Stop Asian Hate. It’s become the hashtag of the movement against anti-Asian hate crimes. Yet, to make progress, Asian Americans also have to believe Asian Lives Matter. Because, it’s not just the outside world devaluing us. Often, we, ourselves, are first to say Asian Americans just don’t matter as much.
The blame for the attacks and the system that allowed the Atlanta tragedy is obviously on racist White America. But also responsible for letting it get to this point? The Asian American community – who up until this moment – has not demanded to be valued.
For generations, Asian Americans have driven the image of Asian Lives Don’t Matter. I’m not talking about the activists. (They’ve been trying to bend our ears from the beginning.) But the average working family who’s just trying to ‘fit in’ to America has taken a dysfunctional path to survival that has brought us to where we are today. Explanation below.
Yes, we must stop the hate immediately. We must hold the perpetrators accountable. And we must change the laws to create a greater deterrent to anti-Asian hate crimes. But before all of that, we have to take an honest look at ourselves and ask why we haven’t been able to declare that we matter. We need this power to be able to Stop. Asian. Hate.
Here are three reasons why we may have ended up here. Two are innocent. The third is reprehensible. [Solutions follow]
1. Subliminal Response
White supremacy loves to program how ‘subservient’ races are supposed to behave and how they should be perceived. How many Long Duck Dongs and Dragon Ladies formed the early media depictions of Asian Americans as perpetually foreign, shy, weak, sinister, ugly, smelly, stoic, unimaginative, nerdy, hypersexual for the girls and asexual for the boys? Go to YouTube and Google to find the long legacy of hateful Asian American depictions in the media, workplace and society.
As programmed, Asian Americans have to conform to this norm. Critics love to say Asian Americans are conformist to ‘Asian culture’ – but in actuality – we’re reverting to the average of what white society thinks of us. If Panda Express is as far as they’ll go for cultural exploration, then by default we have to backpedal and meet them where they’re at because whites are in the power position. Yes that’s Chinese food! Yes, lemon chicken is great! We say this because they’d be horrified with what we actually eat at home. (Even though now it’s trendy because they say so.) Even as a Korean American it was easier to go along with being Chinese American when necessary because white American minds couldn’t stretch even that far.
White Supremacy has created unspoken social rules that they matter more and by default everybody else matters less. And we follow along whether we want to or not.
Lucky and Unlucky for Asians
Hierarchical tradition in many Asian cultures (but really all around the world if you really dig into it) allowed Asian Americans to act subservient in front of whites from muscle memory. And they loved it! But white supremacists warped and twisted this behavior to think that’s all we are because that’s all we were ever allowed to be in their presence. In actuality, subservience is a power move if you’re playing the complete game in Asian society. But in America, Asian Americans are given a game board with half the pieces missing.
Therefore, it’s not your fault that you act in ways to devalue Asian Americans because your mind has been hijacked on a subliminal level.
2. Faulty ‘Logical’ Choice
In order to survive in a fight or flight world, there’s actually a third option that’s less talked about. Fawning. If a prey can’t flee nor fight, it will vomit the contents of its stomach to serve as an offering to the predator.
Asian Americans have chosen to fawn by devaluing themselves in front of white power. It’s a survival tactic that’s served to some degrees of success throughout the decades. It’s a choice to weaken our image to be observed as non-threatening. And to be consumed – through our work, sexuality and loyalty. Therefore, more doors are open to us but only by a margin. However, we’re seeing that this same ‘fawning’ has made racists believe we’re easy targets. Weak. Won’t report. Won’t fight back.
Asian culture is not weak. All fawning is strategic. The courtiers at Versailles never did a kind gesture without some angle. In Asia, and Korea in particular, it’s Versailles everywhere you go. Asian Americans didn’t get the full lesson in fawning because doing it halfway served to placate the apex predator. But now as bottom feeders are murdering us at will, we’re seeing it was a foolhardy choice in the long-run.
3. Asian Uncle Toms and Auntie Thomasinas
These Asian Americans are the tokens. The twinkies. The traitors to the community. They’re the Asian Omarosas. The Asian Stacy Dashes. In a world where there is room for one Asian, they’ll do anything, say anything and betray any culture to snag the spot. The result? Justification of devaluing Asian Americans at the highest and lowest levels of society. Probably more of an emphasis on higher. Traitors usually aim high.
You’ve seen them. Dismissing Asian culture and pandering to white greatness. If another Asian enters the room, they’re petrified of being shamed by association. Too much of it and too many Asians in a sea of white supremacy leads to being banished. Game over. So to stay in the game, they prove their loyalty by feeding tokens into the machine in the form of joining in on a joke here and overlooking overt racism there. And every now and then they offer up a sacrificial plate of anti-Asian racism themselves.
And just like that – white supremacists have that ‘Asian friend’ who doesn’t see anything wrong with their comments or behavior.
If you don’t value yourself, others won’t see your value either. But doesn’t it seem we’re at the tipping point where the ‘average Asian American Joe’ wants to get off the couch and join the movement?
Change Your Subliminal Responses
Start with being self-aware of your body language. Non-verbal conformity and signals of subservience creep into our muscles and nerves. Stand up straight. Sit taller. Move with grace.
Find a New Logical Choice
Devaluing Asian lives has run its course. What can replace it? Try to find a new path to peaceful integration into American society that’s based on long-term power and not short-term fear. Remove yourself from environments that require you to lessen yourself. Find other sources of income, socialization and happiness. Look for concrete opportunities that bring value you to your life without having to sacrifice your identity.
Call Out the Asian Uncle Toms
Don’t help these jerks. Ice them out. Better yet, try to attach yourself to them in white spaces where the stakes are high. Act as ‘Asian’ as you can. Watch them writhe in agony. Or explode. But be careful, they might backstab you in vengeance. Actually, you know they will.
In essence, don’t let them control the narrative of what being Asian American is. Chances are they aren’t well read in Asian American literature or race relations. Quote that back at them. And look up the whitest authors you can because they’ve certainly read them. Look for quotes from them to use in your defense. Or just make them up. They probably do it all the time.
White supremacy is amplifying its attacks against Asian Americans because they’re scared. They’re seeing increasing value and power in Asian America. If a threat grows, it must be squashed harder. So if white supremacists are valuing you more, then you better value yourself more than a white supremacist. If you can’t demand your value now, I don’t know what more to say.
The Tipping Point
It’s up to us now whether we seize this tipping point or shyly let it slide on by… again.
If not now, then when? This is finally our best shot.
Not speaking up is why we can’t have nice things.
Now that it’s come down to our physical safety, what do we have to lose? They’re willing to take our lives.