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Viet Thanh hao Nguyen was born in Vietnam và raised in America. His novel The Sympathizer won the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction, as well as five sầu other awards. His new novel The Committed is out March 3.

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The face of Tou Thao haunts me. The Hmong-American police officer stood with his back turned to Derek Chauvin, his partner, as Chauvin knelt on George Floyd’s neông xã for 8 minutes & 46 seconds & murdered hyên ổn.

In the đoạn phim that I saw, Tou Thao is in the foreground và Chauvin is partly visible in the background, George Floyd’s head pressed lớn the ground. Bystanders beg Tou Thao khổng lồ vì chưng something, because George Floyd was not moving, and as he himself said, he could not breathe.

The face of Tou Thao is like mine và not like mine, although the face of George Floyd is like mine and not lượt thích mine too. Racism makes us focus on the differences in our faces rather than our similarities, and in the alchemical experiment of the U.S., racial difference mixes with labor exploitation lớn produce an explosive phối of profit và atrothành phố. In response lớn endemic American racism, those of us who have sầu been racially stigmatized cohere around our racial difference. We take what White people hate about us, and we convert stigmata into pride, community & power. So it is that Tou Thao and I are “Asian Americans,” because we are both “Asian,” which is better than being an “Oriental” or a “gook.” If being an Oriental gets us mocked và being a gook can get us killed, being an Asian American might save sầu us. Our strength in numbers, in solidarity across our many differences of language, ethnicity, culture, religion, national ancestry và more, is the basis of being Asian American.

But in another reality, Tou Thao is Hmong mỏi và I am Vietnamese. He was a police officer và I am a professor. Does our being Asian bring us together across these ethnic & class divides? Does our being Southeast Asian, both our communities brought here by an American war in our countries, mean we see the world in the same way? Did Tou Thao experience the anti-Asian racism that makes us all Asian, whether we want to lớn be or not?

Let me go baông chồng in khổng lồ a being repeated today. Even if I no longer rethành viên how old I was when I saw these words, I have sầu never forgotten them: Another American driven out of business by the Vietnamese. Perhaps I was 12 or 13. It was the early 1980s, and someone had written them on a sign in a store window not far from my parents’ store. The sign confused me, for while I had been born in Vietnam, I had grown up in Pennsylvania and California, and had absorbed all kinds of Americana: the Mayflower and the Pilgrims; cowboys and Indians; Audie Murphy and John Wayne; George Washington and Betsy Ross; the Pledge of Allegiance; the Declaration of Independence; the guarantee of life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness; all the fantasy & folklore of the American Dream.


Two immigration officers interrogate Chinese immigrants suspected of being Communists or deserting seamen at Ellis Islvà.

Part of that dream was being against communism and for capitalism, which suited my parents perfectly. They had been born poor khổng lồ rural families, and without much formal schooling & using only their ingenuity & hard work, had become successful merchants. They fled communist Vietphái nam in 1975, after losing all of their property và most of their fortune. What they carried with them–including some gold và money sewn into the hems of their clothes–they used to buy a house next lớn the freeway in San Jose and to lớn open the second Vietnamese grocery store there, in 1978. In a burst of optimism & nostalgia, they named their store the New Saigon.

I am now older than my parents were when they had lớn begin their lives anew in this country, with only a little English. What they did looms in my memory as a nearly unimaginable feat. In the age of coronavi khuẩn, I am uncertain how to lớn sew a mask & worry about shopping for groceries. Survivors of war, my parents fought to lớn live again as aliens in a strange lvà, learning lớn read mortgage documents in another language, enrolling my brother and me in school, taking driver’s-license examinations. But there was no manual telling them how khổng lồ buy a store that was not advertised as for sale. They called strangers & navigated bureaucracy in order khổng lồ find the owners and persuade them to sell, all while suffering from the trauma of having lost their country & leaving almost all their relatives behind. By the my parents bought the store, my mother’s mother had died in Vietnam. The news nearly broke her.

