In the most recent series of events due to the pandemic, Asian Americans are more frequently experiencing hate crimes merely for their race and ethnicity. However, this is not the first time Asian Americans have faced discrimination. We can date this back to the late 1800s when Asian exclusion legislation was enforced to prevent Asians from immigrating to the United States.
Grace Lee Boggs, born to two Chinese Immigrants, became aware of the racism around her at the age of 8. As her family was one of the only Chinese people in the neighborhood they resided in. And even up to when she attended college, she was one of three students of color.
When Boggs graduated from graduate school, she struggled to find employment not only because of her ethnicity but also her gender. Throughout history, we have seen women struggle to go into certain professions merely because of their gender. Professions that include engineering, business, and so much more. Although, when Bogg’s found work it only paid $10 a week. Because of this she lived in a rat-infested basement for some time as her pay couldn’t provide her with basic necessities.
Bogg really connected with the black community when she saw many protesting for their poor living conditions, as the conditions they were living in were similar to hers. Sometime after she started to advocate for tenant and worker rights, taking off with her first steps of activism and creating change. Not only that but she was also involved with the 1941 March of Washington that protested the segregation of military and wartime manufacturing. This movement inspired Boggs and showed her the impact a movement can have.
When Grace and James got married, the couple started to address issues revolving around labor and civil rights, Asian Americans, Black Power, feminism, and much more. They did this by supporting local communities, Civil Rights, and Black Power movements.
"Bonner, Sean. “Grace Lee Boggs.” Flickr. Yahoo!, August 24, 2012. https://www.flickr.com/photos/seanbonner/7853306898."
"As I've grown older, I've realized that philosophy has to do with how we value ourselves as human beings, and how we look at ourselves, and how we relate to reality.” Boggs work was mostly within Detroit, however, her philosophies challenge many of our thinking as to how we can contribute to our current society.
“What we tried to do is explain that a rebellion is righteous, because it’s the protest by a people against injustice, but it’s not enough. You have to go beyond rebellion. And it was a turning point in my life because, until that time, I had not made a distinction between a rebellion and revolution. And it forced us to begin thinking, what does a revolution mean? How does it relate to evolution?” says Grace Lee Boggs. Her words make us question and think about the different ways we can create change.