[TRIGGER WARNING: Asian Hate Crime, Violence, Death]
My phone beeps and I open it. It’s a Whatsapp broadcast message of a video with a short description. I play it. An Asian couple is sitting down at a restaurant. They’re casually eating their meal. Suddenly, a White man in a hoodie comes their way. He’s holding a paper bag. He takes a gun out of it. He violently shoots the Asian man, and then the Asian woman fights back. She gets shot too. The White man leaves. Two bloody bodies are left behind. I put down my phone… and the tears come.
There has been a surge in hate crime towards Asians as of late, and with all of it comes fear, sadness, anger, discomfort. In processing these emotions, it can be important to uncover why this happens. A key to understanding Asian hate is to be aware of its origins, as well as to comprehend the implications and effects that these racial stereotypes bear. The following stereotypes are more focused on East Asians, however, their outcomes are still similar for all Asians who endure stereotyping.
The Idea of Otherness
The human nature of possessing an “us vs. them” mindset has its advantages, but its harms are just as plenty when uncontrolled. Commonly, Asians are stereotyped to be good at Math, dog eaters, or martial arts experts, and even more have emerged in light of the pandemic. Whether it’s positive or negative, stereotypes enhance the idea of viewing people different to us as the “other”.
For Asians, this effect comes at a higher level as most stereotypes blend together all Asian cultures as if there’s just one.
Stereotypes can induce the denial or unacceptance of Asian cultural values by the majority of society. When groups are stigmatised and oppressed, they can be pushed into forming their own identity and values that cause them to be even more differentiated and have these racial divisions amplified. For Asians, this effect comes at a higher level as most stereotypes blend together all Asian cultures as if there’s just one. There are East Asians, Middle Easterners, Southeast Asians, and more, as they have varying cultures, behaviours, and appearances. Unacknowledging this diversity and grouping them singularly dismisses the distinct identities that each country has.
COVID-19: The “Chinese Virus”
As you scroll through the incessant streams of news articles about COVID-19, you would most likely find the virus being linked to China due to the first case being from Wuhan. So, it comes as no surprise that the world has highly associated this virus with the Chinese population, and ultimately, Asians. But this association quickly turned into outright blame on many occasions, the most noteworthy ones coming from former U.S. President, Donald Trump. During his time in the White House, Trump has described COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and the “kung flu”, to name a few.
…all these deadly incidents are connected to an anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19. It may have taken Trump mere seconds to spit out those words, but the repercussions stay for a lifetime for Asians.
What came with linking an entire country to a pandemic-inducing virus was nothing short of cruel. At a time where people have lost their loved ones, their jobs, and their livelihood, their built-up anger and frustration were projected onto Asian people, or even those that just look like they’re Asian. From a 61-year-old Filipino American getting slashed in the face with a box cutter, to a Vietnamese school board candidate receiving a note with the words “Kung Flu” on her doorstep, and an 89-year-old Chinese woman being slapped and set on fire by two people, all these deadly incidents are connected to an anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. as a result of COVID-19. It may have taken Trump mere seconds to spit out those words, but the repercussions stay for a lifetime for Asians.
While the media may have shone most of its light on this issue in the States, the consequences that Asians had to endure are just as prevalent in Europe. In France, five students were found posting racist tweets and inciting hatred towards Asians after French President Emmanuel Macron’s announcement on France’s second COVID-19 lockdown. Moreover, a Swedish-Korean woman was shoved against the bus window as the perpetrator asked whether she was from China or not. These instances are just two out of a myriad of abuse, harassment, microaggressions, and attacks that have been targeted towards Asians.
When it comes to a double-dose of discrimination, it’s Asian women who get the treatment. They often receive a sexualisation and racism combo, where they experience being subjected to fetishization, often by (White) men who view them as exotic, submissive, and hypersexual. This stereotype is visible in Hollywood movies; Asian women were either portrayed as sexual figures for pleasure or not portrayed at all. It was from the 1987 movie Full Metal Jacket that the infamous “me so horny, me love you long time” first originated as said by the Asian hooker in the film, while it was popularised by the rap group 2 Live Crew’s “Me So Horny”.
The recent Atlanta shooting of Asians in massage parlours was a result of the constant over-sexualised depiction of Asian women.
This hypersexualised representation of Asian women on the big screen had an influence on the way they were viewed and treated in society. The recent Atlanta shooting of Asians in massage parlours was a result of the constant over-sexualised depiction of Asian women. Although the shooter claimed it was done as a result of his sexual addiction, it was no coincidence his victims were mostly Asian women. The intersectionality of sexism and racism are so often neglected in Asian discrimination discourse, overlooking how people’s lives are the cost of this fetishization.
Power Lies in Us, Too
A single article is never enough to list all the stereotyping that Asians experience, and all the unpleasant ramifications it brings. Through all the racism, unfair treatment, and injustice, we should always keep in mind what’s at stake. Fighting this battle can come in different forms: having uncomfortable discussions about race, calling out your close one’s racist behaviours, engaging in social media activism, and so much more. While it seems like change lies in the hands of those in power, we should never undermine our capability to do so as individuals.
Here are platforms you can check out to get educated and help victims of Asian racism: anti-Asian violence resources carrd, stop Asian hate information website, and @stopasianhate on Instagram.
Cover: Vogue on Pinterest
Edited by: Sophie Kulla