Now Reading
Stop using Asian Americans to spread anti-Black racism

Stop using Asian Americans to spread anti-Black racism

“Asian bitch” were the words that echoed when she entered her apartment building earlier this month. Approximately 125 brutal punches and foot stomps to her face and body followed.  She is a 67 year-old Filipina from Yonkers, New York. Last month, only 22 miles away in Chinatown, she was coming home from a night out when she was stabbed to death in the early morning hours. She was Christina Yuna Lee, a creative producer who was passionate about art and storytelling.

In both cases, the perpetrators have since been caught and videos and images of the men behind these crimes continue to circulate. I cannot help but interrogate the media narrative that drives headlines about anti-Asian hate crimes. The elephant in the room are the controlling images of Black men who are shown on camera assaulting Asian people. Centralizing Black men as criminals illustrates the white supremacist narratives that have historically criminalized the Black community, while relying on Asians to maintain anti-Black racism. A University of Michigan study by the Virulent Hate Project reveals that the majority of the offenders of these crimes are white men. According to NYPD Asian Hate Crimes Task Force commander Tommy Ng – mental illness, not race – is the common factor in many of these attacks.

In 2020, footage of Vicha Ratanapakdee’s killing circulated online, causing outrage, fear, and grief among the Asian American community. Actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu offered a $25,000 reward for information leading to capturing the suspect. The actors did this to shine a spotlight on hate crimes that were largely being ignored by the media. Inadvertently, the reward placed a bounty on young Black men in the San Francisco Bay Area. Eventually, two people were arrested for Ratanapakdee’s murder. However, it would be the image of Antoine Watson that circulated the news. Very little information about Malaysia Goo, who was arrested as an accessory to the crime, was mentioned.

In response to the massive increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, the New York Police Department created an anti-Asian hate crimes task force. Immediately, this caused concern among many Asian American community groups, as more policing may lead to increased profiling of Black men. Current media narratives are not helping to mitigate these concerns. Controlling images of Black men assaulting members of the Asian community, in contrast to the reality that white men are statistically the perpetrators of such violence, does nothing to ensure the safety of Asian Americans. Instead, it pours gasoline on to the fires of anti-Black racism within the Asian American community.

Indeed, hate crimes are carried out by people from all walks of life. In no way am I trying to diminish the severity of the cases previously mentioned. Since the beginning of the pandemic, has reported over 11,000 hate incidents. Last year, 1 in 6 Asians in this study experienced a hate incident. And 83% of parents surveyed express concern about the safety of their children in the current climate. To ask a community to harness their fear, rage, and grief in the name of solidarity and racial consciousness may seem like a tall order.  However, to ensure our safety, we must recognize that the root of anti-Asian violence is white supremacy, not Black criminality.

We must be critical of media narratives that continue to center Black people as criminals and ask ourselves: what is the story being told and who benefits from these specific narratives? Instead of reading headlines, re-posting, and reacting to viral videos, we must actively follow these stories and dig for deeper truths.

We must have honest, sometimes painful conversations within our respective communities about anti-Black racism and the intricate ways these messages circulate within the Asian American community – from the ways in which we are impacted by colorism, to normative comments that dehumanize Black people.

We must demand more representation in the media, government, and education. This means being active participants in using various media to tell the stories that humanize us.

Finally, we must bridge the gap between the Asian American community and other communities at large. For many Asians in the United States, the desire to achieve the American dream has always centered whiteness. We must fully embrace the textures of our experiences and engage in solidarity with communities whose historical legacies have always paved the way for us. From the 1964 Civil Rights Act opening doors for the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, to the current Breathe Act providing a model for Asian Americans to create legislation that can combat anti-Asian violence, Asian Americans must commit to fighting against white supremacist institutions that have defined us as model minorities and perpetual foreigners.

View Comments (2)
  • I am emotionally moved – hand to heart the entire time reading (and re-reading) – and am thankful for your very clear perspective, referenced information, and truly deep commitment you encourage. And this –
    “We must fully embrace the textures of our experiences and engage in solidarity with communities whose historical legacies have always paved the way for us. ”
    – is for all human beings, as well.

    Thank you, Joanne, for this.

  • Thank you for writing this Joanne. Everytime I see a post or a news item, I have to pause and reflect that those who are reporting the news may be operating with an agenda or an unconscious bias. And to ensure that I do a wider search and array to build a greater context to what is happening…and the context lies in outdated structures and frameworks that continue to remind us, things need to change.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

© 2022 VISIBLE Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Branding by Studio Foray.