An account I follow on IG recently shared a clip of Miss Singapore strutting down the runway in a remarkable outfit for the National Costume portion, which had a very powerful statement: Stop Asian Hate. It looked amazing, she looked amazing, I loved it. Then I decided to check out Miss Singapore 2021's IG page, whose name is Bernadette Belle Ong, and watched an interview clip of her response to dealing with hate crimes against Asians and I was gravely disappointed. This is a prime example of someone appropriating people's pain for their own gain and the Asian version of white privilege. Let me explain why.
Last week, a friend mentioned to me that she has many Asian American colleagues, but I'm the only one she sees speaking out about it. I thought about this, and wanted to share 3 reasons your Asian friends/acquaintances may not be speaking out about anti-Asian hate.
If you know me, you've probably heard my story about being verbally and racially attacked at Disneyland when I was in second grade, and that my mom simply apologized. The man accused us of killing his father in WWII, and she apologized to him so as not to cause more of a scene and to protect us in case the man became physically violent. What I don't often talk about, but have been thinking about a lot, is the other man that was in line in front of us, who turned around to confront the racist and stop him from further verbally assaulting us. The trauma of that moment often overshadows that man's allyship in my memory, but I've never forgotten it. As the rise in anti-Asian attacks continues, escalating with this week's mass murder, amongst the daily attacks that continue, especially in the Bay Area, I've been thinking a lot about that ally at Disneyland and I've been thinking about bystanders in other situations I've been in.
By now it seems people have finally caught on to the anti-Asian racism the Asian American community has experienced the entire pandemic, with the recent increase in vicious attacks, especially against our elderly and women. Anti-Asian sentiment and racism isn't new. It has existed for as long as Asians have been here, as long as the first Filipinos were brought as slaves during the colonial period. While many of our parents and grandparents have always brushed off racist attacks, we're tired of having our voices silenced or ignored. If you're wondering how you can support the Asian American community right now, here are a few ways:
Last year, I had several conversations with several different people explaining why using the term "China [or Chinese] virus" was racist or at least incited racism. People of course would always reference the Spanish flu, and to that I say read this article which explains why that was racist, too. A point I have oft made is that, had the virus first been found in the UK, I highly doubt that we'd suddenly see a rise in hate and attacks against British people. Funny enough, there now is a "British mutation" of COVID-19, or at least a mutation that was first found in the UK. Isn't it ironic, that people are careful to point out that this mutation was first found in the UK and not that the mutation itself is British and that British people are to blame for this? Now there's also a South African strain and I've wondered if we might see racist remarks about Africa in general, the same way that the "China virus" affects and affected all Asian Americans and other Asians who are minorities in their countries, such as the UK and France. I would think (or at least hope) not, since at this point it seems the virus itself is mutating faster than we are all able to get vaccinated and it's clear that that cannot be blamed on any one ethnicity or race.
With all this said, I was very happy to see that President Joe Biden released a Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia, and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States. I feel seen. I'm not sure we've seen something like this before, because often times Asian Americans are overlooked in race talks. So, thank you Mr. President for seeing us.
If you recall the pilot episode of Fresh Off The Boat, it opens with “Ain’t No Future In Yo’ Frontin’” by M.C. Breed & DFC playing over a sequence of eleven-year-old Eddie Huang putting on an Orlando Magic baseball hat and starter jacket with gold chains around his neck. This here, was a perfect depiction of Black culture’s influence on my and particularly my other Asian friends’ lives growing up in Torrance, California, in the 90’s. We were influenced by Black music, Black television, Black fashion, basketball, and for an Asian girl with curves, there were two people who helped me learn to love myself through puberty—J.Lo, and Queen Bey.