TW: rape, sexual assault, violence
#StopAsianHate. The moment for Asian visibility and justice has sparked outrage past the Asian community and many are finally speaking out about the well-observed and already rampant anti-Asian racism in the U.S. and around the world.
A majority of these stories, reported incidents of physical and verbal assaults against Asians nationwide, have been brought to the public attention through posts on activist accounts, leaders of Asian organizations throughout the U.S., or by local grassroots organizations. Social media has become a powerful tool for connection and awareness — but video after video, article after article, post after post, it has become noticeable that these stories fail to make it past social media, a severe lack of these headlines even throughout February and into March even with this visible outrage on Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms.
Nobel Peace Prize Nominee and activist, Amanda Nguyen, created a video to demand coverage of the surge of hate crimes in February, addressing the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes due to COVID-19 — dubbed the “Kung Flu” and the “Chinese virus,” (names that have been thrown so passively it exemplifies the disturbing prevalence of anti-Asian sentiments in the U.S.) — and asking for solidarity with the community.
“I was blood boiling in my veins mad. It was not only because I saw our community being murdered, being lit on fire, being stabbed but also because the mainstream media wasn’t covering it,” Nguyen said in February.
But why was the mainstream response to the Asian hate crimes so slow? And even now, why is there so much denial of these hate crimes being racially motivated? Why are stories being twisted? Why are narratives being watered down?
Our news outlets, major media sources, and white-led, white-owned corporations in the U.S. base their platforms on the agenda of white supremacy, and with it, they thrive. They are compliant with the stereotypes perpetuated by the Model Minority Myth and push this narrative to silence our voices.
Under white supremacy, the U.S. maintains the idea that Asians do not suffer from inequality, discrimination, and mistreatment in the workplace and daily life. This is the “Model Minority Myth,” used to alienate the Asian-American population from other racial groups. It is used as a refute to our cries for help — that as this “model minority,” it’s impossible for us to experience oppression and injustice. This is what is present in the silence (and when not silence, their sympathy with the oppressors) of the major news sources that failed to speak up about Asian hate crimes before it was too late. In upholding white supremacy, upholding anti-Asin rhetoric, they have failed to protect our community and bring awareness to the epidemic that has been prevalent as long as COVID-19 has, and long before: anti-Asian racism.
The physical and verbal attacks towards Asians have shot up during the course of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate’s National Report stated 3,795 hate incidents from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021, 503 of which had happened just in 2021. #StopAsianHate began to garner more support beyond the Asian community with the rise of physical assaults of elderly Asian women and men around the celebration of Chinese New Year and continued into March.
Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at SFSU, said, “We’ve noticed that from the very beginning, it’s been a real consistent pattern. Bullies attack who they think are vulnerable, and we see this in our elderly and youth populations.”
The movement reached its breaking point during the Atlanta Spa shooting on March 15, when suspect Robert Long shot and killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. According to police, the shooter claimed to have a “sexual addiction,” and needed to “eliminate his temptation.” The captain of the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office said Long was “fed up and at the end of his rope,” and that “yesterday was a really bad day for him.”
The victimization of Robert Long, a white man, is not a trend unknown. The “Lone Wolf” narrative has been used countless times by authorities and by news sources to excuse the actions of someone like Long, who targeted an Asian-owned spa to let out his sexual frustrations and killed innocent people. In this narrative, it is implied that the individual acted alone and disregarded the influence of longstanding discrimination and xenophobia towards Asians. It separates this sole incident from the larger works of white supremacy and tones down the implications of this attack, and what it means for those at the hands of this hate crime: the Asian community. We constantly live in fear and paranoia, knowing we are vulnerable to an attack just for existing, just for being Asian.
It avoids accountability on a systemic level, implying that every instance of anti-Asian hate doesn’t have roots in government policies and narratives that colonialism enforced hundreds of years ago. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 restricted the immigration of all Chinese laborers. The Page Act of 1875 was posed as a law restricting forced labor and sex work, but in reality, it only prevented Chinese women from immigrating to the U.S. Stereotypes have been portrayed in Hollywood, digested on a worldwide scale.
This has not come out of nowhere. Anti-Asian rhetoric is embedded into the United States and has manifested in individuals like Long, this attack representing a widely accepted narrative of Asian-Americans that puts us at risk of assault and violence. If the story cannot be presented as what it is, it is compliant with white supremacy — silencing Asian voices and gaslighting Asians for their racism experiences.
The Atlanta Shooting also brings up the workings of white supremacy against Asian women through white sexual imperialism. This theory uses race and gender to demonstrate Western imperialism’s view and influence over Asian women and their sexuality — highlighting the “lotus flower” stereotype of Asian women in the media, the idea that they are submissive and compliant. Long’s motive to rid himself of his “sexual addiction” through the shooting is likely tied to white supremacy’s view of Asian women: their docility is confirmation for a man to act as he pleases.
According to Sunny Waon’s article about White Sexual Imperialism, the “stereotype of the Asian woman as hyper-sexualized yet demure and submissive” can be traced back to “White heterosexual male presence in East Asian wars, particularly the Philippine-American War, World War H1, and the Vietnam War.” U.S. soldiers sexually denigrated Filipina women during the Philippine-American War in the same imperialist mindset that these women were powerless in the face of U.S. power, and happened again similarly during the Vietnam war.
Like the stereotypes against Black, Latina, Indigenous, and all non-white women, white supremacy targets Asian women by not villainizing or demonizing them directly (like the Jezebel stereotype used to put the blame onto Black women for being overly sexual), but rather making her an obligation for men to fulfill because of her submissiveness and passivity. Again, this idea of passiveness takes roots in white supremacy’s push on the Model Minority Myth — this time on Asian women and their bodies. They are subject to rape and sexual assault at an alarming rate, and the motives of their attackers are fueled by very similar, even identical, narratives to Long’s.
In 2001, two white men and a woman kidnapped, raped, and assaulted two Japanese women in Spokane, Washington. All three raped the two young women over a seven-hour period, videotaping the ordeal, motivated only by their sexual biases. The police reported that these rapists harbored a sexual fantasy and fixation surrounding Japanese women — “very infatuated with the Japanese race.” Even after this, they failed to classify the act as a hate crime.
As we look at the Atlanta Shooting and Long’s “sexual addiction,” it becomes clear that the view of Asian women in the eyes of white supremacy, the patriarchy, and society at large is more than just the “lone wolf” case that the police and the media insist it is.
Amanda Nguyen said to CBS News, “literally, people have lost their lives, and it shouldn’t have taken up to this point for us to be outraged. I’m just fighting for us to be seen – it is the bare minimum.”
Battling anti-Asian racism is battling white supremacy as a whole and its hold on the Asian community: the Model Minority Myth, the history of imperialism, misogyny, and rape culture. We must address it with full transparency — no false narratives, no stereotypes, no excuses.
Edited by Karina Fathani & Michelle Nishidera