“Up to that point, we had been called Orientals. Oriental was a rug that everyone steps on, so we ain’t no Orientals. We were Asian American.”
- Richard Aoki
The birth of Asian American identity springs from radical roots, anti-racism, solidarity with Black Power, and embracing the importance of self-definition. We need to remember the Asian American Political Alliance.
From their declaration in 1969:
DECLARATION OF THE ASIAN AMERICAN POLITICAL ALLIANCE, 1969
The Asian American Political Alliance is people. It is a people’s alliance to effect social and political changes. We believe that the American society is historically racist and one which has systematically employed social discrimination and economic imperialism, both domestically and internationally, exploiting all non-white people in the process of building up their affluent society.
They did so at the expense of all of us. Uncontrolled capitalism has pushed all of the non-white people into a cosial position so that only manual jobs with subhuman pay are open to them. Consequently, we have been psychologically so conditioned by the blue-eye-blond-hair standard that many of us have lost our perspective. We can only survive if “we know our place” - shut up and accept what we are given. We resent this kind of domination and we are determined to change it.
The goal of AAPA is political education and advancement of the movement among Asian people, so that they may make all decisions that affect their own lives, in a society that never asks people to do so. AAPA is not an isolated group, and should never profess to be such. Its only legitimacy and value is in the effects it has on many people, not just a small group of people. In the same vein, AAPA is not meant to isolate Asians from other people; it is unhealthy as well as unwise to do such a thing. AAPA must constantly expand and grow, and reach out to other people and groups. At the same time, AAPA must meet the needs of its own members and deal with its own problems.
In the past political organizations have tended to subject themselves to rigid, traditional levels of structure in which a few make the decisions, present them to the body, and the body can vote either “yes” or “no.” This hierarchistic organization, however, is only a manifestation of the elite control, primidal [sic (pyramidal)] structure mentality in which you are not capable of making your own decisions, an idea drilled into you from the foundations of this society.
AAPA is only what the people make it. We have adopted a structure which better fits the needs and goals of our alliance, not a structure to which we have to adjust ourselves. Furthermore, there is no membership in AAPA in the strict sense of the word. There are workers who for common interests join together with one or more people to intensify the effectiveness of an action.