Somehow the person who wrote this sign saw people lượt thích my mother và my father as less than human, as an enemy. This is why I am not surprised by the rising tide of anti-Asian racism in this country. Sickened, yes, to lớn hear of a woman splashed with acid on her doorstep; a man and his son slashed by a knife-wielding assailant at a Sam’s Club; numerous people being called the “Chinese virus” or the “chink virus” or told to lớn go to Đài Loan Trung Quốc, even if they are not of Chinese descent; people being spat on for being Asian; people afraid khổng lồ leave sầu their homes, not only because of the pandemic but also out of fear of being verbally or physically assaulted, or just looked at askance. Cataloging these incidents, the poet & essayist Cathy Park Hong wrote, “We don’t have coronavi khuẩn. We are coronavi khuẩn.”

Looking back, I can remember the low-cấp độ racism of my youth, the stupid jokes told by my Catholic-school classmates, like “Is your last name Nam?” and “Did you carry an AK-47 in the war?” as well as more obscene ones. I wonder: Did Tou Thao hear these kinds of jokes in Minnesota? What did he think of Fong Lee, Hao ước American, 19 years old, shot eight dramrajani.coms, four in the back, by Minneapolis police officer Jason Andersen in 2006? Andersen was acquitted by an all-trắng jury.


Confronted with anti-Asian racism from White people, the Hý muốn who came khổng lồ the U.S. as refugees in the 1970s and 1980s were often resettled in diverse urban areas, some in dominantly Blachồng communities where they also confronted racism. “Stories abounded within our community of battery, robberies and intimidations by our Blaông chồng neighbors,” Yia Vue wrote recently. “Hmong mỏi people live sầu side by side with their African-American neighbors in poorer sections of town, with generations of misunderstanding và stereotypes still strongly entrenched on both sides.” Yet when Fong Lee was killed, Black activists rallied to his cause. “They were the loudest voices for us,” Lee’s sister Shoua said. “They didn’t ask khổng lồ show up. They just showed up.”

Unlike the engineers và doctors who mostly came from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Trung Quốc & India–the model minority in the American imagination–many Hý muốn refugees arrived from a rural life in Laos devastated by war. Traumatized, they were resettled inkhổng lồ the midst of poverty và a complicated history of racial oppression of which they had little awareness. Even the Hmong mỏi who condemn Tou Thao và argue for solidarity with Blaông chồng Lives Matter insist that they should not be seen through the lens of the model-minority experience, should not be subject to liberal Asian-American guilt and hand-wringing over Tou Thao as a symbol of compliđô thị. Christian minister Ashley Gaozong Bauer, of Hmong mỏi descent, writes, “We’ve had to nói qua in the collective shame of the Model minority, but when have sầu Asian Americans shared in the pain and suffering of the Hmong muốn refugee narrative sầu & threats of deportation?”

Like the Hmong mỏi, the Vietnamese like myself suffered from war, and some are threatened by deportation now. Unlượt thích many of the Hmong muốn, a good number of Vietnamese refugees became, deliberately or otherwise, a part of the Model minority, including myself. The low-cấp độ racism I experienced happened in elite environments. By the I entered my mostly white, exclusive sầu, private high school, the message was clear lớn me & the few of us who were of Asian descent. Most of us gathered every day in a corner of the campus và called ourselves, with a laugh, or maybe a wince, “the Asian invasion.” But if that was a joke we made at our own expense, it was also a prophecy, for when I returned lớn campus a couple of years ago to lớn give sầu a lecture on race khổng lồ the assembled student body toàn thân, some 1,600 young men, I realized that if we had not quite taken over, there were many more of us almost 30 years later. No longer the threat of the Asian invasion, we were, instead, the mã sản phẩm minority: the desirable classmate, the favored neighbor, the nonthreatening kind of person of color.

Or were we? A couple of Asian-American students talked to lớn me afterward và said they still felt it. The vibe. The feeling of being foreign, especially if they were, or were perceived to lớn be, Muslyên, or brown, or Middle Eastern. The vibe. Racism is not just the physical assault. I have sầu never been physically assaulted because of my appearance. But I had been assaulted by the racism of the airwaves, the ching-chong jokes of radio shock jocks, the villainous or comical japs & chinks & gooks of American war movies và comedies. Like many Asian Americans, I learned khổng lồ feel a sense of shame over the things that supposedly made us foreign: our food, our language, our haircuts, our fashion, our smell, our parents.

