Weekly Link Roundup

Majorities of Americans see at least some discrimination against Black, Hispanic and Asian people in the U.S. (Pew Research Center): “Sizable majorities across racial and ethnic groups say Asian people face at least some discrimination; 42% of Asian Americans say that Asian people face a lot of discrimination. By comparison, 36% of Hispanic people, 32% of Black people and 22% of White people say the same … while there is a wide partisan gap in views of whether Asian people face a lot of discrimination (38% of Democrats and 14% of Republicans say this), Asian Democrats (48%) are more likely than Hispanic (40%), White (37%) and Black (33%) Democrats to say this.

The Atlanta Shooting and the Dehumanizing of Asian Women (The New Yorker): “A senseless massacre can be painfully clarifying about the state of a country. As the killing of George Floyd and countless other African-Americans have made clear, structural racism has become simultaneously mundane and pathological. The incendiary rhetoric of a racist former President combined with the desperation stoked by an unprecedented pandemic has underscored the precariousness of a minority’s provisional existence in the U.S. To live through this period as an Asian-American is to feel defenseless against a virus as well as a virulent strain of scapegoating. It is to feel trapped in an American tragedy while being denied the legitimacy of being an American.”

The Atlanta Shootings Made Me Stop Gaslighting Myself (WIRED): “Racism most of the time rubs more like a rash than a gash. Sometimes it’s hard not to feel like I’m whining. I am, after all, ensconced in my own kind of privileged position … As an Asian person in America, one learns to be grateful for the small things. I’m told my food is stinky, but if I’m compliant, no one will bludgeon me and drag me off a flight … The truth is, ‘Chink’ is one of the less insulting things I’ve had yelled at me, less stinging than the gendered and solicitous ni haos, or the unshakeable, awful Kubrickian ‘me love you long time.’ … For Asian women, there has always pulsed a danger of an altogether different frequency, one not registered by others who haven’t had the same embodied experience … The presumption of the Asian woman’s obedience might seem to remove her from obvious conflict, but this simultaneously assumes her subservience, dehumanizing her and rendering her impervious to violence—at least to the minds of her perpetrators. In moments like these, I am not only terrified, I am seething with rage. I want to cuss and scream. But this is not what they expect of me, and I know that to shatter their image of a nice Asian girl is to risk a price I cannot pay.”

I’m Helping My Korean-American Daughter Embrace Her Identity to Counter Racism (The New York Times): “Asian-Americans have our own, less well-known place in the civil rights story. Asians also lived in the South in the 1950s, and we, too, would have been told to move to the back of the bus. In the 1860s, there were segregated schools for Chinese-American children … ‘Black families always have the racial talk’ … But many Asian-American families in past generations did not. They emphasized assimilating to what they thought was a post-racial state … It’s a talk that must include listening to, and coming to understand, all groups who face racial bias.”

The Dehumanizing Logic of All the ‘Happy Ending’ Jokes (The Atlantic): “Racism and sexism are partners that stoke each other with frightening ease. Racism may be caused by many factors … but its expression is almost always about the assertion of power. And whenever vengeful male power is in play, it is never good news for women. Anti-Asian racism and long-standing Western colonial attitudes about the plunderable ‘Orient’ enable the possessive denigration and dehumanization of Asian women; patriarchy and sexism further fortify such presumptions. Since the first big wave of Asian immigration to the U.S., in the 1850s, Asians have suffered discrimination and violence … the lynching, burning, and killing of Chinese residents were commonplace occurences up and down the West Coast during the 19th century. Since then, the perceived threat of the Yellow Peril has never really gone away; instead, it has circulated throughout the 20th and 21st centuries, easily revived during times of war, economic downturn, and disease.”

Foreigners in Their Own Country: Asian Americans at State Department Confront Discrimination (POLITICO): “The Asian-American Foreign Affairs Association, which has over 800 members and represents the interests of Asian-American diplomats inside the State Department … has been flagging its concerns for 10 years to departmental leadership, with only minor progress … diplomatic discrimination and violence against members of the Asian American communities are ‘different manifestations of the same issue: the inability of our government and some people to distinguish between a foreign government and Americans of Asian descent. It was that inability that caused the American government to intern over 120,000 Americans of Japanese descent’ during World War II … The heart of the issue is that Asian Americans continue to be seen as foreigners by many Americans, including their colleagues.”

How Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Echo Hollywood’s Failings (Variety): “Years of effacing cinematic portrayals of Asians have relied on the perspective of white protagonists. Asian women in particular have been hypersexualized and removed agency, either a ‘Dragon Lady’ or ‘Butterfly’ and ‘China Doll.’ For women, the trope of being inherently deferential and sexually available is perhaps best crystallized in Kubrick’s 1987 ‘Full Metal Jacket,’ in which actor Papillon Soo, playing a Vietnamese prostitute, reads the lines three white men wrote for her: ‘me so horny, me love you long time’ — phrases now used to belittle, endanger and harass Asian women the world over … Calling Asian women ‘a temptation’ arguably harkened Hollywood’s long history of depicting Asian female characters in interracial relationships with a subtext of white anxiety.”

