Asian-Americans Knew They Were Being Discriminated - It Took Viral Social Media Posts for America to Believe It
In a viral social media post with over 1 million views on Instagram, a man calls a family celebrating a birthday “Asian pieces of sh*t” and tells them to “go back to wherever you f**king came from.” In another video posted by an Asian-American who was recording herself exercising, a white woman tells her that “this is not your home!” But compared to other racist interactions caught on camera, these incidents seem almost peaceful. In San Francisco, a Thai man was attacked and murdered - on camera. In San Jose, a Vietnamese woman was assaulted and robbed of $1,000. During the Lunar New Year, over 20 different Asian-American individuals were attacked, mugged, or killed. StopAAPIHate reported that 3,800 acts of discrimination against Asian-Americans have been perpetrated just in the past year, a drastic increase since years before. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. Dig deeper, and you’ll begin to discover the inherent racism against Asian-Americans that’s been drilled into American culture. The failures of those that try to defend us, the abuse of Asian-American sympathizers. The almost cult-like following on both sides. But this isn’t new. Asian-Americans have been discriminated against since they came to America. They were chasing the American dream, trying to discover new opportunities. If only they knew. We worked hard. We did what we were asked. All for a chance. All so that we could speak up and talk. No one listened. It took millions of views on posts of racist encounters for people to see what was wrong - and they were several centuries too late.
When Amanda Nguyen posted a 30-second video summarizing acts of violence against Asian-Americans, she brought all of our voices to the boiling point. She pushed us onto the wave of anti-discrimination movements that have been rekindled since the killing of George Floyd, and in doing so placed #StopAsianHate on the trending page. Now a Nobel Peace Prize Nominee, she told PBS that “the problem is visibility.” Unlike African-Americans, whose history of being on the receiving end of racism and discrimination is intertwined with that of America’s, Asian-American history is seemingly new to the average white citizen.
Asian-Americans are perceived as the model minority: quiet, amenable, compliant workers. This is an old stereotype, and a hurtful one. Racism against Asian-American workers has become normalised. Employers believe that Asian-Americans don’t want promotions - HBR reported that Asian-Americans remain the least likely ethnicity to receive management positions. Moreover, many Asian-American women are stereotyped as sex workers - one teacher even describing a white student who fetishised and stalked a Filipino female taking their course. The pandemic, of course, helped in no way. The coronavirus came from China, not from its people. But when a former president repeatedly calls it “the China virus,” “the Wuhan virus,” and “the Kung-Flu,” the people echo like parrots.
What’s more, social media could have been a path to connect and communicate, but it’s been turned into a breeding ground where even those that stand with us stumble to keep their heads above the tide. 88Rising, an entertainment and media company that’s long stood with StopAAPIHate, chose to post a yellow square to “stand in solidarity” after the Atlanta spa shootings. Backlash against the post included users calling the square a “pee-pee square,” comparisons to Blackout Tuesday’s black squares, and most prominently tweets regarding the useless nature of standing in solidarity using a square. These “slip-ups” diminish the potential for a social media movement, and lower faith and recognition for the cause.
Black Lives Matter set up the framework that we use to fight for our injustices today. It helped show the current generation the social divide between ethnicities. #StopAsianHate is modeled in a similar way, but must confront some facts. Statistically, the ethnic community that commits the highest number of hate crimes against Asian-Americans is African-Americans. This has caused some select Asian-Americans to be on guard during Black Lives Matter protests. This has nothing to do with the values of the movements. Neither is targeted at discriminating against the other! Asians deserve the same rights as anyone, and so do African Americans. We are not enemies. We are working for the same thing for our communities: equality. We do not want vengeance or justice. America must understand this.
The Atlanta salon killings were one of the most brutal and shameful acts of Asian-American violence in decades. What made it so terrible was the police department’s response. The spokesman said that the killer “was having a really bad day,” and that the shootings were the killer’s way of “dealing with a sexual addiction.” He said that they may not have been racially motivated. How did he come to that conclusion? He didn’t look at the fact that 6 out of the 8 victims were Asian-American women. He didn’t look at the fact that the shootings coincided with rising anti-Asian sentiment in the nation. He certainly didn’t think about how 2 of the spas were owned by Asian-Americans. No, he didn’t think about any of that. Instead, he asked the shooter. He went up to the mass murderer and believed what he said. This is not how you determine whether acts are hate crimes! In fact, the spokesman - Jay Baker - tweeted in support of a racist shirt that was embossed, “COVID-19: Virus Imported from Chy-Na.” When asked if the spokesman had slipped up, the department simply responded with a vague, non-apologetic answer. Is this the fate of Asian-Americans? To be disregarded, tossed around with no consequence?
The ex-spouse of one of the shooting’s victims told CNN that relatives “no longer believed the US was safe.” Who could say any differently? Who could tell the relatives of an Asian-American woman whose death at the hands of a mass murderer was disregarded as a “sexual addiction” that her home was safe? Hate crimes are only so prevalent because they are enabled. It’s come due time that those that enable them come to a reckoning.
#StopAsianHate is a start. It’ll help America face truth in the eye, but it will never fix past mistakes. We want equality - we are not compliant. We are not weak. We are not what history makes us out to be. We are not just workers. And we ask that we are recognized in that right. But America denies us even that.
Even today, people pretend like they’ve known all along. They act as if they’ve been trying to help the whole time, while we feel betrayed, abandoned. Perhaps #StopAsianHate comes at a time when no one wants it to. Perhaps everyone is tired of social justice movements. Perhaps it comes contrary to the narrative that we want to believe in. Perhaps it removes the scapegoats America has so desperately wanted to cling to. But Black Lives Matter brought the spotlight on the failures of the American people to treat African-Americans as equals. It’s time for #StopAsianHate to do the same for us.