“Asians have been here longer than cowboys”
Long before immigrants sought fortune during the Gold Rush, Asians have been on the land we now call the United States. It was 1587 when sailors from Manila landed on Chumash land on the California Coast. By the 1700s, migrants from India had arrived and Filipinos established permanent settlements in present-day Louisiana.
It wasn’t until 1849 that the “cowboy,” which is based on Mexican vaquero traditions, came to be associated with the American West.
To create a new billboard for For Freedoms, Stop DiscriminAsian collaborated with member Kenneth Tam to adapt an image from his recent work “Silent Spikes,” which focuses in part on Chinese railroad workers — who famously connected the rest of the country to the “Wild West.”
Asians are more American than apple pie, which is derived from an English recipe featuring a fruit that originated in Central Asia. And the iconic cinnamon and nutmeg flavors? Courtesy of Sri Lanka and Indonesia.
Billboard created by Stop DiscriminAsian, with image from Kenneth Tam; text by Astria Suparak; accompanying text and research by Suparak, Jen Delos Reyes, and Margaret Liu Clinton; and design by SDA. Installation photos by Job Piston.
“Work with For Freedoms went further a year later when they [Stop DiscriminAsian] collaborated to adapt stills from Kenneth Tam’s video Silent Spikes for display on a billboard over a Los Angeles freeway. With a title referring to Chinese men who constructed the Transcontinental Railroad, the billboard featuring three figures wearing cowboy hats and swinging imaginary lassos amid the words ASIANS HAVE BEEN HERE LONGER THAN COWBOYS- sends unexpected opponents into the ring to compete against the Marlboro Man archetype that romanticizes the lone white patriarch.”
– Danielle Wu, “Haters Need Not Apply: The collective network Stop DiscriminAsian aims to to end a long legacy of racism in the art world”, Dec. 2021