Black-Asian Unity: Why we need to talk about race relations beyond individual incidents

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By Sam Cacas

Since publishing my first book, “BlAsian Exchanges, a novel” two years ago, I have often been asked to speak about the real-life common history of Blacks & Asians that is highlighted throughout my book. This includes the true story about Richard Aoki, a Japanese American, who was one of the founding members of the Black Panther Party, the NAACP’s opposition to the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, and Black and Asian American students joining protests to promote ethnic studies at college campuses in the 1970s.

The interest is generated by the fact that many of these transracial connections between both Asians & Blacks involve a specific history of collaboration that mainstream media and traditional academia ignore but most people – especially Asians & Blacks – want to hear.

I believe that Asians, Blacks and the rest of the community should keep this common history in mind and consider talking about it at future community meetings and social gatherings as we try to grapple with whether incidents like the April 16 killing of Tiansheng Yu are hate motivated or random crimes.

Hearing about our commonalities – be they political or social – helps break the ice and creates the necessary bridge to discuss issues like race that can be hard for any community to discuss, particularly given America’s hesitancy to take up such concerns.

Having worked as a community organizer on anti-Asian hate violence and other forms of hate violence issues in the ‘90s and ‘80s, I know that I would be asking the questions many in the Black and Asian communities are now asking: Should one incident or even a series of incidents represent how Blacks regard Asians? why didn’t the two Black suspects attack the numerous potential victims who are Black in the vicinity of 17th & Telegraph if they claimed they were out to attack the first person they saw? Asking these questions would help calm the tensions and at least tell everyone in both communities and the rest of the community that the law enforcement and elected officials seriously care about this incident and other incidents of anti-Asian violence in Oakland and throughout the Bay Area, delve into the neutral factfinding that needs to be asked to determine whether a discriminatory motive was involved. The whole community – and not just the Asian community that the victims are from – need to ask these questions when incidents like this occur. The police , media and other institutions that have an interest in such matters should be meeting with a broad array of civil rights organizations and interested individuals and discuss ways of convening large as well as small informal dialogue sessions that cover the commonalities and differences between both communities – not just fatal incidents like the Yu murder. We need to build unity by coming together at times other than the aftermath of criminal happenings so that we can speak up for each other and thus in the long-term prevent incidents like the Yu killing from happening to a Black or Asian victim in the future. From my organizing experience, I know that the above suggestion may fall on deaf ears so I am encouraging everyone to join my new “Better Black and Asian Relations” Facebook page at!/group.php?gid=112441975457925

Sam Cacas blogs regularly at and is currently completing his next book, “Black-Asian Connections.” Please join his new “Better Black and Asian relations” Facebook page at!/group.php?gid=112441975457925

He also writes a frequent column on Black-Asian Unity at

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