What made these sendramrajani.comnts worse, Hong argues, was that we told ourselves these were “minor feelings.” How could we have sầu anything valid lớn feel or say about race when we, as a Model minority, were supposedly accepted by American society? At the same, anti-Asian sendramrajani.comnt remained a reservoir of major feeling from which Americans could always draw in a of crisis. Asian Americans still vày not wield enough political power, or have enough cultural presence, to lớn make many of our fellow Americans hesitate in deploying a racist idea. Our unimportance và our historical status as the perpetual foreigner in the U.S. is one reason the President and many others feel they can Hotline COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” or the “kung flu.”


Japanese-American residents of Los Angeles wave a farewell to lớn relatives & friends who are being deported khổng lồ nhật bản in October 1941.

The basis of anti-Asian racism is that Asians belong in Asia, no matter how many generations we have actually lived in non-Asian countries, or what we might have sầu done lớn prove sầu our belonging to non-Asian countries if we were not born there. Pointing the finger at Asians in Asia, or Asians in non-Asian countries, has been a tried and true method of racism for a long; in the U.S., it dates from the 19th century.

It was then that the U.S. imported thousands of Chinese workers to lớn build the transcontinental railroad. When their usefulness was over, American politicians, journalists và business leaders demonized them racially to lớn appease trắng workers who felt threatened by Chinese competition. The result was Trắng mobs lynching Chinese migrants, driving them en masse out of towns và burning down Chinatowns. The climax of anti-Chinese feeling was the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, the first racially discriminatory immigration law in American history, which would turn Chinese entering the U.S. into lớn the nation’s first illegal immigrant population. The Immigration and Naturalization Service was created, policing Chinese immigration and identifying Chinese who had come into the U.S. as “paper sons,” who claimed a fictive sầu relation to lớn the Chinese who had already managed to lớn come inkhổng lồ the country. As the political scientist Janelle Wong tells me, while “European immigrants were confronted with widespread hostility, they never faced the kind of legal racial restrictions on immigration & naturalization that Asian Americans experienced.”

American history has been marked by the cycle of big businesses relying on cheap Asian labor, which threatened the White working class, whose fears were stoked by race-baiting politicians & truyền thông media, leading lớn catastrophic events lượt thích the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. The person who wrote that sign I rethành viên seeing as a child, blaming the Vietnamese for destroying American businesses, was simply telling a story about the yellow peril that was always available for fearful Americans.

The reality was that downtown San Jose in the 1970s and 1980s was shabby, a run-down place where almost no one wanted lớn open new businesses, except for Vietnamese refugees. Today, Americans rely on China và other Asian countries for cheap commodities that help Americans live the American Dream, then turn around and blame the Chinese for the loss of American jobs or the rise of American vulnerability to lớn economic competition.

It is easier lớn blame a foreign country or a minority, or even politicians who negotiate trade agreements, than to identify the real power: corporations & economic elites who shift jobs, maximize profit at the expense of workers & care nothing for working Americans. To acknowledge this reality is far too disturbing for many Americans, who resort lớn blaming Asians as a simpler answer. Asian Americans have sầu not forgotten this anti-Asian history, & yet many have hoped that it was behind them. The slur of the “Chinese virus” has revealed how fragile our acceptance & inclusion was.

In the face of renewed attacks on our American belonging, the former presidential candidate Andrew Yang offered this solution: “We Asian Americans need to embrace & show our Americanness in ways we never have before … We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will vì our part for our country in this of need.” Many Asian Americans took offense at his Điện thoại tư vấn, which seemed to apologize for our Asian-American existence. Yang’s critics pointed out that Asian Americans have sầu literally wrapped themselves in the American flag in dramrajani.coms of anti-Asian crisis; have sầu donated lớn Trắng neighbors và fellow citizens in emergencies; & died for this country fighting in its wars. And is there anything more American than joining the police? Did Tou Thao think he was proving his belonging by becoming a cop?

None of these efforts have sầu prevented the stubborn persistence of anti-Asian racism. Calling for more sacrifices simply reiterates the sense that Asian Americans are not American & must constantly prove an Americanness that should not need khổng lồ be proven. Japanese Americans had to lớn prove sầu their Americanness during World War II by fighting against Germans và Japanese while their families were incarcerated, but German & Italian Americans never had khổng lồ prove their Americanness to the same extent. German và Italian Americans were selectively imprisoned for suspected or actual disloyalty, while Japanese Americans were incarcerated en masse, their race marking them as un-American.

