Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Fighting in Philly: Black and Asian Teens Go Head to Head

As a Black woman who has always had Asian friends I've always wondered why the media likes to glorify all of the incidents of Black/Asian conflict. In fact, I use a lot of my Blog space to celebrate the places where Black and Asian culture come together in beautiful ways. But there's a story unfolding in my own back yard that I cannot ignore.

Recently a friend of mine, George Miller III wrote a story for Philadelphia Weekly magazine about a disturbing trend of Asian students getting beat up by Black students at several Philadelphia high schools.

That story was written in September and it seemed that perhaps the problem was being addressed. Fast forward two months and sadly things have gotten so bad, that the Asian students walked out of school until they could get some response from school officials whom they claim repeatedly ignore their distress calls.

As you'll read in the story, some people don't really see this as Black on Asian crime, but rather a simple us against them turf war. You know, "we were here first," "You don't speak English" and "You don't look like me." This doesn't make the violence any more palatable, but it does make sense. And it doesn't feed into the age-old stereotype that Blacks and Asians are mortal enemies. It forces educators to really look at the problems and not just call these hate crimes and throw up their hands in despair.

What suggestions would you give Philly school officials who are adressing this problem? Where would you start?

I'm listening.


jstele said...

There's no reason to see it as a "Black on Asian" crime, but it definitely was a hate crime as the attackers roamed the hallways and classes for Asian students. So far school/district officials have tried to downplay the racial aspect, but it is what it is. I don't think there can be any justification for what happened. Most racism is fueled by fear, not necessary malice. But that doesn't excuse it. I am confused when you say that it makes sense. I don't think violence is a natural reaction to people who look different or don't speak English.

Anonymous said...

generally speaking asians are extremely racist.if the black students singled out the other student simple for being asian, i am sure this fact and their behavior toward the black students was a contributing factor, and not fear.

Amy said...

normally i don't leave comments but i could not let anonymous's comment go unaddressed and live with a clear conscience.

"generally speaking asians are extremely racist": this statement is biased and discriminatory. what are you basing this statement on? where is the evidence? to make an inflammatory and unfounded assertion like this about any race or ethnicity is dangerous and problematic on many levels.

the second sentence of anonymous's comment implies that the asians who were attacked are somehow at fault or deserved to be attacked simply for being asian and therefore "extremely racist." this type of reasoning is frighteningly hateful and racist for the following two reasons:
1) it is based on the questionable assumption that the victims are "extremely racist" and probably instigated the attacks.
2) by extension, it suggests that the attacks are justifiable based on the victims' race.

i cannot emphasize enough that NO CHILD deserves to be brutally attacked based on his or her race.

unfortunately, violence along racial/ethnic lines is not something new to the philly public school system and has been going on for years. in southwest philly, liberian and other african students (and vietnamese students as well) have been taunted and attacked by predominantly african-american students. this DOES NOT mean that most african-american students in the area are racist against other racial/ethnic groups. it is important to remember that the attackers are a small minority of the student population and that ethnic-minority students in these african-american majority areas often have african-american friends.

for a well-written and comprehensive article on how to improve the situation in south philly, see latoya peterson's article at
her suggestions are great but unfortunately they probably have little chance of being implemented given the slow-moving and dysfunctional nature of the philly school system's bureaucracy.

LT said...


Thank you for your post. When I wrote it "makes sense," I simply meant, those would be "reasons" for a fight, not that there are ever any "reasons" to hurt other people, but if you asked a kid, why'd you punch that guy, and he said, "because I felt he was a threat to my territory," or "because I react with violence when I'm confronted with something new," that would make more "sense" than, "I hit him because he's Asian." I'm not sure if that's clear. All I'm trying to say is that the violence can't be boiled down to Black kids just naturally hate Asian kids. That doesn't make it more palatable, but at least it gives educators something to work with.

I think I understand what you are trying to say, but it is quite dangerous to make a statement as "generally speaking Asians are extremely racist." Please feel free to elaborate on your point.


Thank you for your comments. It sounds like you live in Philly. I will def. check out LaToya's article.

Anonymous said...

Here is my theory. Blacks are in general very racist. Also there is jelousy over asians economic and academics success.