By Contributor on July 02, 2014

_____________________________________________________________

By Bill Lann Lee and Christopher Punongbayan

On the fiftieth anniversary of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, let’s remember that it protected not just African Americans. The legislation, enacted by Congress on July 2 of that year, broadly outlawed discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin.

This was altogether fitting and proper, for racial prejudice extended beyond the brutality of slavery and Jim Crow that African Americans experienced.

Asian Americans, for instance, have also suffered.

In the late nineteenth century, Chinese Americans in California and elsewhere in the West faced discrimination in the workplace and the schools and the housing market. And they often had to fend off racist attacks.

Japanese and Filipino immigrants endured similar maltreatment upon their arrival.

And during World War II, President Roosevelt incarcerated over 120,000 Japanese Americans in internment camps although they posed no national security threat.

Shortly after 9/11, South Asian Americans, Arab Americans and Muslim Americans became fused together as public enemy number one and faced unprecedented levels of deportation and surveillance, as well as discrimination and violence in the workplace, schools and even their own homes.

Today, Asian Americans, with a population of more than18 million, still face stereotypes and are under suspicion as national security risks.

And the doors aren’t as open as they used to be.

In the 1960s, Asian Americans made huge strides in admissions to the University of California, for instance, after they were included in affirmative action plans. While many Asian Americans can now attend college without the help of affirmative action programs, others cannot. For many African American, Latino and Southeast Asian students, including Cambodians, Filipinos, Vietnamese, Hmong and Laotians, the hope of going to college is more distant than ever.

The job market is also biased. Once hired, Asian Americans often bump up against the glass ceiling in promotions. Nationally, Asian Americans have greater educational attainment — including graduate and professional degrees — but lower per capita income and fewer managerial jobs than whites with the same education. Asian Americans are often stereotyped as hard workers but not leadership material or aggressive enough to be managers and entrepreneurs.

Communities of color have borne the brunt of racial inequalities meted out by our immigration system. The notorious Chinese Exclusion Act is gone, but the Immigration Reform and Control Act bars immigrants from working without authorization.  

Today, there are 1 million undocumented Asian Americans who cannot legally work. A quarter million of the 2 million individuals deported since 2008 were immigrants of Asian descent.

Our civil rights protections provide no remedy for discriminatory immigration laws. We must modernize our civil rights protections to prevent racial discrimination in our immigration system.

Fifty years after the Civil Rights Act, Asian Americans, like other minorities, have much to celebrate, but not yet true equal justice under law. All Americans of goodwill should keep striving for that goal.


Bill Lann Lee is the former Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights in the U.S. Department of Justice. Christopher Punongbayan is the Executive Director of Advancing Justice – Asian Law Caucus. 

 

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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