Our hearts are broken by the increasing attacks against the Asian community. Our resolve is not.
Harvey Milk spoke often about uniting the “Us’s”, and building coalitions across the communities marginalized by deeply entrenched systems of power — across race, gender, sexuality, class, ability, and all the complex forms of identity sidelined and treated as an “other.” Harvey’s animating force as a politician was rooted in solidarity, and the animating force of this club is building on that legacy, and building solidarity — including and especially between the LGBTQ and Asian American communities, and between queer and trans members of the Black and Asian communities. Your struggle is our struggle, your pain is our pain, and your cause is our cause.
For the last week, this cause has been undermined by resurfaced social media comments made by Commissioner Alison Collins that have caused deep pain for Asian students, parents, and community members. They come at a particularly difficult time given the recent violent and deadly attacks against Asian Americans happening locally and nationally. These comments were offensive and wrong, and we strongly condemn them.
Since Commissioner Collins’ tweets came to light last Friday, our Executive Board has been in ongoing discussion — discussions that have been difficult, painful, and necessary. The time we have taken before making a statement is a reflection of the real struggle we have had with this incredibly challenging issue. We are a diverse organization, with a diversity of lived experiences and deeply felt perspectives. While we’ve taken considerable time to make a statement, that time should not be mistaken for silence nor should it be mistaken for complicity. We refuse to be complicit in broad-stroke characterizations of Asian Americans that are hurtful and unbecoming for an elected official. We also refuse to be complicit in efforts to weaponize the pain these comments have caused to the Asian American community to uphold anti-Black racism, or undermine the solidarity between communities of color that is our only path towards mutual liberation. Pitting communities of color against one another is what upholds and reinforces white supremacy.
Many things can be true at once. It’s true that commissioner Collins’ comments caused considerable harm and lost the faith of many she was elected to represent. It’s true that she has failed to adequately account for and acknowledge this harm. It’s true that not everyone outraged by this is acting in good faith, or shares our motivations for an anti-racist and just world. There is an expectation that when scandals arise, we call for something -- for resignation or atonement, for context, reframing the narrative, for defending the accused. In this difficult and divisive moment, we are leaning into what we are called towards: the hard work of building solidarity and imagining justice.
We recently announced the relaunch of the Asian Pacific Islander Caucus of the Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club. We are thrilled and deeply committed to building and holding this space for queer and trans API community members to organize together, and we will continue to work for accountability and justice for API people in our schools, our City, and everywhere.
We’ll hold space at upcoming meetings for dedicated discussions on building solidarity between Asian, Black, and queer and trans communities. Frankly, it’s a conversation that has been taking place at the Club for many years now and which we are committed to continuing. Our focus is on this work.
We do not have consensus as a Board on what accountability and justice means for Commissioner Collins. Without consensus, we cannot in good conscience take a position on behalf of our members. We hold serious reservations about her leadership — about her judgment not only in tweets made as a private citizen five years ago, but her judgment today as an elected official that has failed to fully acknowledge the harm and take the responsibility that is required for restorative justice. We have reservations also about the reduction of complex and too-often-silenced issues to simple narratives, or the willingness to use frameworks created by and for white people to judge a Black woman speaking about anti-Black racism — even painfully, harmfully, and in ways we condemn. We also recognize the incredible and thoughtful work that Commissioner Collins has done on the board of education. And we recognize the limits of a restorative justice that seeks to restore conditions that are themselves unequal, inequitable, or unjust. Undoing the harm caused by Collin’s words would not undue the realities of anti-Black racism, or the ways in which Asian American and Black communities are both abused and oppressed by white supremacy. We seek instead transformational justice, the harder work of transforming these conditions at the root. We invite you to join us in this work, and we encourage Commissioner Collins to take time to build a foundation of trust and solidarity with communities that have been directly impacted by her actions.
Our hearts are broken. Our resolve is not.