I once heard that if you are a shade of brown or yellow, then it is inevitable that you will experience some form of racism in your life. It may be subtle, it may come across as a compliment, or might be downright insulting—whatever the intentions of the racist treatment are, the bottom line is you are being told you are not one of them and that you are different.
I grew up learning that these acts of racism were unavoidable, so I never thought much of it. I was aware it was only a matter of time till someone said or did something because of the way I looked, and I was prepared to take it in stride and not let it get to me. I was told it is wiser to be tolerant and avoid confrontation instead of starting a scene, just like Buddha.
No matter how much you prepare for that moment, it still stings a little when it happens. The sad part is that instead of fighting against the treatment, most of us accept it as a part of our lives because of who we are. It is not justifiable, but we justify it so we can continue living our lives. Perhaps pretending it is not a big issue helps some of us deal with the nasty behavior without taking it to heart. We don’t let it define us, but we also don’t want to start anything.
It is incredible to see many people speak up about stopping Asian hate to raise awareness because there has been an increase in hate crimes aimed at the Asian community during the pandemic.
Social media is giving us the platform by using #StopAsianHate to share our own experiences with racism as well as to stand up for the elderly and vulnerable populations who are affected. For example, the death of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee resulting from an attack by a 19-year-old has brought to light the many cases of reports of violence against Asian seniors in the United States. Unfortunately, many also go undocumented.
I was once asked why other minorities can’t be quiet and well-behaved like me. How do you respond to something like that?
The truth is that racism has always existed, but the former President calling Covid-19 “the China Virus” and blaming the country for the pandemic has provided many people with new ways to express their anger in vicious ways towards Asians.
The attacks on innocent Asian seniors are proof of the hate and anger. America has a long history of defending anti-Asian xenophobia by saying that Asians bring and spread diseases. I personally experienced that. A few years ago, my partner started to get sick and they could not figure out what it was. His aunt, who was a medical nurse, said that I might have given him an Asian disease that I am immune to, but he is not. It ended up being Crohn’s disease.
The history of anti-Asian xenophobia is so deeply rooted, and the biased public health and immigration policies have continued to attack Asians and misrepresent them as disease carriers. The constant ill-treatment of Asians has shaped how America views them—the ‘perpetual foreigners,’ even if they are third or fourth generation. Many Asians are used to being asked, “Where are you really from?” when they say that they are from this country. They are viewed as outsiders.
Many of us experience the range of treatment, differing from being considered exotic and submissive to being told to “go back to where you came from”—it is hard to find the middle ground in most cases. Once in college, a friend got mad at me and said that I only get attention from boys because I am the only Asian in a five-mile radius. Comments like that hurt, but they also make you question your self-worth and whether people are friends with you because of your personality or because you are the token friend that makes them look progressive.
Another possible stereotype is the nerd with glasses and without a social life. It is hard for me to imagine that my resume has not been passed over hundreds of times because of my name, because the HR team assumed that I was not fluent in English. I understand the job market is competitive, but it couldn’t be this hard for someone with a Master’s degree and internships at UNICEF and UN Women to find employment.
For most of my life, I was told to adapt and not to speak up, because if you knew something was true, you didn’t have to prove it, but the world will stomp all over you if you do not show them how they need to treat you. I grew up witnessing race-based prejudices and how it is connected to colorism. The tone of your skin can represent your worth and your identity.
I do not have to accept the things I am not okay with, and I am not okay with the insulting and disgraceful treatment of anyone. This is the time for us to stand up for ourselves and those who cannot stand up for themselves.
Sadly, there is no easy solution to the xenophobic attacks in the Asian community. It is very important to raise awareness and educate people, as that is the only way we can solve this grave problem. We need to stand in solidarity and stop overlooking these incidents.