian and Asian-diasporic people as a vulnerable group worthy of protection in their “National Action Plan against Racism.”

Furthermore, Germany is called upon to conduct transparent data collection on both a political and legal level to identify systemic structural and institutional marginalization, exclusion, and exploitation of Asian-diasporic persons as a racialized, ethnicized, and culturalized group of people in Germany.

  1. We demand the acknowledgement of Asian/Asian German perspectives in institutional decolonisation processes as well as the recognition of multiple perspectives in the politics of remembrance.

In the context of decolonisation initiatives, it is vital to critically confront and examine the institutional, cultural, and educational patterns of exclusion and thought. Areas in Africa, parts of Asia, and the Pacific were also targets of German colonial expansions. A postcolonial Germany is only possible if the political demands of an inclusive, discrimination-free, and democratic society are respected. To achieve this, the equal inclusion and perspectives of community organisations, post-migrant scholars, and cultural workers have to be taken into account. We also support the demands for the clarification of colonial cultural theft and its immediate restitution. We are also in favour of reparations to all former colonies of Germany, although these colonial crimes cannot be erased or amended.

  1. We demand that anti-racist learning approaches be enshrined in the educational system – from daycare to university.

In order to ensure the longevity and sustainability of structural changes and to fight racism, the revision of curricula in educational institutions is indispensable. This includes a critical analysis of and confrontation with German colonial history and its lasting effects up to the present day, migrant knowledge and perspectives regarding past and present migration, as well as the confrontation with different forms of racist discrimination.

  1. We need institutional structures that can adequately represent the spectrum of social diversity–from the topics to the people–this is particularly applicable to the media sector.

Journalism schools, film and art colleges, media publishers, funding institutes, and editorial offices are of particular importance, because their work can (re)produce racist narratives or make a meaningful impact and contribution towards coexistence with less discrimination. We do not want to be alone with our grief and resistance. We are grateful that many people from different communities of color and also white people from German society demonstrate their solidarity and support us in our protests. We don’t want to just react, we want to be increasingly proactive and engage in an exchange of solidarity with other post-migrant organisations and communities. We call on all interested people to take a stand against anti-Asian racism. It is close to our hearts to join together, equally, and oppose all globally intertwined forms of racism, sexism, neocolonial exploitation, and oppression.

Solidary organisations, institutions, and groups, as well as individuals can support this open letter as co-signers even after its publication!

Permalink: www.korientation.de/atlanta-offener-brief

Contact email address: kontakt@asiatische-deutsche.org

Hashtag: #StopAntiAsianRacism

Initiative Group (FLINTA alphabetical)

Sara Djahim (korientation – Netzwerk für Asiatisch-Deutsche Perspektiven e.V.), Jee-Un Kim (korientation – Netzwerk für Asiatisch-Deutsche Perspektiven e.V.), Victoria Kure-Wu (ichbinkeinvirus.org), Thị Minh Huyền Nguyễn (ichbinkeinvirus.org), Thủy-Tiên Nguyễn (korientation – Netzwerk für Asiatisch-Deutsche Perspektiven e.V.), Tú Qùynh-nhu Nguyễn, Cuso Ehrich (Diaspor.Asia), Dieu Hao Do (BAFNET), Kien Nghi Ha.

First Signatories

Asian-German or Asian-Diasporic Initiatives and Organisations

(alphabetical)

  • Afghan Refugees Movement
  • AK Asia:Deutsche des Autonomen BIPoC Referates der Universität zu Köln
  • Asian Performing Artists Lab (APAL), Berlin
  • Asian Voices Europe
  • Ban Ying e.V. Koordinations- und Beratungsstelle gegen Menschenhandel
  • Berlin Asian Film Network (BAFNET)
  • Berlin For India
  • Bundesverband der Vietnamesen in Deutschland (BVD)
  • Deutsche Asiat*innen, Make Noise! (DAMN!)
  • diaCRITICS Magazine, USA
  • Diasporic Vietnamese Artists Network (DVAN), USA
  • DIASPOR.ASIA
  • DIGNITY FOR ASIANS IN GERMANY
  • Ensemble ~su, Berlin
  • GePGeMi e.V., Berlin
  • Hamam Talk Podcast
  • ichbinkeinvirus.org
  • Koreaverband e.V.
  • Korea Stiftung
  • Koreanische Adoptierte Deutschland (KAD) e. V. Bonn
  • korientation. Netzwerk für Asiatisch-Deutsche Perspektiven e.V.
  • MAI LING – Verein zur Förderung von zeitgenössischer, asiatischer Kunst und Kultur, Vienna (Austria)
  • Migrant Support Network e.V.
  • MSG & Friends (Berlin queer-led platform to empower artists of Asian heritage)
  • Perilla – Verein zur Förderung und Sichtbarmachung der asiatischen Diaspora in Österreich (Austria)
  • Philippine Studies Series Berlin
  • Rice Up! – Netzwerk, Sachsen
  • Solidarity of Korean People in Europe
  • Riots – Artist collective focusing on anti-Asian racism, Hamburg
  • Vietnamesischer Verein Trier und Umgebung e.V.
  • Vietnam-Zentrum Hannover e.V.
  • W.I.R. – Werdauer Initiative gegen Rassismus e.V., Sachsen

+++ Editorial note from April 19th, 2021 +++
On the publication day of our open letter on April 16th, eight people were killed by a young white man in a mass murder at a FedEx shipping center in Indianapolis, USA. Among the victims are four members of the local Sikh community: Amarjeet Johal, Jaswinder Kaur, Amarjit Sekhon, Jaswinder Singh. Matthew R. Alexander, Samaria Blackwell, Karli Smith and John Weisert were also murdered. We mourn all the victims of this senseless act and express our condolences with their families. At this point, the exact motives of the perpetrator remain unclear. We call upon the investigating authorities to examine the murder comprehensively and conscientiously. We call on them to not exclude any line of inquiry from the outset. This means including potential racial motives when people of color are murdered by white people, even when they seem unlikely at first glance. We are extremely concerned that these forms of toxic white masculinity will generate more victims in the future. We wish all communities of Color and Black communities, who are especially vulnerable to white supremacy and structural violence in the U.S.: Strength, Power and Love!

+++ [The Initiative group „Atlanta – what exactly happened?“] +++


Contributor’s Bio

korientation is a network for Asian-German perspectives with a socially critical view of culture, media and politics.

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