So why the hate? And why is this hate not new but is based in a long history of anti-Asian discrimination? And why are most non-Asians—and some Asians--minimally aware of this history?
I’ve briefly learned about how Chinatowns were made because the Asian American people needed protection and found it in numbers, it wasn’t just for fun or to celebrate their culture like it seems to be now. We also know about how they were put in internment camps and just killed on the streets without justice because they were a threat to white American lifestyles. People always need someone to blame and it’s easy to blame Chinese people for the virus. Within China, there are many different lifestyles and diets and values that are far from how the typical white American lives their life and what they view as civil. There are so many stereotypes that people make fun of such as Chinese people eating dogs and Michael Loconto mocking Asian names. I remember hearing them as a child on the school bus and feeling like I wanted to hide that part of me, while also laughing along at the “jokes”. Hate starts at a young age and as a child, you’re vulnerable to believing what you’re told by an adult so that thinking is engrained. Constant opposition suppressed the celebration and reclamation of Asian identities and it’s a way of telling them who is in power, and that their pride in their culture isn’t worth it. I do think it’s important to teach these histories in school and in public places. I haven’t heard of a high school with an Asian/Pacific Islander history course offered which would be beneficial to students of that group and others who are interested in learning about their cultural history. I think this history is overlooked by discrimination saying that there are more important things to teach.
The Teen Vogue article mentions how only 10% of bystanders intervened in a situation where an Asian/Pacific Islander person was getting bullied. Besides this being a commonality, this reminds me of how when people think a whole group is “dirty” and no good, they don’t want to help because they don’t want any association with them or the “disease” to spread out of that community. And they don’t think their lives are worth protecting, and it’s even unfortunate that minorities need protection and can’t just live freely with the same comforts and rights. Once the terms Chinese virus, Asian flu, and more were just pitting hatred against the population, it’s like a switch that turns on the blame of a people and culture instead of focusing on the science. I mean the US is really bad because we travel and disregard health and science, so it’s unfair to blame an individual who might be Asian/Pacific Islander but has no direct correlation to the virus. It’s like rubbing someone’s culture they find comfort in in dirt and saying “there's nothing you can offer because you’re just a virus.” The youth fear for themselves and their loved ones which is not a feeling that any child should have. It’s not something a child should have to feel responsibility for protecting their grandparents for example. Also these communities aren’t really made aware of resources to help their situations become better, so they have to fear for their safety and don’t have anyone to rely on in the aftermath.
Because of the lack of awareness, people don’t always know the real meaning and truth in their words so Sjoblom brings up how “yellow peril” is associated with coronavirus because of this lack of medical knowledge and racism that distorts the truth. It’s easy to group different events under one umbrella when they are for different reasons and happen differently, which might not always mean something about a culture but another factor like environment. Sjoblom made an excellent point that Asian kids might not have someone to talk to like if they tell a white person they’ve moved away from them, they’ll assume it’s because of health concerns when it is racism. Colorblindness is not a solution.
In the harvard gazette article, I haven’t learned in depth about the Chinese Exclusion Acts or the Page Exclusion Acts and the piece about women being seen as sexual deviants rings true to this day because women are blamed and there’s the longrunning belief that what a women wears means she’s asking for it. While these acts aren’t legally here today, the same idea of discrimination is and these acts really haven’t been addressed, publicized, or acknowledged to the extent that make people care about the longlasting damage they’ve done. It said that some Asian American store owners feared telling customers to put on a mask when it’s for everyone’s safety. Living shouldn’t be having to risk your health when there’s a simple solution that unfortunately people don’t understand and empathize with. It’s unfair how almost everything that happens negatively affects people already struggling. It’s an endless cycle of not being able to better one’s situation, like the effects of redlining. This reminds me of the new exam school policy and the fact that most Asian and white people were against the policy of the absence of the ISEE while Black and Latinx people were for it because it at least gave their children a chance.
Adding on, the HRW article discusses government involvement and how the policies regarding covid assistance is unfair. “Governments also need to adopt special public education initiatives, strengthen policing of hate crimes, and offer support to communities victimized by discrimination and racially motivated attacks”. People aren’t getting the support and reassurance they need through the people who represent them. I hope that will change at least on a local level with Michelle Wu. People are humans who need to be cared for to thrive and their experiences respected. In class, we talked about drive-by racism and how people feel safe to say these racist things and actions because they know they are silencing the victims and don’t give them a chance to respond. It’s crazy to hear the stories of how many trusted people that have superiority are racist and get away with it. We’ve created a culture protecting these racist people. The video talking about Koreatown also shows how the black and Latinx communities were in the same position as Asian/Pacific islanders in LA but turned against them when they needed someone to blame for the inequities because nobody would really listen and help them on either end, and then it ended in murders. The leaders of communities and the nation need to show that they care through successful actions and persistence because while they struggle, people in power choose who is worthy to help based on opinion and not human right.
