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Last weekend (February 18th to 20th), I attended the 2011 ECAASU at UMass-Amherst, and while I met some wonderful new friends, the underlying messages that I took away from those two days were conflicting. As many of you might have heard, ECAASU has been taking large sponsorships from the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard, CIA, and TSA. While, understandably, a conference as large as this needs this level of funding to function, the way in which the conference was ultimately carried out bothered me.
Grassroots organizations that were born out of oppression have been historically known to disregard military sponsorship in the name of ideology (citation needed but I do not have). And the history of ECAASU, as relayed by the poignant speech made by Professor Vijay Prashad, is embedded in minority empowerment and suck it to the big man attitude (citation also needed that I do not have). An organization such as this should not be accepting money from an oppressive institution such as that of the American military that ignite wars around the world. But, perhaps, as argued by many, it is time we allow military involvement, for inclusion of the brave men and women who fought so that we can have this discussion in the first place. Inclusion, as stated by the ECAASU national board, is what ECAASU strives to achieve.
Inclusion is a valid point, and I am far from wanting to exclude the participation of the Asian American brothers and sisters who serve in the military to protect the freedom and democracy that we take for granted. However, the argument here is not about the individual military personnels, but the ideological conflicts between the oppressive military and a grassroots campaign born because we were just so fed up with oppression.
I agree that the military establishes our place in our current global society. Without the military, we as Americans would not be enjoying the privileges that we so take for granted. I do not want to antagonize the brave men and women who risk their lives daily so that I can be blogging right now. I understand why such a large chunk (perhaps way too large of a chunk) of our national budget should go to the military. (Though, if I might add, the military really needs to stop throwing money away at dictators and political conflicts we have no right to partake in.) The military is as far from perfect as our society is from equality, but as things are today, I appreciate our leverage, I appreciate that we can have these conversations and discussions and accusations against our military.
However, there is a right time and right place for everything. A weekend that was suppose to be about Asian American empowerment, fight against oppression, and the progression of the AA movement, became a recruitement camp for the Navy and Coast Guard. A ceremony that was suppose to teach young Asian Americans about how they can become leaders in their own right, how they can help to mobilize the movement, became about how as a Coast Guard, you will have amazing stories to tell your grandchildren. Perhaps that was not the intended result the ECAASU planning board had wanted, but that does not change how that weekend played out.
I want to conclude by thanking our men and women in uniform for their dedication and sacrifice. They are our heroes, no matter how we look at it. As the older sister of a teenager brother who wanted to join the Marines because he believed it was a great way of paying for college, I want to save the discussion of the relationship between the military and American minorities for a later time. For now, I am glad we are now having serious discussions about corporate/military sponsorships.