Press Release

Woori Ujima: Our Collective Work & Responsibility

By June 1, 2020 No Comments

Dear Community Members,

On behalf of the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium (NAKASEC) & Affiliates, we firmly voice our support and solidarity with the Black community. The murder of George Floyd and too many other Black folx by the police and other state sanctioned systems is reprehensible and must stop- NOW. We must work towards the eradication of racism and White supremacy.

One of the major events that led to the founding of NAKASEC was the LA Uprising of 1992. After the police officers who participated in the brutal beating of Rodney King were acquitted of all charges, Black people rose up in the streets of Los Angeles, including in Koreatown, to rightfully express their pain and outrage. What many people might not know is that one year prior to the uprising, Soon Ja Du, a Korean American store owner, shot and killed Latasha Harlins, a Black teenager. This had already deepened the tensions between the Black and Asian American communities.

During the Uprising, as businesses were damaged in South Central LA, business owners called the police for help. Instead of protecting these businesses, the police guarded the wealthier, White areas of the cities and suburbs. From this experience, we as Asian Americans learned that we could no longer live below the radar and hope to provide our kids with a better life; as immigrants of color, we had to become politically engaged, build with other communities of color, and bring progressive Asian American leadership to a multi-ethnic movement at the national and local levels.

To be true allies, we also must recognize our own acts of anti-Blackness. The person who called 911 on George Floyd was an employee of a small immigrant owned family business. One of the police officers who watched and did not intervene in the murder of Mr. Floyd is Asian American. We must realize that our ignorant actions and inaction can lead to great harm; the police can and will escalate any situation, particularly those involving Black people.  We must fight the anti-Blackness within ourselves and our communities.

As the uprising following the murder of George Floyd unfolds, similar to 1992, the media and institutional powers are hard at work focusing attention away from the main issue – the systematic racism and murder of Black folx in this country- and instead seek to delegitimize Black protest by boiling it down to “looting”, ”property destruction” and “violent protestors.” They do this to distract us, divide us, and take away the power we could have to make real change if we truly unite. If there is anything we Asian Americans learned from the LA Uprising, it is that we cannot allow them to divide us again. 

As David Choi, owner of Seoul Tacos, said to CBS news in Chicago, “To me it’s bigger than our windows getting busted … Our brothers and sisters in black communities and minority communities, this is happening on a regular basis. To me that’s way too much, and we stand by those folks and those communities.” Or as Ruhel Islam, owner of Gandhi Mahal restaurant, and his daughter Hafsa in Minneapolis wrote on Facebook, “Don’t worry about us, we will rebuild and we will recover … Justice needs to be served, put those officers in jail.”

We believe that every single person in this world deserves their human and civil rights. In 2018, NAKASEC co-organized a joint convening with the UndocuBlack Network, called Woori Ujima. Woori Ujima, in Korean and Swahili, means “our collective work and responsibility.” For us as Asian Americans and immigrants, it must be our collective work and responsibility, rooted in the lessons of 1992, to support and follow the leadership of Black communities during this time, and fight in solidarity against institutional racism. It is also our responsibility to constantly learn about and challenge the anti-Blackness within each of us and in our communities.  When we are successful, we will finally win the freedom and liberation all of our communities need.

With Love, NAKASEC & Affiliates

#BlackLivesMatter #Asians4BlackLives #DefundThePolice #AbolishICE

This post is also available in: Korean