Asian Americans are caught between the perception that we are inevitably foreign và the temptation that we can be allied with trắng people in a country built on White supremacy. As a result, anti-Black (and anti-brown và anti-Native) racism runs deep in Asian-American communities. Immigrants and refugees, including Asian ones, know that we usually have sầu khổng lồ start low on the ladder of American success. But no matter how low down we are, we know that America allows us lớn stvà on the shoulders of Blaông xã, brown and Native people. Throughout Asian-American history, Asian immigrants & their descendants have been offered the opportunity by both Blaông xã people and Trắng people khổng lồ choose sides in the Black-trắng racial divide, & we have sầu far too often chosen the white side. Asian Americans, while actively critical of anti-Asian racism, have sầu not always stood up against anti-Blaông xã racism. Frequently, we have gone along with the status quo & affiliated with White people.


The Japanese owner of this grocery store in Oaklvà, California displays a sign reminding pedestrians of his loyalties to America, & not Japan, in 1944.

And yet there have sầu been vocal Asian Americans who have called for solidarity with Blaông chồng people và other people of color, from the activist Yuri Kochiyama, who cradled a dying Malcolm X, lớn the activist Grace Lee Boggs, who settled in Detroit & engaged in serious, radical organizing & theorizing with her Black husbvà James Boggs. Kochiyama and Lee Boggs were far from the only Asian Americans who argued that Asian Americans should not stand alone or stvà only for themselves. The very term Asian American, coined in the 1960s by Yuji Ichioka và Emma Gee and adopted by college student activists, was brought khổng lồ national consciousness by a movement that was about more than just defending Asian Americans against racism và promoting an Asian-American identity.

Asian-American activists saw their movement as also being antiwar, anti-imperialism & anticapitalism. Taking inspiration from the 1955 Bandung Conference, a gathering of nonaligned African and Asian nations, and from Mao, they located themselves in an international struggle against colonialism with other colonized peoples. Mao also inspired radical African Americans, and the late 1960s in the U.S. was a moment when radical activists of all backgrounds saw themselves as part of a Third World movement that linked the uprisings of racial minorities with a global rebellion against capitalism, racism, colonialism & war.

The legacy of the Third World và Asian-American movements continues today aao ước Asian-American activists và scholars, who have sầu long argued that Asian Americans, because of their history of experiencing racism và labor exploitation, offer a radical potential for contesting the worst aspects of American society. But the more than 22 million Asian Americans, over 6% of the American population, have many different national & ethnic origins và ancestries and dramrajani.coms of immigration or settlement. As a result, we often have sầu divergent political viewpoints. Today’s Asian Americans are being offered two paths: the radical future imagined by the Asian-American movement, và the consumer model symbolized by drinking bocha tea & listening khổng lồ K-pop. While Asian Americans increasingly trend Democratic, we are far from all being radical.

What usually unifies Asian Americans & enrages us is anti-Asian racism và murder, beginning with the anti-Chinese violence và virulence of the 19th century và continuing through incidents like a white gunman killing five sầu Vietnamese & Cambodian refugee children in a Stockton, Calif., school in 1989, and another white gunman killing six members of a Sikh gurdwara in Wisconsin in 2012. The murder of Vincent Chin, killed in 1982 by trắng Detroit autoworkers who mistook hyên ổn for Japanese, remains a rallying cry. As vày the Los Angeles riots, or uprisings, of 1992, when much of Koreatown was burned down by mostly Black & brown looters while the LAPD watched. Korean-American merchants suffered about half of the economic damage. Two Asian Americans were killed in the violence.

All of this is cause for mourning, remembrance & outrage, but so is something else: the 61 other people who died were not Asian, & the majority of them were Blachồng or brown. Most of the more than 12,000 people who were arrested were also Blaông chồng or brown. In short, Korean Americans suffered economic losses, as well as emotional và psychic damage, that would continue for years afterward. But they had property lớn chiến bại, and they did not pay the price of their tenuous Americanness through the same loss of life or liberty as experienced by their Blaông xã và brown customers & neighbors.

