The Ebola epidemic triggered a worldwide response. The United States committed to the largest sum for assistance and relief efforts of any country with its appropriation of 5.4 billion dollars to fight the outbreak. The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Center for Diseases Control (CDC), and the Department of Defense were all mobilized to set up a response infrastructure on the ground to contain the outbreak. At the international level, the United Nations and the World Health Organization coordinated a global response to the Ebola outbreak, designating it the “number one global crisis for the United Nations.” The World Bank also pledged a two hundred thirty million dollar aid package for affected countries in West Africa.
The sheer scale of the US and UN response to the Ebola crisis was critical to getting the pandemic under control, but some of the most innovative and beneficial proposals to combat the epidemic arose from the minds of some innovative Asian-American millennials. The United States Agency for International Development sponsored a “Fighting Ebola Grand Challenge,” in 2014 in which citizens from across the nation could propose new ideas to battle Ebola. Three Columbia University students, Jason Kang, Kevin Tyan, and Katherine Jin, were selected from over fifteen hundred applicants, for their invention called “Highlight.”
By Guest Contributor: Christine Chen, Executive Director of APIAVote (@apiavote)
Edison town council member Sapana Shah realized something was wrong the moment she checked social media, learning that she and her neighbors received the same anti-Asian mailer Wednesday which featured a “deport” stamp on the photos of two Asian school board candidates. The postcard also read, “The Chinese and Indians are taking over our town.”
Targeting candidates based on bias and hate toward various ethnic, racial or religious identity is not new. And Shah is no stranger to it as a candidate. She recounted multiple incidents to me over the phone. Shah, a long-time resident in the Edison township of Middlesex County, New Jersey, was told to go back to her country when she ran for local elected office. She once found her campaign signs inscribed with the words “dot head,” an offensive racial slur. As a town council member, Shah endured insults from residents who shouted her down at the end of a public meeting for voting to include Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, as a school holiday.
When individuals are targets of hate, it not only affects them but also entire communities.
(Editor’s Note: Last week, survivors of sexual harassment and sexual assault took to social media to trend the #metoo hashtag with their stories. This is one of those stories.)
Is it fucked up that my #metoo story is also one of my earliest memories? In all, I can recall only about four memories from before I started kindergarten, most of them are relatively innocent.
In one memory, my father and I walk down the street of my childhood neighborhood. We were walking towards to the model homes. I was probably two years old.
In another, I run to the bathroom to grab my father some toilet paper. He had cut his finger making us food.
Then, there is the memory of me trying to drink water out of a chopstick. There is even a photo to substantiate my recollections of that moment. My babysitter, whom I love dearly, thinks it would be so funny if they switch out my straw for a chopstick. When I try to drink out of my straw-but-not-a-straw, nothing comes out. I start crying. I am maybe eight months old.
These are the innocent memories formed of a childhood that should have remained innocent.
But then, there is that last memory. It is night time. I don’t see any details of the faces of those crowded outside. I am locked in the cab of an old, beat-up, white pickup truck. Inside the truck, it is just me and my cousin, who is two months older than me.
We learn from watching. If dramas are developmental exercises in identification and empathy in our formative years, one can easily surmise why many white men — such as those who take part in the alt-right movement — believe the world should revolve around only them, and women and minorities should be relegated to supporting roles or disappear entirely.
A disturbing antifeminist wave has swept through many Asian American digital spaces in the past few years.
Though misogyny in self-professed progressive and radical Asian American spaces is nothing new, the specific iteration that has developed presents a departure from past forms. Whereas older Asian American antifeminisms would seldom engage feminist theory, the new Asian American antifeminism co-opts the work of Black and Asian feminists in service of narratives that position the prioritization of Asian American cishetero men as a truly “feminist,” even “intersectional,” venture.
In recent months, Medium, Nextshark, and YOMYOMF have been flooded with a torrent of articles exemplifying this antifeminism. These pieces have ranged from screeds decrying Asian feminism as complicit in White supremacy to fictionalized accounts of East Asian women marrying neo-Nazis. Generally speaking, these articles have focused on Asian women in interracial relationships with White men, and have presented these pairings as evidence of a hidden sexual agenda in Asian feminism, and Asian women’s enthusiastic participation in the structural oppression of Asian men.
These arguments are not new. They have existed as undercurrents in Asian American politics for some time. However, the willingness of popular Asian American news media outlets to provide a platform for these ideas is cause for alarm. By offering space for these pieces, sites like YOMYOMF and Nextshark are proliferating an antifeminist ideology amongst their respective audiences. This development not only threatens Asian feminists, but also Asian women in general and our movement as a whole. It therefore demands a response.