The history of racism and xenophobia in the United States targeting people of Asian descent is long-drawn-out. A recent example of its severity can be seen on 16 March when a 21-year-old white man named Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, Ga. gunned eight people, including six Asian women at three different locations in Atlanta sparking terror amid the Asian community.
As reported by Stop AAPI Hate, nearly 3800 incidents of anti-Asian hate were reported during the past 12 months ranging from verbal abuse to physical assaults, from getting coughed and spit on to getting denied services. Most of the hate crimes go unreported because of language barriers in immigrant communities and the inability of the officers to identify hate crimes.
What are the factors that are hurting Asian American community?
President Reagan announced in 1984 that Asian Americans "preserve the American Dream by living up to the bedrock values of America". Titles such as "America's Super Minority" and "America's Greatest Success Story" were bestowed upon Asian Americans by the media, the politicians, and even the White House which ultimately helped develop the "Model Minority" stereotype.
The model minority myth speculates Asian Americans to be a monolithic, smart, educated, highly successful community but in reality, a large number of Asian Americans do not conform to these characteristics.
Despite the perception that most Asian Americans are "crazy rich", 12.3% of Asian Americans live below the federal poverty level. Seemingly, Asian Americans have the lowest poverty rate among all racial and ethnic groups but these measurements are deceptive and they do not depict the actual economic status of Asian Americans in the US as there is an enormous variation in poverty rate within different sub-groups of the Asian American population.
Filipinos and Asian Indians have the highest levels of household income that can be linked with their comparatively high levels of academic attainment and selective patterns of high-skill immigration to the United States.
This discriminatory income is a reflection of the Immigration and Nationality Act, also known as the Hart-Celler Act, which replaced the nation's origin-based immigration system with a preference based on immigrants' family relationships with US citizens or legal permanent residents and skills that would benefit the US economy.
The formula particularly opened the border for only certain classes of educated, smart, and successful Asian immigrants. The seemingly high income invalidates the experience of Asian American who actually experience poverty and lack of education and financial instability in the US
The tokenisation of Asian American success not only injures the Asian American community but also puts pressure on other ethnic minority groups especially the Black American population. In the 1960s, government officials examined socio-economic data from African American communities to contrast it to the so-called family values and stability of Asian Americans and claimed that black people had no one to blame but themselves if they experience poverty and other social disadvantages to argue that racism, including more than two centuries of extreme systematic dehumanisation and black enslavement, decades of discrimination experienced through segregation, jim crow laws, redlining, police brutality, mass incarceration, and much more can be overcome by hard work and strong family values.
During and after World War II, the US media emphasised that the Japanese were rising up and moving on after internment camps essentially saying, "If Asians can make it, why can't black people?"
A flawed comparison between Asian Americans and other groups, in particular, Black American is used as a reference point to justify cuts to many essential social programmes for disadvantaged minority groups including African Americans. This drives a racial wedge and perpetuates the anti-Blackness experienced in the Asian community today.
What can be done to fight the war against racism?
Educating on Asian American history and cultures is the key to defeating the model minority myth. Asian Americans and the Black community need to maintain solidarity and stand alongside to fight systematic racism, hate crimes, and violence. Asian Americans ought to magnify the voices of black indigenous and people of colour.
Most advocacy groups are encouraging training bystanders to help deflect harassment. Actor Daniel Wu who donated thousands to a reward in hopes to find the suspect in one such attack said, "Bystander support and intervention is so important because it helps us shift our responsibility for each other towards the collective community."
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has suggested measures like amplified policing of hate crimes, education programming, and public massaging to combat all forms of racism. However, additional state control isn't going to help solve the problem unless the US addresses and deconstructs the racist thoughts, feelings, and actions which influence their prejudices and biases, the coalition for universal social justice cannot be achieved.
Ekramul A Fahim is a Bachelor of Laws (LL.B) student at the Department of Law of University of Chittagong
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.