“Be safe if you go outside, Ma. People in this country at this time do not like Asians. They do not care that you’re not Chinese. So just be careful.”
The text is half in English, half in Vietnamese. None of it is exactly what I want to say.
I skip over the word racism when I text Ma. It is a wrong turn into an armed minefield, a back alley of snakes and wet live wires. My cousins, better able to navigate this ground, tells me that the closest road might be through kỳ thị. Discrimination.
When I ask for directions again on Google, seeking a second opinion, it offers up phân biệt chủng tộc – a four syllable tour that passes by “separation based on race”.
But that, too, is far short of what my tongue wants to express on this Tuesday night — a truth I have always hoped my parents would never have to know: that on this side of the ocean, thunder still rolls.
People hold placards during a "Stop Asian Hate" rally, following the deadly shootings, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S., March 20, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton
By Guest Contributor: Wendie Yeung
Content Warnings: this article contains the author’s personal experiences facing racially charged violence.
While most of America reminisced about March as the one year anniversary since normalcy, I, like so many other Asian Americans, had been grappling with the pandemic months before that. When I heard the beginning media buzz of a mysterious new coronavirus found in Wuhan in early January of 2020, my heart sank. I knew that from that point on, my racial identity was going to become a stark liability. At the time, I was flying for work every week, and I became hyper aware on my flights and in the airport. If people looked at me, I’d wonder why (“do they think I’m from China?“), trying to read any suspicion behind their eyes. I’d smile at strangers to appear more friendly; if I was on the phone, I’d talk a little more loudly so those around me could hear that I spoke perfect English. These acts were things I did almost instinctively – protective acts so people knew that I was not a threat, that I was “American”.
An image of Trump's notes at a press conference wherein the word "corona" is crossed out and replaced with the word "Chinese". (Photo credit: Getty)
By Guest Contributor: Dorothy He
Over the past few months, many non-Black Asian Americans across the country watched as our racial status began shifting, after years of living within and sometimes even openly accepting the confines of the Model Minority Myth. Several of these “positive” stereotypes have long been passively or even actively accepted by many in the Asian American community, such as the ones perpetuated by Andrew Yang during his presidential campaign — for instance, the idea that all Asians are doctors, are smart and like math, and won’t speak out or cause trouble. Such stereotypes have not only causeduntold damage to the well-being of Asian Americans and stymied attempts at solidarity within our communities and in relation to other communities of color, but they never offered any genuine protection of our status or proof of our “Americanness” to begin with.
Those who trusted in the power of conditional whiteness to protect Asian Americans harbored a belief that a stable income, a respectable profession, and a low profile could somehow protect us from racist and completely unfounded attacks. They are wrong. Conditional whiteness is dangerous precisely because of its roots in white supremacy vis-à-vis capitalism; ultimately, it weaponizes people of color against their own communities by making individuals complicit in perpetuating racism and exhibiting dominance over other nonwhite bodies — in particular, Black and Brown bodies — in their journey to reach the American Dream.
Trump has continued to use the term “Kung Flu” and “China virus” at press conferences and campaign rallies, despite repeated criticisms that the phrases contribute to disease racialization of COVID-19. Stop AAPI Hate is one of several hate crime trackers launched to record the effect of this racialization on Asian Americans, and data from these projects paint a stark picture of anti-Asian hate in recent months. Of the more than 800 reports from California that Stop AAPI Hate has received since its inception, approximately 10% have involved physical assault, and a further 8% have involved suspected federal civil rights violations, such as workplace discrimination.
Most alarmingly, Asian American women in California are nearly twice as likely to report experiencing an incident of anti-Asian hate than men — and that disparity is even more stark nationwide.
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.