On an overcast afternoon in March 2020, my mother was on her way to the local grocery store. Upon arrival, “Corona Corona”, “go back to China” and various other racial slurs were thrown at her by a group of teenage boys. My mother isn’t exactly timid, so rather than simply ignoring them (which is what they probably expected her to do), she told them “f*** off I’m not Chinese” and kept walking. She’s right, she’s Filipino, but that’s not the point. Prior to the past year, xenophobic attitudes towards Asians is nothing new. It’s something I know all too well, with my own fair share of experiences. I’ve been called “exotic” (which gives me the absolute ick) or had a random passer-by shout “f****** Korean” at me.
The incident with my mother was also just one of many racial encounters she’s faced over the years since moving from the Philippines to mainland Europe 40 years ago. Whilst thankfully none of our experiences have ever turned violent, this hasn’t been the case for countless others.
Widespread Attacks On AAPI In USA
There’s been an alarming surge of attacks against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the United States since the start of the pandemic. From physical assaults to verbal harassments, most of these reported attacks have been linked to blaming Asian people for spreading Covid-19. Xiao Zhen Xie, a 75-year-old Chinese woman, was severely assaulted, punched in the eye, whilst standing at a traffic light in San Francisco. However, she was able to somewhat defend herself from this unprovoked attack by hitting back her assailant with a piece of wood. Despite her bravery, she still suffers from her injuries and is traumatised by the events that unfolded, according to her family. Sadly, countless other Asian-American seniors have fallen victim to similar assaults in the past 12 months. On a personal level, I can’t help but think of my late grandmother when I see distressing images of older women that resembled her being attacked. If she were still with us, I couldn’t imagine how I’d feel if anyone laid their hands on her full stop. Leat alone because of her heritage.
Just when I thought things couldn’t get any worse, the headline: “8 Dead at Atlanta Spa Shooting” flashed across my TV screen during a news segment one morning. As I continued to watch, more details emerged that 6 of the 8 victims were women of Asian descent and the perpetrator was a young white male. On top of this, the attack took place at Asian-American-owned businesses. That was all I needed to hear to really realise exactly what this was: hate crime. However, news anchors and ‘experts’ were actually having a debate on whether or not this horrific event was classed as a hate crime. You know the saying “If it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck?” Well, whatever the killer’s motives, the facts were obvious. The suspect later on claimed to have had a ‘sex addiction’ and shooting at these massage parlours was a way to eliminate his ‘temptation’.
Stop Spreading Asian Hate With Stereotypes And Scapegoating
Submissive stereotypes linked with the hyper sexualisation of Asian women has been a longstanding issue perpetuating harassment and violence against them. Claiming to have the case of ‘yellow fever’ isn’t flattering but rather a fetishisation that’s intersected with racism and sexism. Colonial encounters between the West and Asia conceivably awakened a white sexual imperialist mindset that has unfortunately been embedded in our cultural paradigm. Hollywood’s portrayal of marginalised people certainly hasn’t helped the situation either. In the 1987 war film Full Metal Jacket, one scene shows American soldiers being propositioned by a Vietnamese sex worker using phrases such as “me love you long time”. Released in 2002, Austin Powers in Goldmember featured an array of sexually charged jokes involving adult female Japanese Twins. Sadly, these harmful depictions in various other films are still commonplace.
Quite frankly, hate against Asians is a complex issue that can’t be resolved overnight, but there are some starting points. In some cases, mainstream media needs to do better and stop their overly sexualised portrayals of Southeast Asian women. And finally, scapegoating Asian minority communities in Western nations and blaming them for coronavirus is a narrative that needs to be eradicated. Indeed, if only there were a vaccine to stop the spread of such racism. Question is: would you take it?