In March 2020, a couple of month after the South Korean movie Parasite gained 4 Oscars, together with Greatest Image—the primary non-English language movie to ever earn the Academy’s highest honor—US states started issuing lockdown orders for COVID-19. Shortly after, we started to listen to experiences of Asians and Asian Individuals throughout the US being crushed, spit on, stabbed, and attacked in a mess of different methods.
Quick ahead a yr later, and never lengthy after the Korean American movie Minari was nominated for six Oscars, six Asian girls—together with 4 of Korean descent—had been gunned down at three Atlanta-area spas. When South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung, who gained an Oscar for taking part in the grandmother in Minari, advised her household her plans to journey to the US to attend the awards, her son, who lives within the States, warned her not to come for fear that she might get hurt.
That is the unhappy, unusual, and paradoxical actuality we reside in at this time. Korean popular culture and inventive works by the Korean diaspora (corresponding to Minari) are having fun with unprecedented world reputation, and but, Korean Individuals and different members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) neighborhood are being assaulted, harassed, and murdered. The tales on NextShark, an Asian American information website that has supplied essentially the most in depth protection of anti-Asian violence all through the pandemic, are gut-wrenching and horrifying. In accordance with Cease AAPI Hate, which tracks hate incidents towards members of the AAPI neighborhood, 6,603 anti-Asian hate incidents happened throughout the nation between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2021. And people are simply the reported circumstances—many hate crimes go unreported.
How is it attainable that when Asians are lastly beginning to be seen as “cool” and “hip” within the West, we’re additionally being brutally attacked and even killed regularly, typically in broad daylight?
Sadly, there’s not a easy reply to that query. However America has lengthy had a sample of scapegoating individuals of Asian descent for its societal and financial ills, from white employees blaming the Chinese language for stealing their jobs and bringing diseases—which led to the Chinese language Exclusion Act of 1882—to our personal authorities forcibly sending greater than 120,000 Japanese Individuals to internment camps throughout World Conflict II, to 2 white auto employees, who had been allegedly out of labor in 1982 as Japanese automotive producers outpaced American firms, killing Vincent Chin, a Chinese language American, whom they mistook for Japanese.
When occasions are robust, it’s all the time straightforward to easily level the finger at another person. And it’s even simpler if that individual doesn’t appear like you and is somebody you would possibly regard as “overseas” and “completely different.” It’s even simpler when your personal political leaders are feeding these impulses by utilizing phrases like “China virus” and “kung flu” within the midst of a worldwide pandemic.
Though the rise of Korean popular culture and rising Asian illustration in Hollywood could also be altering how Asians are perceived by some individuals (particularly youthful generations), there are nonetheless many others who stay entrenched of their bigoted mindsets and proceed to purchase into racist tropes about Asians. Centuries of misrepresentation, erasure, and othering of Asians in America have resulted in blatantly ignorant assumptions that persist at this time, just like the tendency to label anybody of East or Southeast Asian descent as Chinese language, dangerous stereotypes (together with the fetishization of Asian girls and associating Asians with illness) and drained, xenophobic taunts like “Return to China.” Anti-Asian racism has been normalized on this nation for thus lengthy that many Individuals to at the present time appear to assume racism is OK if it’s directed at Asians. Many additionally fail to acknowledge AAPIs as a marginalized group because of the persistence of the model minority myth, with a current survey displaying that about one in four white people do not see anti-Asian racism as a problem. It should take a very long time to undo these prejudices and misconceptions about AAPIs which were deeply ingrained within the American collective consciousness.
It’s additionally exhausting to not surprise if Korean popular culture going world is sparking nervousness and resentment in some Westerners—much like how Japan’s financial rise within the Eighties triggered anti-Asian sentiment throughout the US. The Korean Wave, or Hallyu, which refers back to the rising reputation of Korean tradition throughout the globe, has impacted way of life and tradition in virtually each nook of the world. From cosmetics to gaming and e-sports to food, music, TV, movie, fashion, and wacky internet trends, the Korean Wave has helped form virtually each main world cultural pattern. May some subconsciously worry that Western dominance in world tradition is being threatened by the ever-expanding Korean Wave? Fairly probably. It’s maybe one of many underlying the reason why American and German radio personalities have hurled racist vitriol towards Ok-pop superstars BTS, for instance.