How Racism and Sexism Intertwine to Torment Asian-American Women (The New York Times): “Federal data suggest that across the country, the victims of most violent hate crimes are men. Yet a recent analysis … [found] that out of nearly 3,800 incidents recorded in 2020 and 2021, more than two-thirds of the reports came from women. Hate crimes against Asian women are almost certainly undercounted, and … one reason is that those with a sexual dimension tend to be classified as sex offenses, in effect erasing the racial aspect.”

♥ (podcast) A Murderous Rampage in Georgia (The Daily by The New York Times)

Asian American Democratic Senators Say They’ll Block Biden Nominees (Slate): “Katherine Tai, the recently confirmed United States trade representative, is the lone AAPI member of the Cabinet, but there are no AAPI full Cabinet secretaries for the first time in decades … The ultimatum is the latest case of Democratic senators publicly using the individual leverage that comes with a 50-50 Senate. Until there’s a resolution, Duckworth and Hirono’s position puts the confirmations of straight white nominees who can’t win Republican support on hold—or dooms them.”

White House Pledges Asian-American Focus After Democrats Threaten Nominees (The New York Times): “… Jen Psaki … said Mr. Biden would name ‘a senior-level Asian-American Pacific Islander liaison who will ensure the community’s voice is further represented and heard’ … by late Tuesday, Ms. Duckworth and Ms. Hirono had dropped their threats and appeared satisfied by the administration’s response.”

Why Alexi McCammond Is Out at Teen Vogue (The Business of Fashion): “… while the publisher had been aware of the anti-Asian tweets during the hiring process, it had not been aware of the homophobic tweets that were also recirculating online in the last week … In recent days, more material from McCammond’s past circulated online, including a blog post about ‘Black on Black racism’ and a 2011 photo of her in a ‘Native American’ costume. These additional revelations, plus the continued pushback from Teen Vogue’s community on social media even after McCammond published a lengthy public apology, made it harder to defend the decision to hire her and more unlikely that she would be able to regain the audience’s trust.”

The Long Western Legacy of Violence Against Asian Americans (High Country News): “Historically, anti-Asian sentiments have intensified whenever people are panicked about disease or economic instability … Chinese immigrants have long been scapegoats for disease, considered a people whose ‘habits and manner of life are of such character as to breed and engender disease whether they reside,’ as one San Francisco health inspection officer wrote in 1873 … public health departments up and down the West Coast accused Asians of bringing everything from leprosy to malaria to the area. In the early 1900s, officials quarantined San Francisco’s Chinatown, convinced that its Asian residents had seeded a bubonic plague outbreak … Economic turmoil has historically stoked hate as well … white workers convinced that Asian workers were stealing their jobs murdered at least 300 Chinese people in the West between 1860 and 1887. And Chinese residents had little recourse; owing to a 1854 California Supreme Court decision, Asians were not allowed to testify in court … Meanwhile, local governments created ordinances designed to hamstring Asian-owned businesses. Then the federal government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, a 10-year ban on Chinese workers immigrating to the U.S. Today, besieged by the coronavirus and the worst recession since World War II, some who fear for their social standing or earning potential have reacted by vandalizing Asian American businesses and harassing Asian Americans.”

The Slur I Never Expected to Hear in 2020 (The New York Times): “In the past, I had a habit of minimizing anti-Asian racism because it had been drilled into me early on that racism against Asians didn’t exist. Anytime that I raised concerns about a racial comment, I was told that it wasn’t racial. Anytime I brought up an anti-Asian incident, a white person interjected that it was a distraction from the more important issue … I’ve been conditioned to think my second-class citizenry was low on the scale of oppression and therefore not worth bringing up even though every single Asian-American I know has stories of being emasculated, fetishized, humiliated, underpaid, fired or demoted because of our racial identities … Asian-Americans have always lived a conditional existence in which belonging is promised as long as we work harder at being good, hamming up acts of courtesy when we help our neighbors, internalizing any racial slights we encounter and always allowing them to go first. The model-minority myth is a lie that silences the structural economic racism Asian-Americans have endured and the intergenerational traumas our families have experienced from years of Western colonialism, wars and invasions. I hated talking about the model-minority myth because it was like being stuck in a feedback loop. After refuting that myth, I was dragged back to refute it again. But when the pandemic struck, I realized how deeply entrenched that myth was in the psyches of not only whites but other people of color.”

I find it hard to write about anti-Asian racism; for so long, when confronted with (mostly casual) racism, I either ignore (“Never wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig likes it”), or try to laugh it off. Sometimes I even feel I should be grateful, because I have been shielded from the worst of the abuse.

When relative strangers make unfunny puns about my last name or assume that I am my brother’s mail-order bride, my instinct is to offer an uncomfortable “haha.” I tell myself: “just kill them with kindness–maybe they’d feel bad about their behavior, and be more considerate to the next Asian person they encounter.”

For the last year I’ve reacted to widespread anti-China sentiments with alarm, but have retreated into the warm cocoon that is “stay safe and stay home.” However, with the country’s gradual reopening, I am about to reenter a world that feels increasingly dangerous and unpredictable. And I feel angry. Further, I feel lost: the problem seems unwieldy and I don’t know what my part in the solution is.

But as Lao Tzu wrote, “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” So with that, I started with a thing that I am good at: complain to my local/state representatives in the form of angry screeds. If you also feel lost, you might consider consulting the Anti-Asian Violence Resources for ideas.

Hi, I am Elle!

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