Patsy inkbecame the first Asian American woman and first woman of color to be elected to the US House of Representatives.
Her daughter Gwendolyn Mink was just 12 years old at the time, and today works as a feminist scholar writing about law, politics and gender. She may have been in middle school when her mom went to Capitol Hill, but Mink remembers how powerful the moment was for her family. “Right off the bat it wasn’t as if, ‘Oh I’m the only woman of color.’ It was ‘Oh, I’m the only one in a potentially hostile, institutional environment.'”
As a scholar whose academic work focused on American Politics, Mink sees the recent violence as the latest example of the long and complicated history of Asian Americans in the United States. After thousands immigrated from China to help build the transcontinental railroad, white Americans were so hostile that Congress passed the Chinese Immigration act in 1882 to halt immigration of Chinese laborers for 10 years. “You had political mobilizations of both political parties in California to exterminate or expel all Asians in California, which is where the largest population was,” says Mink.
During World War II, the US government forced Japanese-Americans and Japanese immigrants into internment camps after Pearl Harbor was bombed. There was violence against Korean-American businesses during the LA riots, and South Asian-Americans faced hate and violence after the 9/11 attacks.
“You don’t see the violence because nobody sees us. But when we are rendered visible, which is usually because somebody hates something associated with Asia, not AAPI people, the violence explodes.”