For me, the heightened anti-Asian violence over the previous yr has served as a wake-up name. I’ve realized that regardless of what number of Individuals could also be shopping for Korean merchandise (the Atlanta spa shooter drove a Hyundai, for crying out loud), or what number of ethnic Koreans could also be profitable prestigious awards on the worldwide stage, there are nonetheless individuals on the market who’re inclined to verbally harass and even bodily hurt anybody who appears Asian. I’ve additionally seen cases by which individuals (like this 72-year-old white woman who wrote to the novelist R. O. Kwon) declare they love Korean popular culture earlier than continuing to spew insidiously racist language about Koreans. Susan Lee, a author, tweeted that it’s attainable the obsession with Ok-dramas and Ok-pop has really made some individuals extra racist “as a result of they assume they ‘perceive’ being Korean, in order that they get a move on racist ideas/tendencies.”
With the rise in anti-Asian sentiment, some Koreans dwelling within the US are returning to South Korea. I’ve thought of shifting to South Korea many occasions over the previous yr, though I used to be born within the US and have lived most of my life right here. Whereas South Korea definitely has its personal issues, at the very least I wouldn’t need to consistently fear about being attacked exterior my residence simply due to what I appear like.
I actually hope I gained’t need to pack up and depart. I need to give my residence nation one other likelihood. I need to consider that sooner or later, I—and lots of others who appear like me—gained’t need to stroll down the road consistently wanting over our shoulders. So I’m asking all of you: arise for the AAPI neighborhood. AAPIs make up solely seven p.c of the US inhabitants, however with the assistance of our allies, we will collectively push for the adjustments that we so desperately want to see.
In case you’re undecided the place to begin, listed here are just a few ideas:
- Look at your personal biases. It’s very a lot attainable to like Ok-dramas and Ok-pop and however nonetheless harbor racist views about Koreans and Asians generally. Don’t be like that aforementioned white grandma.
- Examine in together with your AAPI colleagues and buddies. They might appear OK on the skin, however belief me, many people are hurting proper now. A few of us would possibly simply be reluctant to share how we actually really feel as a result of we’re used to pondering that nobody else cares about us. So present the AAPIs in your life that you simply care about them.
- Educate your self on Asian American historical past, significantly the historical past of anti-Asian racism within the US. The PBS documentary Asian Americans and books like The Making of Asian America by Erika Lee and The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang are nice locations to begin.
- Donate to organizations like Gold House which are preventing to interrupt dangerous stereotypes of Asians and Asian Individuals within the media which have contributed to the present local weather.
- Converse up for the AAPI neighborhood. In case you see somebody of Asian descent being verbally or bodily attacked, be an energetic bystander. Hollaback! provides useful bystander intervention trainings.
Staying silent shouldn’t be an possibility when quite a few Asians and Asian Individuals throughout the nation are being focused day-after-day.
Dismantling stereotypes of Asians and Asian Individuals will likely be a gradual and painful course of—an extended and arduous journey we must always not need to undertake alone. Followers of Korean tradition and leisure should be allies for the AAPI neighborhood—and no, stanning a Ok-pop group or binge-watching Ok-dramas doesn’t robotically make you an ally. Interact in at the very least the 5 actions listed above. I can’t emphasize the fifth level sufficient—please, in case you see an Asian individual being harassed or assaulted, arise for them, identical to you’d defend your favourite Ok-pop artist towards racist abuse on social media.
However don’t arise simply since you occur to like Korean or different Asian cultures. Do it because human lives should be valued, and since individuals of Asian descent—whether or not that’s your favourite Ok-pop singer or the common Asian individual you see on the road—should reside lives free from racism and violence.
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