Opinion

Where Are The Asian American Public Figures Now?

Coupled along with the spread of coronavirus, xenophobia is spreading from shore to shore, causing Chinatown to become deserted as fearful patrons avoid the entire area. Asian businesses have seen a loss as much as 80% of customers, and Asians have become targets of racially charged abuse. Asian students have been bullied, and in some cases, violently attacked. Authorities have spoken out and have been investigating some of the major cases of racism, but when will it stop? How can we prevent more abuse against Asian Americans in schools, workplaces, and public transit? Is there any preventive action against xenophobia during crises such as covid-2019? What are authorities doing to help protect Asian communities across America?

According to UNICEF, there are 5 ways to fight racism and xenophobia. The White House is unwilling to set aside its partisan differences to fight not only the virus but also the xenophobia that accompanies it. And the White House is doing next to nothing in combating either. President Trump’s last few years of antagonizing China has done nothing for the millions of Chinese Americans besides encouraging an irrational fear of China, which has spurred a green light to racism. His continuous tirade against Chinese businesses and government has done little to help either country’s economy, and the continuing trade war has soured US-China relations. And with the spread of the novel coronavirus, Chinese Americans and other Asian communities have been caught in the crossfire. 

Xenophobia in the US, unfortunately, has been normalized as a constant for many people of color. An infographic released by the University Health Services by University of California, Berkeley, was heavily criticized for advising that “xenophobia: fears about interacting with those who might be from Asia and guilt about these feelings,” as normal. The school later apologized for their actions and took the infographic down.  Is this how authorities fight racism on its campuses? By normalizing it? Several students at the university have recalled experiences such as being called “coronavirus,” or told to “go back to China.” Many of those who face harassment in public transit or other public places have expressed frustration at the lack of empathy by the public. “Each person I turned to looked away. The room was silent.” Tien wrote when she was harassed at a Vietnamese nail salon. 

There is little reprieve for the Asian community administ the crisis. While local officials have promised to investigate cases of racism, the general public have failed to call out hate speech and prejudice. Using humor to justify hate speech and other forms of racism is hateful; and speaking out against racist news or occurrences is a step in the right direction. Western media has painted the Asian community as cover art of non-Asian coronavirus patients, blaming them for poor hygiene and different eating practices. American media has always been a victim to constant fear-mongering; President Trump’s entire campaign was run on populist, inexorable fears of the “other,” thus alienating minority groups. America’s love of fear and American media have spearheaded racism against Asian communities, at the expense of decimating local Chinese economies. 

So who are the ones who are leading the fight against anti-Asian sentiment in America? Who were the ones who called for Asian representation in film and other media? Where are they now? In 2018, we were treated to “Crazy Rich Asians,” and in 2020, coronavirus? There has been a lack in Asian public figures who have called out against the xenophobic experiences of Asian Americans. While some have condemned hate speech on social media, most of them have remained largely silent. Is it too much to ask for Asian-American influencers in 2020 to engage in political activism? Many of them have endorsed political candidates. When will they begin to endorse their own communities that they have vowed to vouch for? There have been some occurrences of Asians coming together to protest against the discrimination they have faced, such as trending hashtags of #JeNeSuisPasUnVirus (I’m not a virus) from French Asians, and We zijn geen virussen! (We are not viruses!) by Dutch Asians. There is a lack of a rallying cry of Asian Americans; Tien’s experience at a Vietnamese nail salon illustrates how fragmented Asian American community is. 

If nobody stands for Asian Americans, who will? 

 

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