Minding my own business, I looked for the exit sign in the store since COVID-19 precautions had limited the number of usable doors at Target. As I made my way to the familiar red exit, a middle-aged white man approached me.
“Because of you, I have to wear this mask. Your kind started this whole pandemic.”
As an Asian American, I have always experienced racism, but I’ve never spoken up about it because not many people like me have. Oftentimes, I find that the Asian community keeps quiet and internalizes the racism we endure. However, after my trip to Target, a message shouts clearer to me than ever: The unrecognized racism that Asian Americans face has been shut down for far too long, and it is time to bring awareness to this prejudice.
Asian Americans have actually faced racism for over a century. In 1882, Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act. “For the first time, Federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the good order of certain localities.” In other words, the Chinese Exclusion Act was the first law to ban immigration based on race, demonstrating how Asian Americans have long been subject to racial discrimination.
But more urgent are the recent violent attacks that thousands of Asian Americans have suffered. As the number of COVID-19 cases have increased, so have the number of hate crimes towards Asian Americans. NBC News reported at least 3,800 hate crimes against Asian Americans in the past year, mainly against Asian women. From random strangers shouting, “go back to China,” “Chinese virus,” and “Kung flu” to mass shootings such as the one in Atlanta, countless Asians have recently experienced these horrifying acts of racism.
But why aren’t more people talking about all the lives lost due to this prejudice? The answer is simple. Asians are seen as the “model minority,” so we – apparently – don’t experience racism since all of us are so opulent. However, the model minority myth is very problematic. This myth originated in the 1960s when the 1965 Immigration Act reversed the previous restrictions on Asian immigration. But this act still limited which Asians could enter the U.S. because only highly educated professionals were allowed in. Because of the background of these skilled workers, they were able to pursue specific careers with higher income, resulting in the development of the model minority myth. However, this overgeneralization of Asian Americans masks the struggles of those who aren’t as fortunate. In 2018, the Pew Research Center found that Asian Americans have the largest wealth gap in the U.S., proving the inaccuracy of this harmful stereotype. Additionally, this myth places a racial wedge between Asian Americans and other people of color. Rather than uniting to fight the issue of white supremacy together, racial minorities are divided against each other because of the model minority myth, which hinders progress towards racial equality. Even though our society has made several steps in the right direction in terms of anti-racism, there is still a long way to go. We must continue to fight for racial justice so that all people of color can finally have an equal playing field.
By Lily Fu, 17, Asian American, Texas.
Please visit Lily’s website: https://asianamericanawareness.blogspot.com/ She created it for her youth advocacy organization that focuses on Asian American Awareness.