23 March 2021
INPUD strongly condemns the sharp rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, racism and bigotry around the world. These hate crimes are founded on the scapegoating of Asian people and fueled by the COVID-19 pandemic, yet anti-Asian bigotry long predates the pandemic and is closely tied to the war on drugs.
A report by Human Rights Watch last May showed COVID-19 was fueling xenophobia against Asian people and people of Asian descent. This has manifested itself in vandalism, verbal harassment, violence and death, including last week’s murder of six Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia.
Prominent political figures such as Donald Trump or Jair Bolsonaro have stoked this hate, using racially charged language such as referring to COVID-19 as the ‘China pandemic’ and ‘Kung Flu’. Along with political parties in countries such as Italy, Spain, Greece and Germany, these so-called ‘leaders’ have intentionally spread xenophobic conspiracy theories related to COVID-19 to advance an agenda of hate. INPUD has long argued that words matter and shape the ways in which we see the world. In this case, language is being used to dehumanise and denigrate Asian people and communities.
The rise in hate crimes and violence targeting the Asian community is deeply rooted in history, from the first U.S anti-opium laws in the 1870’s targeting Chinese immigrant communities to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. In Canada, similar bigotry influenced by the British-controlled opium trade portrayed Chinese communities as an outside threat, using criminalisation as a vehicle for exclusion by giving law enforcement the means to deploy violence with the backing of the state. The success of this tactic led for the same type of selective criminalisation to be used on Black, Latinx and Indigenous communities in North America and eventually, the rest of the world. This disgraceful legacy lives on, with criminalisation targeting Black, Brown and Indigenous bodies.
Our bodies and lives as people who use drugs, particularly people of colour who use drugs, are part of this historical continuum of racism, otherism and scapegoating. The myth of the ‘model minority’ of the Asian immigrant community is part of this history and must be rejected, as it has been used as a tool to divide and inculcate silence in the face of violence and oppression. An intersectional analysis makes visible those most impacted by violence: sex workers, women who use drugs, cis and transgender women of colour and immigrants, particularly those working in the informal economy. We must be vocal in calling out racism and hate, sharing our history and demanding not only justice for victims of anti-Asian hate, but for all victims of white supremacy. People who use drugs along with Black, brown and Indigenous peoples continue to be scapegoated, dehumanised and discriminated against for political, populist gain.
There is more that unites than divides us. We stand in solidarity with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities and their allies who have taken to the streets this week in the United States to demand an end to inaction and apathy towards racism and to loudly call for real accountability.
If the slogan of ‘building back better’ in the face of COVID-19 is to be more than mere empty rhetoric, we must collectively demand not only an end to the war on drugs but an end to racism and discrimination in all forms, working to destabilise the foundations on which it was built and on which it continues to be perpetuated.