Decades of racism devastate the Asian American community
Prejudice has arisen in many forms throughout the history of Asian Americans, including the normalization of mocking Asians to current acts of violence. Prejudice has seeped into everyday life for Asian Americans and the COVID-19 pandemic has perpetuated a recent wave of violent attacks against the Asian community.
The fact that the disease originated from China has caused the blame of all Asian Americans, not just those of Chinese heritage. The overall principle of discriminating against a community for a disease that is spread among everyone is immoral and takes away from the actual problem: the pandemic itself. Although it is true that the virus originated in China, the rise of xenophobia and racism is an entirely incorrect method of addressing the fear and consequences of the pandemic.
It has gotten to the point where the pandemic is not the only factor in prejudice, but instead lumps all Asians into one category, disregarding the diverse cultures within them. For instance, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai American man was shoved to the ground on Jan. 28, 2021, dying just days later in Oakland’s Chinatown. The violent act was based merely off the fact that Lunar New Year celebrations were being advertised around the area and the man was Asian. His daughter also reported several accounts of being harassed for bringing COVID-19 to the country, even though she is not from a Chinese heritage. This is not an isolated incident. Over the course of the pandemic and the year 2020, a 150% surge of anti-Asian hate crimes occurred with over 2,808 attacks. In response to this absurd number, there was a rise of social media activists advocating for Asian American rights.
This advocating for rights was overshadowed by the media’s constant pitting of minorities against each other. For instance, with the Black Lives Matter movement, the recent discourse around anti-Asian crimes sparked accusations of undermining Black activists advocating for the same cause. This stemmed from many Asian American activists beginning their campaign around the same time Black Lives Matter became much more prominent in the media. Either way, these actions completely disregard the fact that there are multiple groups of people who are still being treated with inequality in a country that claimed to have overcome racism decades ago. It turns racial groups against each other, overall making peaceful movements into an unofficial war where either side is refuted by the prejudiced views of the world.
The model minority myth plays a large part in the prejudice against Asians. It places Asians on a pedestal for being successful, but it works counterintuitively. Although the concept can promote the idea that the Asian community is flourishing and respectable, it glazes over Asian history and current racial problems present in the world. This issue is more prominent than ever, following the COVID-19 pandemic and recent violent attacks, sparking protests and more activity for Asian American rights.
The argument that the Asian community is successful and has a cultural standard working hard may be true, but should not be seen as a harmful stereotype. Originating all the way back to the era of Confucius and his principles of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and fidelity, past generations believed in earning honor through their diligent work.
The model minority myth plays off of these principles and utilizes them as an explanation as to why Asians are so successful. However, it fails to view the issue in a holistic way. For instance, there is a stereotype that all Asians are expected to go into Science Technology Engineering Math (STEM) professions because of their heritage and cultural duties. This reasoning is based on outer appearance, but when deeply observing the history of Asian immigration, the STEM fields were many’s only choice of occupation. It was an easy way to earn money without being fluent in English, while also integrating them into the middle class.
The model minority myth serves one ultimate purpose: to isolate different groups in the struggle to be treated equally. It is an overall act of historical racism, and in present cases, disintegrates the distinction between African American and Asian prejudice. It corrupts the history of Asian immigrants while disrespecting their culture and diversity. It undermines the existence of discrimination for Asians and other races alike. This myth is not treated like one by all people, but it is indeed something that should have been eradicated long ago.
By Remy Wong, Sports editor
Photo courtesy of Daniel William McKnight