How #StopAsianHate became mainstream

By: Lucas Ou-Yang (twitter), Derrick Hsu (twitter)

Thanks to Chang Liu and Eric Toda for proofreading and Albert Hur for helping along the way

The Present

Today, #StopAsianHate has become mainstream. You can see it all over news, academia, and popular online spaces. Pepsi. McKinsey. Nike. Ben and Jerry’s. Tim Cook. Sheryl Sandberg. In response to thousands of reported attacks, they and hundreds more came out to speak against anti-asian violence in February 2021.

Today, Asians are finally coming together to combat anti-asian racism in various forms:

  • In 2021, the murder of Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84 year old Thai man, sparked hundreds of thousands of reactions online, calls for boycotts, and resignations of DAs [0].
  • Top business institutions now acknowledge fortune 500 company discrimination against Asians for leadership positions. [1] Asian women least likely to be promoted and Asian men second least likely out of all demographics.
  • Interest groups have sued Ivy league schools over anti-Asian discrimination in admissions practices [2].
  • In 2020, after anti-Asian hate crimes surged +1900%, the Guardian Angels vigilante group sent out task forces through out various Chinatowns to protect Asians. [3]

Just three years ago, this couldn’t be further from reality. What’s happening today is unprecedented. Before, the protections liberals extended to other minorities never applied to Asians. I certainly never felt protected in my own country. When people who look like me were murdered in broad daylight, it was swept under a rug.

This shift in mainstream consciousness wasn’t nature taking its course. This was the result of years of hard work. This was the result of massive coordination. This was the result of Herculean efforts from frustrated Asians at the most grassroots level.

I, a 2nd gen Chinese American, was there when this wave was a ripple. I saw how everything changed.

The Past

Newcomers to the Asian political arena may take our recent successes for granted. This is wrong.

One-hundred fifty years ago, five hundred Whites and Hispanics ganged up to kill dozens of low-paid Chinese workers. The 1871 Los Angeles Chinese massacre is one of the largest lynchings in American history. These events are erased from textbooks today. [4].

Eighty years ago, the US government forced 110,000+ Japanese Americans into internment camps. These were like prisons. This was done without evidence. Many sent to the camps were US citizens. Nearly 2,000 Japanese Americans died, even more lost their property and careers. Asian Americans of all nationalities were sent to these camps. [6]

Forty years ago, Vincent Chin was murdered. In 1982, two White auto workers lost their jobs to Japanese automakers and then subsequently murdered a Chinese American. The attack was ignored in mainstream news, and the perpetrators were forgiven for a mere $3,000 fine. The criminals walk free today. [5]

Thirty-ish years ago, the Model Minority myth was popularized. Created in the early ’80s, it was used by White institutions to divide and conquer. The impact cannot be understated. Not only does it divide black, indigenous, and other POCs against Asians, but it also erases centuries of brutal White oppression towards Asians. Rather than unite minorities to fight our collective but distinct oppression under systemic racism, the model minority myth pits us to fight one another.

Images of highly-paid Asian engineers at FAANG companies neatly erases images of the (American-inflicted) war torn nations they escaped from. Well-to-do yuppies are bungled with dying-to-survive refugees. Sympathies for our struggles are dismissed, and mentions of our historic brutalities are hand-waved away.

The reverberations of the Model Minority myth are deeply felt today.

Just three years ago, the term ‘anti-asian racism’ was taboo. Honest discussion of Asian issues were silenced — often by our own well-assimilated Asian “leaders”. I know because I took part in frontline discussions on subreddits, discords, and podcasts. I know because I was threatened to be cancelled, booted out of forums, and banned. I know because I was told to shut up in meetings when bringing up Asian issues.

For better or worse, assimilation is viewed with admiration. White-adjacent, politically-elite Asian “leaders” silenced important discussions, deeming Asian issues as inconveniences. For those seeking national glory, this is, unfortunately, expected. With just ~7% of the population, Asians haven’t really mattered. I’m not sure what’s worse, the discrimination itself or the fact that we weren’t allowed to talk about it. But the tide is shifting. This wave is swelling.

Our recent successes in the Asian political realm didn’t come for free. They were the result of sweat, blood, and tears from our own people and our BIPOC allies. They were the result of determined coolie grassroots activists building the backbone of new Asian America. I know. I was there.

The Future

So what now? This wave needs momentum still. The best thing you can do as an Asian American reader is to let your voice be heard. We are in an era of technology enabled collective action: BLM, Ferguson, Arab Spring, GME. Small voices in unison form a tidal 🌊 . Join online discussions on Twitter, Reddit, and Clubhouse. They matter. Listen and donate to grassroots projects such as Asian podcasts, blogs, and the #StopAsianHate go fund me page. Donate to your local Asian leaders running for office. Join your company’s D&I group. Represent your people wherever you can.

Asian leaders in every industry, company, and institution are already rallying to #StopAsianHate. Albert Hur, Eric Toda, CeCe Vu, Amanda Nguyen, Daniel Wu, Daniel Dae Kim, Eva Chen, Lisa Ling, Jerry Won, Andrew Yang, and more, the time is now and every voice counts.

The old Asian M.O. of ‘putting your head down, working hard, staying out of politics’ doesn’t cut it anymore. It’s time for Asian Americans to paint our own narrative, to be our own storytellers, and to become stakeholders in our own future. Together, through individual contributions, we can #StopAsianHate.

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