China culture People

Forever Outsiders: Asians Suffering a New Wave of Racism

“Chinese Virus?”

When Magi Cheng watched this video, her legs trembled- she almost collapsed on the ground.

In February, Cheng’s mother was pushed to the ground in the neighborhood of Queens, New York, and the perpetrators have been arrested.
Source :Twitter

“I’ve never cried hard as when reading this.” Her voice broke up when she talked about the video. That day when a white man beat her mother to the ground. “My mom was simply thrown out like a light feather- she was like a rag doll encountering him.”

The video quickly went viral on the Internet after the incident. On February 16th, 2021, four Asian women were attacked in New York City. Last Thursday (February 25th), A 36-year-old Asian man was chopped with a machete by a murderer from the back while he was walking near Chinatown. He suffered near-total kidney and liver damage and was now in a critical condition.

Unfortunately, these cases are non-unique. In 2020, a new wave of anti-Asian racism was on the rise.

Data collected by California State University. Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Surge in 2020
Source: VOA

122 anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in California’s 16 most populous cities, an increase of nearly 150 percent from the previous year. Brian Levin, a researcher from California State University, said:

“Our data are revealing. It shows that that 2020 could be the worst year of this century for anti-Asian hate crimes.”

But why 2020?

“I just couldn’t believe it was happening to me, my God,” Chrisanna Tang said after two men openly spat and yelled at her on an early morning subway ride, “You Chinese brought the virus! Get out of the US!”

Similarly, victims of anti-Asian hate speech often reported being seen as a “pathogen” of COVID-19 as the reason for their misfortunes. A Chinese-American mother in Georgia, for example, said: “My 14-year-old daughter told me that she met two white men calling her ‘China disease.’ She is terrified of even walking out of our house.”

Politicians, including former President.Trump, have referred to the COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus”, which is no doubt connotated toward an anti-Asian hate speech. At the start of the epidemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared that references to the virus by land or community names would trigger only stigmatization that’s hard to eliminate.

The viral stigmatization of Asians makes it more troubling in the Euro-American world, where “anti-Asian racism” is deeply rooted.

Asians: Outsiders Forever

“The first English word I learned was ‘Chinks’. “

Wang, a graduate of Yale Law School, said that after moving to New York from China at the age of seven, she was subjected to discrimination every time she went out. At that time, whenever she learned a new word, she would show off to her family: “Dad, I am a chink now!” When hearing that, Wang’s father felt like being stabbed in the heart. After taking a deep breath, he bent down and looked at his daughter.

“Don’t say a word like that again,” he said in a deep voice. Of course, the little girl did not know that life was not easy for Asians living overseas, and they might not be welcomed here.

For nearly a century and a half, Asians have been in almost every corner of the world. Depending on their excellent business skills and hard work, many of them prospered in local communities, creating job opportunities and boosting local economic development. It is obviously a good deal, but some locals don’t think so.

On June 19th, 1982, Vincent Jen Chin, 27, Chinese, was having his last bachelor party — he was to be married eight days later. For the marriage, he worked for two jobs and led a busy but fulfilling life. However, this “last” bachelor party was also the last day of his life.

Photo of Chin

At the party, two unemployed auto workers argued with Chin as they believed he is Japanese. At that time, the Japanese auto industry was a great success, and the U.S auto industry was a rapid decline. Many American workers were unemployed. Chin “inexplicably” became a “punching bag”  and was violently beaten by the two unemployed workers.

Chin’s friends immediately took him to a nearby hospital, but he was brain-dead from his injuries. Eight days later, the scheduled wedding day had no groom.

About 40 years ago, Japan’s economic growth became a breeding ground for hatred of Asians. Forty years later, with the development of China, ethnic Chinese seen as “job stealers” by the locals have become the new scapegoats for increasing unemployment.

In August 2016, Zhang Chaolin, a father of two, was hospitalized after being attacked by three teenagers in Paris, France. Zhang lives in Aubervilliers, a working-class district in Paris that is home to more than 1,200 Chinese wholesalers. However, the number of attacks on the Chinese in the region remains high.

During the trial, the three teenagers who attacked Zhang said frankly:

“Chinese have money, and they don’t fight back.” 

What they said is blatantly absurd as ethnic Chinese have never stopped protesting racial violence. But Asians, by comparison, do tend to be “inward-looking,” participating in public activities less actively than other ethnic groups and being slightly less vocal. “Chinese are more inclined to work in family businesses,” says Zhuang Yahan, who has a Ph.D. at the Sorbonne University in Paris and specializes in integration with Chinese immigrants. For instance, in France, the Chinese do not have a willingness to integrate into the local community as strong as other ethnic groups.

Racial discrimination is widespread in all ethnic groups. The lack of integration into local communities is not a reason for discrimination, but it may point to a potential for resistance.

Engagement Action is Urgent

Kendi, the author of “How to Be Anti-Racist,” argues that simply improving the socioeconomic status of disadvantaged groups will not let racial discrimination disappear itself.

In many cases, there is an embraced notion behind racism: race is the defining factor of identity, and it sets the stage for the spread of negative stereotypes. Thus, in the eyes of racists, Asians are essentialized as “nerds” and Africans are “lazy” Racial discrimination will not be eliminated if this perception is not corrected.

Therefore, only by supporting anti-racist policies, increasing exposure of the status quo of Asians, and continuing public education, can racial attitudes be changed, and can racial discrimination be eliminated more ultimately.

Actually, a growing number of Asians are speaking out.

In a recent interview, famous NBA star Jeremy Lin said he was repeatedly called “Chink” and “Coronavirus” and expressed his willingness to speak out for the Asian community
Source: Weibo

The change of concepts can not be achieved in a day, and every correction of the “Chinese virus ” is worthy of support. Asians should not just “bury their heads in the grindstone”, but start “arguing” — changing attitudes is not easy. Therefore, communication and understanding are essential to solving the problems.

Wirtten by Jeffrey

Translated by Carol

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