Dear Asians: we do not deserve this

Woman+holds+an+%22Asian+is+not+a+virus%2C+racism+is%22+sign+during+an+anti-Asian+hate+protest.+

Jim Wilson

Woman holds an “Asian is not a virus, racism is” sign during an anti-Asian hate protest.

Sophia Keang, Reviews-Opinions Editor

Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was assaulted walking alone in a neighborhood in broad daylight on January 28; he died two days later. Noel Quintana, 61, was on his way to work when a stranger started to kick his bag and slit his face with a box cutter on February 3. Marc Quidit, 49, was shot by an armed robber who entered his store in Vallejo, California on February 18. These are only a few of many who were victims of the current surge of Asian hate crimes in the US.

Recently, there has been a 150% spike of hate crimes targeting Asian-Americans. All across the country, victims have been either harassed, beaten, or even spat on like animals. 

Why Asians? Why us?

Racism towards Asians has been normalized in society for far too long. Decades upon decades, Asians have been the punching bags in society from yellow-face in Hollywood to being blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic. Systemic racism toward Asians withholds our ability to stand up for our people and rights despite the ramifications of our actions. 

It was not too long ago when I first learned about the incident involving Matthew Leung, a 51-year-old Asian-American who was brutally attacked while routinely waiting at his bus stop. Leung lost part of his finger due to the incident and even struggled to pay his own medical bills for an incident that was out of his control. 

Not only was I horrified by the fact that once again, another innocent person was a victim of a crime they did not deserve, but I was also scared for myself. I was worried that one day, my face would be the image associated with an Asian-American hate crime news story.

“It doesn’t affect me” — This simple statement isn’t enough to understand why anyone would not care for or worry about these situations.

It was an easy excuse for situations like these. Honestly, it’s pretty easy to understand why many of these hate crimes can be easily ignored or just not talked about. Many other Asian-Americans, like myself, have only ever been called racial slurs by classmates in elementary school. At such a young age, the true meaning behind the words was trivial due to the systematized racism embedded in our lives. Luckily as time went on, it didn’t happen as often, but occasionally when it does, I am numb to the pain.

The fact is, since we Asians have been society’s punching bag for much of our lives, it makes sense why many of us don’t care to speak up anymore. Personally, I have been told by family members to keep my head down and “do my own thing”. 

You know that expression, “You don’t have to run faster than the bear to get away. You just have to run faster than the guy next to you,” by Jim Butcher? It’s exactly like that. 

“Racism is a pandemic too” by Chungi Yoo, an illustrator based in Frankfurt, Germany. (Courtesy of @chungiyoo on Instagram)

I started to realize I had a similar mindset to Butcher’s statement. You don’t have to deal with racism; you just have to make others direct their racism to someone else.

I “kept my head down” because that was what I’ve been taught. I never realized why I did; it just happened. My parents wanted me to lay on the down low to protect me, protect me from the society that has normalized racism towards Asians. 

This constant reminder of blocking out any trouble that comes my way has honestly impacted who I am as a person today. At times when I have faced racial discrimination, no matter how vast or minuscule the experience was, I have always been told to ignore it.

Personally, my family does not want to cause any trouble, and neither do I. In order to do that, we keep our mouths shut. We don’t do anything if someone calls us racial slurs. We don’t do anything when someone asks us an uncomfortable question. We don’t do anything. We just absorb the experience and do not reflect. We do not react. 

At the start of the pandemic, I went to a local craft store and saw a mother and daughter only a couple of feet away from me. The two whispered to one another and stared at me as they slowly started backing away from me. I assumed that they were talking about me, about how I was wearing a mask to protect myself from the virus and my small eyes indicated that I had the virus. But what did I do? Nothing. I got my paint brushes, paid, and left. I understood what they were doing, but did not stand up for myself. Though, my experiences are incomparable to the victims of the recent Asian hate crimes.

As someone who has had to deal with these situations, I can definitely understand the “pros” of “keeping your head down”. By doing this, we are able to stay out of “trouble”, which would get us into hostile situations. However, at times we need to speak up. This is much easier said than done, but the simple act of spreading awareness about Asian hate crimes and telling people that you feel uncomfortable when the casual racism slips not only makes you confident but shows that we are able to stay true to ourselves. You aren’t only representing yourself, but the rest of the Asian community. We need to start showing people we mind what they call us.

Inspirational Martin Luther King Jr. quote was written on an image drawn by Chungi Yoo, an illustrator based in Frankfurt, Germany. (Courtesy of @chungiyoo on Instagram)

Due to the pandemic, we’re all stuck at home. But, that doesn’t mean we can’t spread awareness. One can easily repost the news stories of recent Asian hate crimes on their Instagram stories, sign petitions, and simply start talking about the issue. 

The simple truth is that racism towards Asians is normalized in today’s society and people must start stepping up and taking initiative. We do not deserve this. 

Part three of many more articles to come about racism towards Asians. Stay tuned!

Check out the previous articles to this on-going column:

I am enough

You forgot the “Cambodian” in Chinese-American

How can you help? Check out some of these petitions and articles to further educate yourself:

Get Mainstream News Coverage Of National Elderly Asian American Assaults | Petition by Change.org

End Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans | Petition by Change.org

Help Matthew Leung’s Road to Recovery | Donations on Gofundme.com

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Stories | Resource by Standagainsthatred.org

Tools to Help stop Asian Hate | Resource by Advancing Justice-AAJC and Hollaback