BY DR. TOETU FAALEAVA and MARLEEN WALLINGFORD
In 1862, Oregon required all black, Chinese, Hawaiian and multiracial people in the state to pay an annual tax. Those who could not pay were forced to provide cheap labor to maintain roads as white settlers developed land, which had been gifted to them by the United States government after it was taken from Oregon tribes. In 1882, the U.S. enacted the Chinese Exclusion Act, prohibiting Chinese immigration to the country. In 1942, Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, forcibly removing all individuals of Japanese ancestry. In 1996, Congress passed welfare reform that excluded Micronesian Islanders to Medicaid. In 2014, anti-immigrant organizers successfully led the attack on Measure 88, which would have provided undocumented immigrants driver cards that provided mobility and maintained their families’ livelihoods. More recently, the Trump administration targeted Muslims with a travel ban, and just announced ending the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) program.
Why the abbreviated history lesson? Because our communities have seen what happens when fear and prejudice take precedence over respect and compassion.
In the face of state and vigilante violence, racial and religious profiling, and policies designed to exclude, control and divide our families, we have resisted. We have said, “Never again.” When groups such as Patriot Prayer hold marches along Southeast 82nd Avenue and rallies in downtown Portland we have seen white supremacist and neo-Nazi members in attendance. These gatherings have provided a platform for dangerous, bigoted rhetoric and intentionally bring violence directly to our door, traumatizing our children and dividing our communities.
At the Patriot Prayer march back in April, participants shouted “Go back to where you came from.” Their June “rally” brought out armed militia and well-known hate groups. This past weekend’s rally was no different, with the anti-immigrant Hell Shaking Street Preachers and the violent chauvinist group Proud Boys in attendance. And, a Patriot Prayer supporter allegedly attempted to hit counter-protesters with his vehicle in Vancouver. Media outlets have recently fixated on organizers within Patriot Prayer who identify as people of color, as if this somehow legitimizes the impacts of their actions.
Regardless of the messenger, we must remain clear on our opposition to the racist, anti-immigrant agenda these groups push. We must all actively condemn hate.
As Asians and Pacific Islanders, we have a responsibility to support those most at risk in this political climate who face increased levels of violence, targeting and policing. We cannot be silent as extremist groups demonize our families and neighbors, threaten our safety and work to strip our communities of the rights and resources we need to thrive. Let us remember our history and the legacy of resistance we have inherited. Let’s continue the fight against injustice for all communities coming under increased threat from organized white supremacy and the complicit and antagonistic alt-right coalition, whether in the streets or in the halls of elected office.
We demand that our leaders and public institutions prioritize protecting communities of color, and to take a stance against the emboldened white supremacist movement in Oregon.