- Nicole Mai Untersander
We Need to Stop Downplaying Racism Towards Asians
© Illustration by INJECTION - Alicia Lupieri
Why the mainstream media’s biases and the model minority harm Asians in so many ways.
NO to racism part 7 of 12.
The outbreak of the pandemic has given the far-right an excuse to verbally abuse, harass, brutally assault and murder not only Chinese people, but especially people of East and South East Asian descent in Western countries. Asian shops and businesses are being vandalised and attacked solely for being Asian owned. We are witnessing a 300% increase in hate crimes towards British Chinese and East Asians in the United Kingdom over the last year, and keep in mind that these numbers are only the reported ones.
The mainstream media has been mostly silent when it comes to covering incidents of hate crimes against Asians during the first wave of the pandemic, yet they would have the power to serve as a platform to raise awareness on such an important matter. Instead, they potentially reinforced racial prejudice against the ethnic group by using images of East Asian people in totally unrelated Covid-19 news articles. As an Asian woman myself, it's definitely nice to see how the #StopAsianHate movement is finally receiving the recognition it deserves, however, I wonder why the media only writes about it once celebrities start talking about Asian hate crimes? Why has the mainstream media failed to acknowledge that the recent shooting in Atlanta, where 6 Asian American women were murdered, clearly wasn’t just an “incident” but an act of hate crime and domestic terrorism against Asians?
Racism towards the Asian minority group is very normalised in our society. Although the coronavirus has increased the level of racism, it is nothing new at all. One of the central reasons for the media's and society’s downplaying of racism is the so-called model minority myth.
What exactly is the model minority myth? The myth emerged in the United States and indicates that “all” Asian Americans are quiet, well behaved, polite, smart, have class privilege, follow all the rules and have achieved a higher level of socioeconomic success compared to other immigrant groups. Their children are often framed as whiz kids, academic and musical geniuses - we have all seen it in movies. One might think that this seems to be a positive framing of Asians when in reality it’s actually harmful to both Asian Americans and other ethnic minority groups. Although it originated in the USA, I am sure that many Asians living in other Western countries can relate to it strongly.
Like all clichés, the myth blurs the differences between individual experiences. It boxes all Asian Americans into a single group and ignores the significant differences between the various Asian immigrant groups, both from a cultural and economic perspective. It wipes out the economic hardships that Southeast, South and Central Asians face. Even Asians themselves, especially the older generations, have internalised the myth that they believe as long as they behave in this stereotypical way, they will not be discriminated against because of their ethnicity. By being viewed as more successful, the myth has led to greater tolerance of racism.
What cannot be ignored is that the myth has led to an increased tolerance of anti-Blackness by dividing Asians and other POC. It is used as evidence to downplay the impact of discriminatory behaviour on People of Colour, suggesting that it is possible for an immigrant group to achieve great success in America. It reinforces microaggressions against both Asians and Black people and downplays their experiences of racism.
What can you do to support #StopAsianHate?
You can start by educating yourself. It is important to read and learn about different stories and experiences to better understand the root of the problem. Talk to your Asian friends, listen to them and show them your support. Address microaggressive jokes when you see them in your everyday life. Don't be silent, you have to be anti-racist to be an effective ally.
Last but not least, support your local Asian businesses and organisations!
Our favourite Asian organisations to support and follow on Instagram to learn more:
@dearasianyouthlondon @dearasianyouth @stopaapihate @zenerations @angryasianfeminist