The Rise of Xenophobia

There were pools of blood dripping from his arm, stains of blood on his pants and face. Everywhere. I wish I could tell you more, but the bleeding man is a stranger to me. And I’m afraid if I get into the details of the horrific scene, it will only serve to disturb you more.

Throughout the pandemic, there seems to be no end to fear. We fear contracting the virus, and we fear food and supply shortages. But most of all, we fear for our lives. The spread of the pandemic also has seen a rise in xenophobia, with the community being its first targets.

Perhaps “Chinese Virus” or “Chinese Pig” doesn’t sound too foreign to you. If you’ve been tuning into Trump’s speeches during quarantine, it probably doesn’t. As the severity of the pandemic rose in the U.S., a wave of anti-Asian sentiments ensued. It took the form of violent beatings, assaults and even murder towards Asian-Americans.

As an Asian teen, I was confused. Years of thriving in progressive thought and interacting with open-minded individuals made it hard to wrap my mind around the blatant hate that suddenly ghosted my family, peers, and communities. It lurked everywhere. And to use Ta-Nehisi Coates’ words: It felt like we lost control of our bodies. Everyday, this fear was pervasive.

What would happen to my parents, grandparents or relatives if they go outside? I don’t know. The months that I stayed home, I had various discussions with my peers, within my classrooms and with my family. In every discussion, people seemed to share my same fear. It was the fear of uncertainty. I don’t want to paint anti-Asian as a novel idea, because it isn’t. Along with the struggles of other minority groups in America, generations of Asian-Americans have faced bigotry and discrimination.

Some like to use “Ching Chong” or other form of language mockery, pointing to our culture they deemed too serious, and a group of people they find alien. Like others, the millions of Asians across the world, away from their country of birth, carried with them a hope for the future and a determination to weave a new life. It may sound like a snippet of a hackneyed narrative, but only those who have gone through the process of giving up everything and restarting their life understand the courage it takes.

Asian Privilege

These days, there seems to be a connection between “Asian” and “privilege.” Perhaps the increased frequency of Asian countries in the media or a greater Asian presence in academia all point to an image that Asians are the embodiment of the “model minority:” Using hard work and virtues to climb up the socioeconomic ladder.

I’ve grown up knowing that education was important because there are generations of Chinese immigrants who never had access to college. Our values and heritage enrich our being. By focusing on “Asian success,” we obscure the fact that Asians, like every other minority group, have endured decades of bigotry that still exists today. The Asians seen in the media do not represent the entire spectrum of us. 

Bananas & Women

After generations of living in America, many Asian Americans inevitably adopt white culture. Some to a greater degree than others. This process of “whitewashing” also becomes a point of ridicule by others. Although I am positive that every culture has felt the pressure to adapt to American and white society at some point or another, it isn’t unique to Asians and they should not be ridiculed for that. I believe in the perseverance of our unique cultures, but everyone follows a different mentality and should not be judged for it. Yet, the problem goes deeper.

The term “banana” refers to Asians who are yellow on the outside but white on the inside. This has led to other controversies and hatred within and outside the Asian community. Women in particular are the victims of certain accusations. Many people, particularly men, tend to point an accusing and mocking finger at Asian women who date or marry white men. They are looked down upon because they are believed to be “sucking up” to white men.

As a Asian woman growing into the world, I know I will one day be seen through colored lenses like those before me. I don’t want to be objectified because it makes me uncomfortable, and every woman deserves basic respect. A video by Fung Bros, two Asian-American YouTubers, further examined this phenomenon. From that video,I realized that the “white” mentality stretched beyond a desire to act white, but to join a seemingly exclusive white community.

This was scary and personally, I think it is a toxic mindset that will only continue to fuel white ego. But it is not my place to point fingers at a particular woman or individual, no one should. There is no one solution for a issue as perplexing as racism or mentality, but if there’s anything I learned from the #BlackLivesMatter movement, it is that persistence works. Results come after we’ve set our hearts to make changes.


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Helen Chen, Jr. Editor

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