How have Asians/Pacific Islanders—who we already know are classified as “white” when it’s convenient (think of the example of the Boston School Committee) and are also classified as “other” or “POC”—confronted this othering? The latest version may be triggered by COVID but we know this has a long and sordid history. And what should non-Asians do today to be allies in response to what these articles and the video clips chronicle?
I understand that Asian and Pacific Islander groups want to feel and be respected by being identified for their individual identities inside the umbrella terms. Each culture has different customs and practices and a long history. Today, I know that some countries like in Asia don’t get along so they wouldn’t want to identify with each other. A sad thing is that the amount of discrimination and acts of hatred faced by all minority groups should be an unfortunate thread linking them together, but in the US at least, there is a lot of competition and stereotypes like “model minority” that lead to widening divisions between minority groups. I actually know someone who recently moved to South Boston and their mother didn’t want to move to a predominantly black neighborhood which was shocking.
I am an intern at a program that works specifically in the Boston Chinatown community to unite the people and honor the culture that is disappearing behind skyline buildings. It’s hard to think of ways to get involved as an ally or someone directly experiencing hatred but a good step is to be aware of the news going on in your community and your neighbors, as well as look out for vulnerable people. In the program, I meet with a group of high school students and we learn about Asian/Asian American history, as well as many other minority groups who face similar issues. I like that I’m able to tie in a lot of information from Facing History discussions but it’s sad to see how often these similar actions occur against people of many different backgrounds. I think communities like Chinatown where many members are from immigrant families who have directly experienced different acts and internment camps are aware and want to get everyone involved. Like the Committee we learned about in class in Maine who are trying to bring justice to Native people and better their futures, it takes perspectives of everyone who uses the community resources and cares about it.
In the video on CBSNews, it talks about businesses owned by Asian people to be suffering massive loss because people are too afraid, more like racist, of contracting the virus. I liked what the reporter said about how coronavirus affects everybody and Asian people aren’t more susceptible to contracting it and spreading it. Nothing can really prepare businesses for a pandemic and the ramifications they’ll experience. Clearly, a lot of people have filmed these incidents and have had them appear on the news. The program I’m a part of did an activity where we thought of words associated with advocacy, bonding, and safety and most of them apply to Asian Hate. Advocacy is associated in part with all platforms and media, meant to be publicized loudly for others to hear. Although this applies to both sides, showing support and getting involved online either through joining a movement or finding your community has been a way to combat racism. Within the advocacy, forms of art are used in every instance whether it’s graphic design or illustration like the comic strip made by Korean-Swedish artist Lisa Wool-Rim Sjöblom. Art can be understood by people who speak different languages and come from different experiences so it’s a useful thing in advocacy. It’s also important to highlight Asian/Pacific Islander artists and every type of worker because it is impactful for others to see people in their community as leaders and changing the world. It’s powerful to get insights from people of these backgrounds who firsthand can identify with this shared experience of racism and can interpret it through art while they grapple with it themselves. This comic strip reminds me of the little graphics in the New Yorker magazines that are comical but ultimately making a social/political statement which grabs many readers’ attention and is a form of communication “through empathy”, as Sjoblom says.
Jay Caspian King talks about his mother who quit volunteering so she wouldn’t scare away customers at the thrift store and how his friend purchased a taser to feel safer. What is necessary for people to feel safe? I didn’t feel safe walking by myself in 2020 and it isn’t something I want to get used to. White men probably feel the safest because well, they’re men, and there isn’t a cop that would target them. How can we change that? Fighting violence because of racism with violence isn’t the answer, but sometimes big things need to happen to get noticed and heard. I’m glad that people, like King mentioned celebrities, are being very open and upfront with their thoughts and experiences of discrimination as an Asian/Pacific Islander. Being public about one’s experiences is brave and a way to combat this strong wave of Asian/Pacific Islander oppression.
Question: How have you advocated for something, small or big? For what cause?