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Many Korean Americans were angry because they felt the city’s law-enforcement & political leadership had sacrificed them by preventing the unrest from reaching the whiter parts of the thành phố, making Korean Americans bear the brunt of the long-simmering rage of Blaông xã và brown Angelenos over poverty, segregation & abusive police treatment. In the aftermath, Koreatown was rebuilt, although not all of the shopkeepers recovered their livelihoods. Some of the money that rebuilt Koreatown came, ironically, from South Korea, which had enjoyed a decades-long transformation into lớn an economic powerhouse. South Korean capital, & eventually South Korean pop culture, especially cinema & K-pop, became cooler & more fashionable than the Korean immigrants who had left South Korea for the American Dream. Even if economic struggle still defined a good giảm giá of Korean immigrant life, it was overshadowed by the overall American perception of Asian-American success, & by the new factor of Asian capital và competition.

This is what it means to lớn be a model minority: khổng lồ be invisible in most circumstances because we are doing what we are supposed to be doing, lượt thích my parents, until we become hypervisible because we are doing what we vì chưng too well, lượt thích the Korean shopkeepers. Then the mã sản phẩm minority becomes the Asian invasion, & the Asian-American Mã Sản Phẩm minority, which had served lớn prove the success of capitalism, bears the blame when capitalism fails.


The National Guard at the Korean Pride Parade in Los Angeles on April 29, 1992 following the riots that swept the city after three of four police officers accused of the 1991 beating of Rodney King were cleared of all charges.

Not khổng lồ say that we bear the brunt of capitalism. Situated in the middle of America’s fraught racial relations, we receive sầu, on the whole, more benefits from American capitalism than Black, brown or Indigenous peoples, even if many of us also experience poverty & marginalization. While some of us vị die from police abuse, it does not happen on the same scale as that directed against Black, brown or Indigenous peoples. While we bởi experience segregation & racism and hostility, we are also more likely khổng lồ live in integrated neighborhoods than Black or Indigenous people. To the extent that we experience advantage because of our race, we are also complicit in holding up a system that disadvantages Blaông xã, brown và Indigenous people because of their race.

Given our tenuous place in American society, no wonder so many Asian Americans might want to prove their Americanness, or khổng lồ dream of acceptance by a white-dominated society, or condemn Tou Thao as not one of “us.” But when Asian Americans speak of their vast collective sầu, with origins from East khổng lồ West Asia và South to Southeast Asia, who is the “we” that we use? The elite multiculturalism of colored faces in high places is a genteel politics of representation that focuses on assimilation. So long excluded from American life, marked as inassimilable aliens and perpetual foreigners, asked where we come from and complimented on our English, Asian immigrants và their descendants have sought passionately to make this country our own. But from the perspective of many Blachồng, brown & Indigenous people, this country was built on their enslavement, their dispossession, their erasure, their forced migration, their imprisonment, their segregation, their abuse, their exploited labor and their colonization.

For many if not all Blaông chồng, brown và Indigenous people, the American Dream is a farce as much as a tragedy. Multiculturalism may make us feel good, but it will not save sầu the American Dream; reparations, economic redistribution, và defunding or abolishing the police might.

If Hý muốn experiences fit more closely with the failure of the American Dream, what does it mean for some Asian Americans to lớn still want their piece of it? If we claim America, then we must clalặng all of America, its hope & its hypocrisy, its profit and its pain, its liberty & its losses, its imperfect union and its ongoing segregation.

To be Asian American is therefore paradoxical, for being Asian American is both necessary & insufficient. Being Asian American is necessary, the name và identity giving us something to organize around, allowing us khổng lồ have sầu more than “minor feelings.” I vividly remember becoming an Asian American in my sophomore year, when I transferred lớn UC Berkeley, stepped foot on the campus and was immediately struông xã by intellectual và political lightning. Through my Asian-American studies courses and my fellow student activists of the Asian American Political Alliance, I was no longer a faceless part of an “Asian invasion.” I was an Asian American. I had a face, a voice, a name, a movement, a history, a consciousness, a rage. That rage is a major feeling, compelling me lớn refuse a submissive politics of apology, which an uncritical acceptance of the American Dream demands.

