Yet again we have witnessed a violent attack on one of our communities that have long been oppressed, discriminated against, made invisible and so many other injustices. When will this stop, when will it cease? How it affects one of our communities affects us all. We at FrontLine Farming stand in solidarity with our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) sisters and brothers in the face of mounting, but historically prevalent, anti-Asian racism, specifically against sisters and elders. In 2020, hate crimes against AAPI in major U.S. cities grew nearly 150%, with 3,795 self-reported cases. Over the last few weeks, we have been rocked by painful losses, and know these losses are not news under the race-based rhetoric surrounding the spread of COVID. While many acknowledge that this history is long, few take the time to recite it. We ask that you take 2 minutes to read about how anti-Asian racism has affected the agricultural community in the US and here in Colorado.
In the late nineteenth century, Chinese and Japanese immigrants drove influential advancements for agriculture in the US including reclaiming swampland in central California for crops and providing essential skills and knowledge to the development of specialized crops across the western seaboard. Whites in the industry felt threatened by working alongside these workers, and as racial tensions mounted, the US enacted The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and then the Immigration Acts of 1917 and 1924. These Acts, as well as the lesser-known 1875 Page Act, that prohibited immigration of Chinese women who were stereotyped as prostitutes, barred those of Asian descent from entering the country. The ideologies of misogyny and white supremacy have long been intertwined, and while media and narratives ask us to look at this as two separate issues, particularly with white male perpetuators of violence against women, they are not. Misogyny is another extreme of hate and a dangerous and often neglected component of understanding extremism. We have seen this historically and we see it now with the shameless perpetuation of narratives around the bodies of women from these communities.
Filipinos were the only Asian exception to the Immigration Act of 1924 because the US had annexed the Philippines in 1898. As colonial subjects, Fillipino men were hired as farm labor in the 1920’s to 30’s, however Fillipino women were barred from entering due to stereotypes of being hypersexual and sexworkers. Miscegenation laws at the time controlled racial intermarriage, yet many of these farmworkers enjoyed socializing with [white] women at dance halls. This ignited fear among whites about perceived dangers these men posed. As a result, farmers began pushing for labor from Mexico because they believed these immigrants would not stay in the county after the farm season was over, thus reducing chances of racial intermarriage.
Colorado has its own role to play in anti-Asian racism in agriculture. From 1942 to ‘45, over 7,000 Japanese Americans were imprisoned in Granada, CO (aka Amache). These families were used as farm labor on sugar beet farms in Weld County, Colorado during internment, a strategy of Department of Agriculture officials to test their agricultural potential. Even under this oppressive forced labor, families at Amache stewarded their own gardens with eggshells and coffee grinds from the mess halls and seeds they carried with them after forced relocation to concentration camps.
The AAPI community’s knowledge and actions are deeply woven in the creation of the US society that we live in today. Professionals of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage consistently contribute to our present and future, and still many remain on the frontlines and labor in food production for our homes and tables. Today, Southeast Asian refugees resettled in Colorado still find work in food production and manufacturing, an industry with high injury and mortality rates. Continuing to relegate AAPI community to underpaid, poorly regulated industries with blooms of COVID outbreaks is just another example of structural racism and the disregard for the wellbeing of AAPI people in our society and the continued racism within the agricultural industry.
Racist exclusions, race-based violence, and the continuation of colonial ideologies is dangerous and results in the loss of elders who hold our knowledge and youth who hold our future. FzLF stands in solidarity with the AAPI community with whom we share our neighborhoods. We denounce racist and colonialist ideologies that drive deplorable behaviors, practices and policies against members of AAPI communities. We will continue to work for the collective liberation of all those who suffer from the violence and damage of systemic, systematic, and individual expressions of racism.
If you need mental health support at any time of day, please contact Colorado Crisis Services: 1-844-493-TALK (8255) or text TALK to 38255.
If you have the financial means to donate to organizations that are working in partnership with the AAPI community here are a couple we recommend: