By Jill Richardson
As our nation grapples with its legacy of anti-Asian racism, it’s important to consider the subtler forms of racism too. Racism occurs on a spectrum, from social degradation all the way to — as we saw recently in Atlanta — mass murder.
I cannot speak for Asians, nor do I wish to. But as a white woman who majored in East Asian studies and learned Chinese in college two decades ago, I learned a lot about biases others may not see.
It started with my parents. My mom loves “culture” and “languages” — but it turned out that her affection didn’t extend to Chinese. “I’m sorry,” she would say to me on the phone. “I just don’t find China interesting.”
What an odd thing to say.
My parents could appreciate that my language skills would be an advantage in my job, but the all-consuming love I had for learning about China? That was weird. By “culture,” my mom meant European culture.
My non-Chinese peers, meanwhile, treated Chinese as if it were incomprehensibly foreign, like it could be understood by nobody.
Once, after college, I went to a Chinese restaurant with coworkers. The server’s English was shaky, but I could communicate with him easily in Chinese. I watched a coworker act as if the waiter was not capable of communication at all, which was rude and dehumanizing.
At school, peers would say things to me like “Ping ping ting ting — hey what does that mean in Chinese?” I hope I replied, “You just said ‘I’m an idiot,’” but I think usually I was too stunned to respond.
Other times, when people heard I studied Chinese, they would try to relate by saying things like “Oh, my aunt’s been to Japan.” They are actually different countries. Imagine saying “You’re studying French? My aunt’s been to Germany.”
The comment I heard the most was “Did you know they eat dogs in China?” Imagine if a routine response to telling someone you’re American is, “Don’t they eat testicles in the U.S.?” (Google “Rocky Mountain oysters” if you aren’t familiar.) It’s the same.
If I was able to learn this much about anti-Asian bias just by telling people I’d studied Chinese, imagine what Asians and Asian Americans experience.
My experience differs from those of Asians and Asian Americans because the microaggressions I encountered were about a passion of mine, but not about my identity, culture, or family. I can opt out of dealing with these microaggressions at will because I’m white.
Unlike me, Asian Americans are still treated like perpetual foreigners, even though some of their families got here decades before mine did. My family immigrated to this country about a century ago — after the passage of the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese people from coming here but before the KKK-supported 1924 immigration act that would have kept my Eastern European ancestors out.
I’m just another white woman. Nobody calls me “exotic” or sexually fetishizes me for my race. Historically, racism has been carried out in the name of protecting people like me from non-white others, not in the name of protecting others from me.
These less violent forms of anti-Asian racism still contribute to a pattern of dehumanization that can lead to the kind of racist, sexist violence we saw in Atlanta. We as a nation condemn anti-Asian racism in all its forms.
Jill Richardson is the author of “Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.” She is a columnist for OtherWords.org.
Here we are weeks after the shootings and the left pushes the same false narrative. The shooter was not charged with a hate crime and police can not find any evidence to support a hate crime took place. Maybe the author will do some research and let us all know who commits the most crime against Asian people.
Maybe the author will also explain why Harvard and Yale can discriminate against Asian people
GIVE PEACE A CHANCE!!!!
Bill May says
I’ve been to China, Japan, Thailand, Laos, Korea, and a couple other Asian countries that I shouldn’t mention. The author of this article speaks Chinese. Yet she is also an expert on Racism which seems to be the buzzword of pseudo-intellectual America. I’m not a racist. Also, the shootings in Atlanta were not attributed to Asian racism in any way other than by the liberal media. Knock it off. You look silly.
Thou shall not kill says
The shootings in Atlanta were due to right wing white nationalists evangelical “Christian”indoctrination. The purity culture this religion espouses is damaging psychologically to its members and society. It is brainwashing at its finest by evangelical leaders who would blame mass murder or rape on “temptation.” Those same leaders are only interested in increasing their wealth and power. On Earth. They control the GOP just like the NRA.
Where exactly in this Christian indoctrination does it say to kill people who sin? I’m not a particularly devout Christian, I’ll admit, but I do recall a few things from Sunday teachings that go something like “Thou shall not kill,” and “He who has not sinned throw the first stone.” I don’t recall anything admonishing people to kill Asian “salon” workers, or sinners for that matter. As others have said, there is no evidence this was a hate crime directed at Asians and it’s worthy to note two non-Asians were victims as well. Nonetheless, liberals will print outright falsehoods if it advances their agenda, but ignore certain truths. The Colorado shooter was a devout Muslim who swore allegiance to ISIS, but that point seems to have been missed by the lamestream media. And the most recent attack on an Asian woman in New York City was carried out by a black man; should we assume all black men are anti-Asian now too? All of this race baiting is simply a rather successful campaign to divide us by some at the highest levels of government to divert attention away from them bilking American tax payers for their own gain. Sadly, many are falling for it.
Ray W. says
Ms. Richardson never stated she is an expert on racism, but I suppose she can write an opinion piece on it, First Amendment being what it is. She immersed herself in the Chinese culture and language and she may have insights that others lack, just as Bill May may have insights others lack by having travelled to a number of Asian countries. I am not certain that the reasoning process exercised by Bill May actually disproves Ms. Richardson’s points. Bill May does not claim to be an expert on racism, either, yet he can just as easily write in his opinion piece that he is not racist. No difference there, as many other people who are not experts have opinions.
Where Bill May really misses the point is in his conclusion that the fact that conservative media is not covering something somehow supports an argument that racism against Asian people didn’t happen in Atlanta. Here, Bill May has only proven that conservative media is not covering something, which of course has nothing to do with whether racism occurred when multiple Asian people were murdered. Whether racism occurred or not when multiple Asian people were murdered is in the mind of the shooter. Relying on this shooter failing to say he intended to engage in a hate crime against Asians to prove a point after the shooter killed multiple people is absurd. Bill May actually seems to think that people do not lie when they confess. Actually, murderers commonly lie to detectives to deflect or minimize blame or responsibility. Yet, Bill May seems to find it easy to degrade another person based his ready acceptance of the reported lack of specific words from a killer, but only if the killer’s reported version supports his point of view.
More to the point, Ms. Richardson stated that she experienced microagressions from people who were responding to learning about her educational choices that differ in scope and effect from the aggressions experienced by some Asian Americans in this country. Documented hate crimes against Asian people, including Asian Americans are up significantly in recent years. Why that is so remains debatable and needs more study.
As for pseudointellectuals, Voltaire pioneered the effective use of humor to lambaste French royalty and the Catholic Church of his day. Bill May has much to learn about the effective use of humor to support his point.
All in all, a couple of bad arguments that fail to prove the attempted point. There are worse arguments out there, and his is certainly not the worst to grace this site. But, it is difficult to win the point when one starts with a couple of bad arguments. I suppose it can be done, just not today.
Zachary Scott says
The FBI specifically said this wasn’t an anti-Asian hate incident. What evidence do you have to prove this was a racist incident?
In the liberal world evidence is not required, just a good sense of “re-imagination” is all that’s necessary to establish fact.
Kinda like 45s interpretation of the largest most secure Election in US History. You mean 60 plus Law Suits strong that didnt see the light of Day due to Zero applicable evidence. How about the evidence for his loser followers storming the Capital Building. I could go on but its reiteration of same old redundant failure of of you folk to accept any sort of reality besides the Alternate version. Its pathetic
Ray W. says
This error in this comment is just too obvious. Hate crimes require proof sufficient to satisfy statutorily defined elements. When the FBI issues a statement that an event does not meet the criteria of a hate crime, that does not prove that the act lacked any racist intent; it only proves that the evidence collected by the FBI does not meet the statutory criteria. Lack of sufficient evidence to prove the elements of a hate crime is not, per se, proof that racism did not occur where a killer engaged in a spree that resulted in multiple deaths, with most of the victims categorized as Asians. Whether racism was behind the act is truly known only to the defendant. Zachary Scott will never be able to insert his beliefs into the mind of the defendant at the time the defendant was engaging in his actions. If any defendant is smart enough to deny a racist intent, he can at least protect himself from an enhanced charge. Self-interest in the face of already severe potential punishment can be a strong motivator. The idea that a defendant can deny something to save his skin is an old one. Once again, a bad argument, this time by Zachary Scott. Not the worst to grace this site, but it can never be described as a good argument. I will concede that a bad argument that makes a commenter feel good when he posts it has value.