In an online manifesto believed to be written by Charleston church shooting suspect Dylann Roof, a brief section buried in the nearly 2,500-word, racist diatribe has caught the attention of Asian Americans.
The website writings, written in the first person, reference the writer being "awakened" to the supposed prevalence of black-on-white violence by the Trayvon Martin case, and list a series of musings on different minority groups, including "Blacks," "Jews," "Hispanics," and "East Asians."
The complete text in the section under “East Asians” is as follows: "I have great respent (sic) for the East Asian races. Even if we were to go extinct they could carry something on. They are by nature very racist and could be great allies of the White race. I am not opposed at all to allies with the Northeast Asian races."
Scott Kurashige - historian, professor, and author of The Shifting Grounds of Race: Black and Japanese Americans in the Making of Multiethnic Los Angeles - notes that the brevity of this section belies its significance: that the stereotype often ascribed to Asian Americans as eager to integrate into American society, and therefore allegedly more successful than other minority groups, is an integral part of the white supremacist ideology.
"The thing with the model minority myth is that it’s primarily intended as an anti-black discourse. When whites praise Asian Americans in this way, there is an implicit denigration of African Americans," said Kurashige. “He has a very long passage that he calls 'Blacks,' and very short passages on other racial and ethnic groups. This seems to be based primarily on things he read on various websites he was drawn to.”
The writer, Kurashige notes, deploys a tool often used by anti-black groups, mobilizing Asians as "allies."
Similar sentiments, misguidedly portraying Asian Americans as the "successful" minority, are not reserved for those with violent, extremist views. Jerry Hough, a professor at Duke University, recently came under fire for comments made in response to a New York Times op-ed, in which he compared Asian Americans to African Americans, with the former’s “desire for integration” evident in the choice of Asian American first names.
In response to the mass shooting in South Carolina, Asian American community groups have rallied to show support. The Sikh Temple of Wisconsin, itself a house of worship attacked by a white supremacist who killed six in 2012, held a vigil in mourning and solidarity over the weekend.