But the rage that is at the heart of the Asian-American movement–a righteous rage, a wrath for justice, acknowledgment, redemption–has not been able to overcome the transformation of the movement into lớn a diluted if empowering identity. In its most diluted khung, Asian-American identity is also open khổng lồ anti-Blaông xã racism, the acceptance of colonization, & the fueling of America’s perpetual-motion war machine, which Americans from across the Democratic và Republican parties accept as a part of the U.S.

Refugees from Vietphái nam desckết thúc a flight of stairs from an airplane in Oakl&, California, April 1975

My presence here in this country, and that of my parents, và a majority of Vietnamese & Hước ao, is due lớn the so-called Vietnam giới War in Southeast Asia that the U.S. helped khổng lồ wage. The war in Laos was called “the Secret War” because the CIA conducted it and kept it secret from the American people. In Laos, the Hmuốn were a stateless minority without a country to lớn Gọi their own, & CIA advisers promised the Hước ao that if they fought along with them, the U.S. would take care of the Hmong mỏi in both victory và defeat, perhaps even helping them gain their own homel&. About 58,000 Hhy vọng who fought with the Americans lost their lives, fighting communists và rescuing downed American pilots flying secret bombing missions over Laos. When the war ended, the CIA abandoned most of its Hmong mỏi allies, taking only a small number out of the country to Vương Quốc Nụ Cười. The ones who remained behind suffered persecution at the hands of their communist enemies.

This is why Tou Thao’s face haunts me. Not just because we may look alike in some superficial way as Asian Americans, but because he & I are here because of this American history of war. The war was a tragedy for us, as it was for the Blaông xã Americans who were sent to lớn “guarantee liberties in Southeast Asia which they had not found in southwest Georgia and East Harlem,” as Martin Luther King Jr. argued passionately in his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietphái mạnh.” In this radical speech, he condemns not just racism but capitalism, militarism, American imperialism và the American war machine, “the greakiểm tra purveyor of violence in the world today.” In another speech, he demands that we question our “whole society,” which means “ultimately coming to see that the problem of racism, the problem of economic exploitation and the problem of war are all tied together.”

Little has changed. The U.S. is still a country built on war & for war. This is why “Vietnam giới,” meaning the Vietnam giới War, continues to haunt this country, stuông xã in a forever war. And this is why Tou Thao’s face haunts me. It is the face of someone who shares some of my history và has done the thing I fear to vày when faced with injustice–nothing. Addressing Tou Thao, the poet Mai Der Vang, also Hmong mỏi, wrote in her poem “In the Year of Permutations”: “Go live sầu with yourself after what you didn’t vì.” Thao was “complicit in adding to lớn the/ perpetration of power on a nechồng … Never truly lớn be accepted/ always a pawn.” While the life of a Hmong-American police officer descended from refugees is different from that of a stereotypical model-minority Chinese-American engineer or a Vietnamese-American writer like me, the moral choices remain the same. Solidarity or complicity. Rise against abusive power or st& with our baông xã turned to the abuse of power. If we as Asian Americans choose the latter, we are indeed the Mã Sản Phẩm minority, and we deserve both its privileges và its perils.

Our challenge is to be both Asian American and to lớn imagine a world beyond it, one in which being Asian American isn’t necessary. This is not a problem of assimilation or multiculturalism. This is a contradiction, inherited from the fundamental contradiction that ties the American body toàn thân politic together, its aspiration toward echất lượng for all, bound with its need to exploit the lvà và racially marked people, beginning from the very origins of American society and its conquest of Indigenous nations và importation of African slaves. The U.S. is an example of a successful project of colonization, only we do not Hotline colonization by that name here. Instead, we Hotline successful colonization “the American Dream.” This is why, as Mai Der Vang says, “the American Dream will not save sầu us.”

“Asian Americans” should not exist in a l& where everyone is equal, but because of racism’s persistence, & capitalism’s need for cheap, racialized labor, “Asian Americans” vày indeed exist. The end of Asian Americans only happens with the kết thúc of racism & capitalism. Faced with this problem, Asian Americans can be a model of apology, trying to lớn prove an Americanness that cannot be proved. Or we can be a mã sản phẩm of justice & dem& greater economic & social eunique for us & for all Americans.

