What is Asian racism?
Well, Muslim. Black. Mexican. What comes to mind? The Islamic religion is subject to a lot of Islamophobia, especially from the current American president. Black makes one think of the Black Lives Matter movement. And when one hears the word Mexican, they may also think of Donald Trump’s “Mexicans are rapists!” statement.
What comes to mind when you hear that word? Would a person think of China or Japan, or even North and South Korea? Maybe the mind would venture to Asian food such as dumplings, rice or the Panda Express restaurant.
But racism? No.
Racism towards Asian people is quite overlooked. Many people don’t think that some things that have been embedded in our society are racist against Asians, such as the “Chinese cut” from elementary, or primary, school. A Chinese cut is when a person wants to jump in front of another person in line, but the other person does not want to let them. The first person will step in front of the second and then the first will tell the second to get in front of them. The end result is the first person standing in line behind the second. This plants a subtle implication in the mind that the Chinese, in the cut, is behind the other person. Behind can also be used as a synonym for less, which integrates its way into the mind.
Another example of Asian racism is the stereotype is that all Asian people look alike. I have been asked many times if I am a sister or twin of a Chinese friend who looks nothing like me, except for similarity in our hair and skin colour. I was at a gymnastics open gym once, and was asked if my friend was my sister. My friend has a rounder face than me, bigger eyes and thinner lips as well as a lighter skin tone.
Recent news stories have also shown how this stereotype has made its way into society. The iPhone X and its new facial recognition techniques have not worked. A woman in China first discovered this when one of her female co-workers could unlock her new phone. It was then discovered that all of her female co-workers could also unlock the device, since it thought that all of the Chinese women’s faces looked alike. While it is true that people from the same region have the same skin colour (or close to it) everyone, including twins, have features that are distinctive from each other.
However, one of the most overlooked kind of Asian racism is subtle and silent. People at my school have joked around with me and said things like “Aren’t you supposed to be a doctor by now?” that goes along with the stereotype that all of us are supposed to be little child geniuses. I have a 4.0 GPA which only furthers the stereotype. That furthers the stereotype in people’s minds.
I’ve also been asked if I was named by the sound of a spoon dropping on the floor, despite my name being something easily pronounceable that looks like an American or European name. There are multiple white celebrities with my name. This stereotype makes no sense when it applies to me, or even some of my Asian friends with names as common as “Emily.” or “Jenna.”
Not only are our names considered unpronounceable, there are also many “compliments” that have the words “for an Asian” on them, an example of casual Asian racism. One of the most famous examples is “You’re beautiful, for an Asian.” This implies that Asians, by default, are ugly or repulsive.
This is obviously untrue, since not all Asians are gorgeous and there are many successful Asian models. One of them is Victoria’s Secret model Ming Xi, who has walked in their fashion show for multiple years, and is also known as the woman who fell on the runway. She was joined by other Asian models in the 2017 show, such as Kelly Gale (half Indian) and Sui He (Chinese).
A final stereotype against us is our “Asians have small eyes!” stereotype, this is a huge part of Asian racism. It was furthered in February of 2017 when celebrity Gigi Hadid was caught on video squinting while holding up a cookie that was shaped like the Buddha’s face. Buddhism originated in India, yet it is a very prominent religion in China. She did not face very much backlash or attention about it until it was announced that the Victoria’s Secret fashion show would be held in Shanghai, China and the video resurfaced.
Gigi did not apologize until September of the same year, when the video came to surface. It enraged many Asians, including myself. The apology was posted on Weibo, a Chinese social media site only accessible in China. The statement was in both English and Mandarin. The celebrity claimed she had the “utmost respect and love” for Chinese people as well as saying “it hurts me to hurt anyone.” She also says she does “not condone hurtful behavior” and told her fans that she welcomed, loved and respected them.
This led to people leaving many snake emojis on her posts. Many speculated that she was not actually sorry, and she was only trying to get her work visa to walk in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show. She ended up disabling comments on her Instagram post that celebrated her acceptance into the show. People were still unhappy, and are to this day, despite the fact that she did not get to walk in the Victoria’s Secret fashion show.
The racism towards Asians is unjust and often overlooked. It is subtly embedded in our culture and needs to stop, as well as all the stereotypes towards us. It has a huge impact on our everyday lives. The “Asians are smart!” stereotypes damage our accomplishments and achievements: people will say that it comes naturally or we didn’t have to try. I have even been told that I am an Asian and not a “Bsian” by one of my friends, so therefore I had to get all A’s.
Another girl told me that I was beautiful, and boys didn’t come after me because nobody liked Asian girls because they were ugly. Asian racism is often overlooked, especially in the mainstream media. But is it embedded so far into our culture that nobody realised how racist they are being?
Written by Carly McDonald