Why are derogatory phrases like ‘ching chong’ so ingrained and embedded into people’s vocabulary, and are often dismissed as harmless jokes?
How does the Model Minority Myth and East Asians’ perceived proximity to whiteness act as an underlying factor?
East Asians’ perceived proximity to whiteness.
East Asians, out of all people of color (POC), are believed to have very close proximity to societal ‘whiteness.’ When this is coupled with the fact that many only regard East Asians under the term ‘Asian‘ without taking into consideration South, Central, West, and Southeast Asians, it results in the racism experienced by Asians being seriously downplayed.
One possible reason for this is the model minority myth. It creates a wedge between Asians and other POC because many find it difficult to accept that the Asian community’s relative economic privilege can coexist with their identities as minorities and people of color.
Perhaps, other POC see this disconnect…
…between their lives and the Asian community’s experiences as a correlation between Asians and whiteness – which is an extremely flawed and harmful mindset to harbor.
By viewing the entire Asian community as a monolith,
harboring colorist ideals, and reducing Asians to their relationship to whiteness, the unique racism and violence faced by different groups within the Asian community is erased and left unconfronted.
At the end of the day,
despite their perceived proximity to whiteness, whether economically or societally, Asians can never be white. Despite East Asians being light-skinned and often white passing, when the social environment became decidedly anti-Asian this year, East and South-East Asians were hunted down on the streets and violently attacked.
While they themselves could not use their percieved ‘whiteness’ as a shield against these attacks, others’ categorization of Asians as white allowed them to turn a blind eye to the violence they were facing.
The Model Minority Myth
The model minority myth credits Asian success, especially in East Asians, to a “good familial structure and a greater work ethic”. Keep in mind that this is a pillar of the myth specifically designed to discredit Black struggles by implying that Black people need to work harder and have more traditional family structures.
One portion of the model minority myth is the assumption that Asians are socioeconomically “better off” than other minorities.
However, this pillar of the myth assumes that Asians are a monolith, assuming most Asians are economically well-off. The myth completely leaves out Asians who do not have a high fiscal standing, often refugees or post-second generation Asians, for the sole purpose of erasing Asian struggles and promoting anti-Blackness.
The Model Minority Myth, Despite Being Easily Debunked, is Still Popular.
The myth has directly led to the greater tolerance of racism against Asians. Asians are seen as ‘more successful’, which not only erases the economic hardships that Southeast, South, and Central Asians face, but also reduce the other kinds of racism that all Asians face.
The myth has also led to an increased tolerance of anti-Blackness and has divided Asians and other POC. Without nuance and a deeper level analysis of Asian issues, the model minority myth is a way to enforce racism and microaggressions onto both Asian and Black people.
Society essentially becomes desensitized to violence against Asians because it no longer sees them as a vulnerable group.
In addition to some relative economic privilege, many perceive East Asians particularly as white-passing because of their lighter skin tones, believing that it gives them access to the societal privilege that white people experience.
While it might seem harmless, and sometimes even beneficial, to only view Asians in their proximity to whiteness has harmful consequences. When we only see Asians in relation to whiteness, their identities as a marginalized minority and people of color are erased, and their painful experiences with racism are dismissed.
Another dangerous side-effect of only viewing Asians in their proximity to whiteness is that the diversity in identity and experience within the Asian community is diluted. Some Asians, such as South Asians, are dark-skinned and can never experience white-passing privilege, while other Asians have lower economic privilege.
As xenophobia marks its reign against Asians and Asian-Americans, the mass media platforms stay silent.
More often than not, popular news outlets tend to dismiss racist attacks towards Asians which is linked to the lack of public knowledge about the jeopardization of the Asian population. In this racist climate that remains nurtured by civilians and mass media alike, the result usually leads to the murder of an innocent individual that scars our lives in unimaginable ways.
The lack of media coverage that is supposed to highlight this violence adds onto the frequency of the attacks because there are very few platforms that stress the prejudice Asians face when walking down the street or living in their own homes.
The traditional racial slurs and xenophobic attacks against Asians have become so normalized that it almost seems accepted into societal and cultural norms.
In this new trajectory of the 21st century in America, Asians remain under siege of a regime who chooses to constantly neglect them.
Namely, the media didn’t talk about when the middle-aged Filipino man had his face sliced with a box cutter, leaving him with a scar of racism. Not only are Asians being attacked, but elderly Asian people have red targets mounted on their back. The surge of onslaughts just proves how lack of media coverage to steer audiences in a non-racist direction serves as an awakening, that without the proper direction from those who should inform us from a nonpartisan angle, attacks are encouraged by not being universally denounced.
Now that more Asian Attacks surface the web, such as Angelo Quinto suffocated in Antioch, and a 91 year-old man fatally pushed to the ground in Oakland (both in California), the incentive to protect Asians from the grim reapers of humanity remains at the very top of America’s to-do list.
The media should to do their part to help save Asian lives,
to actively speak against it but do so in an unbiased manner. If not, they will continue to prewrite the obituaries of the Asians who hope only to live and be recognized in a world who chooses to throw them under the rug.
We as a generation must acknowledge how these ideals contribute to Asian discrimination and violence, and put in efforts to UNLEARN these mindsets.
As an epidemic of hatred continues to plague the Asian-American community, little has been done to address this crisis. Many choose to turn a blind eye to the hate Asian-Americans face on a day-to-day basis.
This ties into how racism is normalized towards Asians. The model minority myth, which alludes to the idea that Asian-Americans are all inherently wealthy and successful, plays a great role in this because it creates a fallacy that Asians are immune to racism and discrimination.
The narrative that Asians are exempt from any troubles because of harmful stereotypes provides an excuse for America to ignore the impending crisis that is threatening the safety of Asian-Americans.
Let’s try to Combat Asian Racism in Order to Reverse the Mindset for the Next Generation.
To effectively combat the racism faced by Asian Americans, we must recognize the vast span of Asian communities. There is no single Asian identity; Asia is a continent with nearly fifty countries, and far more cultures and people. The most populous community cannot be attributed to a single set of traits, it is imperative to recognize their differences. When Asians stop being seen as a single group, it will be harder to justify these cruel attacks on Asian humanity.
In addition, pay attention to the large diasporic communities of Asians, as well as those who reside in Asia. No matter where Asians reside in the world, they have been victim to hate crimes, and this is simply unacceptable.
However, please recognize that we are not saying other forms of racism have not been normalized; we are trying to shine a light on the plight of Asians in the wake of recent attacks. All people of color are disadvantaged by white privilege, some more than others. We recognize the longstanding struggles of the Black, Latine, and Indigenous communities, and we are in no way trying to invalidate their experiences. Comparing the struggles of POC benefits no one but the oppressive system, it is more important for us to stand in solidarity with each other.
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