If we are dissatisfied with our country’s failures & limitations, revealed to lớn us in stark clarity during the of coronavirus, then now is our to lớn change our country for the better. If you think America is in trouble, blame shareholders, not immigrants; look at CEOs, not foreigners; resent corporations, not minorities; yell at politicians of both parties, not the weak, who have sầu little in the way of power or wealth to lớn nói qua. Many Americans of all backgrounds understvà this better now than they did in 1992. Then, angry protesters burned down Koreatown. Now, they peacefully surround the White House nhà trắng.

Demanding that the powerful và the wealthy nội dung their power & their wealth is what will make America great. Until then, race will continue to divide us. To locate Tou Thao in the middle of a Black-Hhy vọng divide, or a Black-Asian divide, as if race were the only problem & the only answer, obscures a fatal statistic: the national poverty rate was 15.1% in 2015, while the rate for African Americans was about 24.1% và for Hhy vọng Americans 28.3%.

Youa Vang Lee speaks in front of thousands of people attending a memorial rally for George Floyd at the Minnesota State Capitol on May, 31, 20trăng tròn.

The problem is race, and class, and war–a country almost always at war overseas that then pits its poor of all races and its exploited minorities against each other in a domestic war over scarce resources. So long as this crossbred system of White supremacy and capitamenu exploitation remains in place, there will always be someone who will write that sign: Another American Driven Out of Business by , because racism always offers the temptation lớn blame the weak rather than the powerful. The people who write these signs are engaging in the most dangerous kind of identity politics, the nationalist American kind, which, from the origins of this country, has been trắng và propertied. The police were created khổng lồ defkết thúc the White, the propertied & their allies, & continue lớn vì so. Blaông chồng people know this all too well, many descended from people who were property.

My parents, as newcomers to lớn America, learned this lesson most intimately. When they opened the New Saigon, they told me not to Điện thoại tư vấn the police if there was trouble. In Vietphái nam, the police were not lớn be trusted. The police were corrupt. But a few years later, when an armed (white) gunman burst inkhổng lồ our house và pointed a gun in all our faces, và after my mother dashed by hyên và into lớn the street and saved our lives, I called the police. The police officers who came were trắng và Latino. They were gentle và respectful with us. We owned property. We were the victims. And yet our status as people with property, as refugees fulfilling the American Dream, as good neighbors for White people, is always fragile, so long as that sign can always be hung.

But the people who would hang that sign misunderstand a basic fact of American life: America is built on the business of driving other businesses out of business. This is the life cycle of capitalism, one in which an (Asian) American Dream that is multicultural, transpacific và corporate fits perfectly well. My parents, natural capitalists, succeeded at this life cycle until they, in turn, were driven out of business. The thành phố of San Jose, which had neglected downtown when my parents arrived, changed its approach with the rise of Silibé Valley. Realizing that downtown should reflect the image of a modern tech metropolis, the thành phố used eminent domain name lớn force my parents khổng lồ sell their store. Across from where the New Saigon once stood now looms the brand-new thành phố hall, which was supposed khổng lồ face a brand-new symphony hall.

I love the idea that a symphony could have sầu sprung from the refugee roots of the New Saigon, where my parents shed not only sweat but blood, having once been shot there on Christmas Eve. But for many years, all that stood on my parents’ property was a dismal parking lot. Eventually the thành phố sold the property for many millions of dollars, and now a tower of expensive sầu condominiums is being built on the site of my parents’ struggle for the American Dream. The symphony was never heard. This, too, is America.

So is this: the mother of Fong Lee, Youa Vang Lee, marching with Hmuốn 4 Blaông chồng Lives on the Minnesota state capitol in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. “I have sầu to lớn be there,” she said. She spoke in Hmong, but her feelings could be understood without translation.

“The same happened khổng lồ my son.”

Nguyen is a Pulitzer Prize–winning novelist và a University Professor at the University of Southern California

Correction, June 29, 2020

The original version of this story misstated the spelling of the last name of the police officer who killed Fong Lee. It is Andersen, not Anderson.

This appears in the July 06, 20đôi mươi issue of

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