In response to the recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes, many prominent Asian social media influencers and users have utilized the hashtag #StopAsianHate to voice their concerns and even mobilize large-scale offline rallies across the globe. But like other hashtag activism such as #MeToo and #BLM, how effective is using hashtag #SAH on social media to elicit actions and conversations in real life?
Social media activism
When was the last time you expressed your views about an issue that is important to you on social media, whether it is for climate change or for a cause of social justice? With the rise of social media, hashtags have played a crucial role in raising awareness and spreading actions, and even bringing political and social changes amid social movements. Just like the very first social media hashtag movement against sexual violence #MeToo in 2017, the use of hashtags can be a positive catalyst for mobilizing human rights movements. But as many critics pointed out is, its flipside is – the overuse of hashtags can lead to a result of ‘slacktivism’, which can be considered as a result of a bandwagon effect that acts as performative and opportunistic gestures without concrete involvement from the person. It’s indeed easy to share others’ posts when we feel like they speak to us, yet, how can we shift such merely social media statements to real-life actions that ultimately bring changes?
#StopAsianHate outcry on social media
Spurred by racism and discrimination towards Asians during the COVID-19 pandemic, the surge in anti-Asian attacks and hate incidents worldwide has sparked social media outcry within the Asian community. In response to the recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian people expressed their fear, anger and grief using the hashtag #StopAsianHate. Aside from condemning the hate incidents and being vocal for the victims, activists and influencers became the primary way to spread awareness and call for justice, while encouraging Asians to support their community by means of donation, assistance, and speaking up for injustice which has long escalated before the pandemic.
In response to a series of hate incidents, celebrities and influencers have used social media as not just an emotional outlet but also a platform to bring awareness and resources to the community and its allies. For example, Asian-American Actress Arden Cho says in her Instagram post which details a recent anti-Asian harassment she has experienced: “Please, please #StopAsianHate. I can’t breathe. It feels like I’m 10 again & I’m being kicked to death. My mom called me & I couldn’t help but start crying again. She’s so scared to walk outside, even in the daytime. I’m sorry mom. She wants me to be strong so I’ll try. Please help us.”
Similarly, American beauty magazine, Allure’s editor-in-chief Michelle Lee and designer Philip Lim also posted videos on Instagram calling for community support among Asians after a series of anti-Asian attacks took place in the United States.
Award-winning journalist and media personality, Xixi Yang responds to the hashtag #StopAAPIHate movement: “The painful experience of being Asian-American is that we are continuously being asked to “prove” racism, helps to dismantle the “model minority” myth by giving people a glimpse of the reality of being Asian-American today, taking (the issue) to social media isn’t only about holding people accountable, it’s about actually creating meaningful changes in society. Whether it be grassroots GoFundMe’s organized on Clubhouse to local groups helping the elderly shop for groceries to educational resources, social media has been a positive catalyst.”
Going beyond the social media statement
Such influential voices and many others, coupled with a number of Asian-initiated organizations such as AAPI Women Lead, Asian Women Alliance (AWA) have got media exposure and attention from the global society. Asians from all around the world are coming together to speak up, rally for justice, bring awareness, and continuously support their own community, but we all know the effort is still far from enough without offline actions and changes. An Instagram post or story will quickly fade into the background if no meaningful actions occur.
The most important part is what happens after we make a few clicks to repost – showing support in real life.
Although social media can empower people to make themselves heard and to show solidarity with the community, the most important part is what happens after we make a few clicks to repost – showing support in real life.
The well-known American singer, Rihanna joined her assistant Tina Truong to support the #StopAsianHate rally in New York City, in which she held up a neon green sign with the words “HATE = RACISM AGAINST GOD” and a bright pink sign with #StopAsianHate written across it.
Following the devastating Atlanta spa shootings in the United States, Canadian-American actress Sandra Oh gave a passionate speech at a Stop Asian Hate rally. She expressed her pride in being Asian. “For many of us in our community, this is the first time we are even able to voice our fear and our anger, and I really am so grateful to everyone willing to listen”, said the actress of Korean descent. “I know many of us in our community are very scared, and I understand that. And one way to get through our fear is to reach out to our community.” She asked the crowd: “If you see something [racist] will you help me?” to which the crowd fiercely responded in the affirmative.
What would you do if you witnessed a hate incident or microaggression against Asians or any other race? Confronting a stranger in such an uncomfortable situation could be difficult, but your silence is deadlier. Real change happens when we start acting upon the value we believe in. As an ally, there are multiple ways you can help. Start having a dialogue with people around you who might have experienced this. Educate yourself on how to intervene when you witness anti-Asian harassment in public, hold people accountable by making yourself informed about the situation. When done hand in hand, these small steps can create a real change that goes beyond a mere hashtag.
Cover: Emily Nash
Edited by: Younes Skalli