USA: Southeast Asians are underrepresented in STEM. The label ‘Asian’ boxes them out more

The impact of overly broad groupings. In contrast, Canadian visible minorities have 7 groupings of Asian: Chinese, South Asian, Filipino, Southeast Asian, Korean, Japanese, West Asian (but of course, considerable differences within most of these groups):

When Kao Lee Yang received a nomination from her university for the Gilliam Fellowship by the Howard Hughes Medical Institute for underrepresented groups in science, technology, engineering and math, she was thrilled. She’s spent years working toward her doctorate in Alzheimer’s research at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Yang is Asian American, and more specifically is Hmong American, part of a small minority in the United States with just 327,000 people.

Though the Hmong population in the U.S. is growing, Hmong Americans are still underrepresented in STEM fields and have lower education rates and higher poverty rates overall, compared to the U.S. population at large.

For example, while 24% of all Asians in the U.S. have obtained an additional degree after college, and 13% of all Americans have, just 6% of Hmong Americans have, according to the Pew Research Center’s 2019 analysis of Census Bureau data. To add to that, a very low percentage of Hmong Americans actually go into STEM fields.

That’s why Yang said she was “blindsided” when HHMI emailed her academic adviser saying she wasn’t eligible for the fellowship because she didn’t meet their requirements for who is considered underrepresented.

Though the National Institutes of Health acknowledges that underrepresentation can be determined on a “case by case” basis, people who identify as Asian or white are not seen as underrepresentedin STEM, according to standards set by the NIH.

That means certain fellowships, grant funding and educational opportunities that are meant for underrepresented groups, such as Latino, Black, and Indigenous people, for example, are not always extended toward Asian American applicants. The opportunities are designed to elevate groups who are historically marginalized and make sure STEM workplaces are more inclusive and equitable.

So Yang, who said she has never met another Hmong scientist in her field, said it made no sense to her that she wasn’t considered underrepresented.

“I was dumbfounded,” Yang said. “I did wonder how HHMI came to that determination when I have had such a hard time finding other Hmong American scientists and scientific spaces.”

Yang isn’t the only one who’s experienced the contradictions that come with falling under the broad category of “Asian” in government data collection. Asian Americans have been calling attention to the issue for decades.

Hmong, Vietnamese, Filipino, Laotian, and Cambodian Americans all fall under the broad category of Asian, but their experiences the U.S. when it comes to things like education levels can vary greatly from other Asian groups such as Chinese, Korean, Indian and Japanese. Some South Asian groups such as Bhutanese and Burmese also face lower levels of educational attainment.

Because of the way HHMI looked at Asian Americans as one group, Yang was not considered to be underrepresented — effectively shutting her out from an opportunity that claims to be for someone exactly like her.

Why advocates say more nuanced data is important

“Is every Asian American group underrepresented in higher education? Obviously that’s not the case,” said Janelle Wong, a professor of Asian American studies at the University of Maryland and a co-founder of AAPI Data.

“Indian and Chinese students are the largest groups applying to these programs. And while they do often face implicit bias on campuses, they’re not facing systemic exclusion to access to higher education,” Wong said.

Wong has been advocating for data disaggregation in the Asian American community for years.

Disaggregation would involve collecting more specific data on Asian sub-groups so that a person’s country of origin is apparent, rather than just grouping people together from the entire continent. The data would show specifically if someone was Vietnamese American, or Cambodian American, for example, rather than simply classifying them as Asian.

That kind of detail would allow policymakers, health care professionals, educators and even institutions such as the NIH to better examine the nuances of different Asian populations, because different groups have different needs, experiences and beliefs. The same argument has been made for other racial groups, too, particularly Latinos.

Wong said the issue isn’t just about collecting better data — it’s about justice and civil rights, too.

“This is both a data quality issue and a data justice issue,” she said.

She said lumping all Asian Americans together in one racial category effectively reduces the experience of millions of people — not just when it comes to assessing job or educational candidates, but also for anyone trying to understand their political beliefs, education level, incomeinequality and health outcomes as well. For example, data on the broad category of Asian Americans show that a vast majority are Democratic voters. But if the data is further broken down, it reveals that Vietnamese Americans tend to have far more conservative views and more often identify as Republican.

Rachel Sklar, a post-doctorate scholar in environmental health outcomes at the University of California San Francisco, is Filipino and says she has been denied an academic opportunity in the past because she falls under the “Asian American” category.

Sklar said Filipinos in the U.S. experience what’s called “downward intergenerational mobility.” In other words, U.S.-born Filipinos are less likely to obtain a bachelor’s degree than their foreign-born parents. So efforts to boost groups struggling to obtain higher education should apply to Filipinos, Sklar said, but instead they’re hidden in the broader data on Asian Americans and educational achievement.

“The experiences of groups like Filipinos are just erased. They’re deemed invisible,” Sklar said.

More nuanced data could also be helpful to doctors treating Asian American patients, and policy makers making decisions about targeting health resources to different communities.

Sklar points out that Filipino women have high rates of hypertension and diabetes and other risk factors that can impact childbirth.

“Yet, because they’re grouped as Asians, they’re rarely considered for the types of resources that they need for safe birthing and pregnancy,” she said.

Questions of identity, and guilt

The dichotomy of being considered a minority by some institutions, but not by others, is emotionally confusing, as well.

Brittany Boribong, who was nominated to the Gilliam Fellowship in 2018 — the same one Yang was nominated for — had almost the same experience as Yang.

Boribong is Laotian American and the daughter of refugees. She and her brother are the first in her family to go to college, and she is the first to continue her education beyond a bachelor’s degree. While she was getting her doctorate at Virginia Tech, she was nominated by her school for the fellowship.

Like Yang, the fellowship told Boribong she wasn’t eligible. For her, it brought up a wave of guilt, like she was taking up an opportunity from someone else, a feeling she experienced while participating in a different fellowship for underrepresented people in STEM.

“I’m technically Asian American,” she said, but she couldn’t help thinking, “Do I belong here? Am I taking someone else’s spot? … I always felt like I snuck my way in, that I shouldn’t have been there.”

Being told by the Gilliam Fellowship that she wasn’t eligible was embarrassing, Boribong said, and it was the first time she had been told so bluntly she wasn’t underrepresented.

“I just look around the room and it’s like, where are the other Lao scientists? If I’m not considered a minority, then where are we?”

She and her advisor had to then go through the process of making a case that Boribong is underrepresented. Eventually, they did allow her nomination through, but it pushed her away from applying to other fellowships at HHMI.

There are growing calls for changing the way we collect data

Collecting more specific data about Asian Americans is something scholars and activists have been calling on for years, and it’s been picking up traction.

In November, lawmakers in New York re-upped their legislation calling for disaggregation of data on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

Former Gov. Andrew Cuomo was presented with the same bill before he resigned from office but refused to sign it into law, citing logistical and financial issues of having to create new, uniform methods of collecting data, which is the most common opposition to data disaggregation. Others who have opposed efforts to disaggregate data have also cited privacy concerns, particularly related to immigrant communities, or said that it could divide different Asian groups.

But advocates of the law have pushed back against those concerns and are now asking Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign it into law.

“Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in New York represent 30+ different ethnicities and speak numerous languages. Failing to record & report that diversity is harmful,” State Sen. Julia Salazar, who co-sponsored the bill, tweeted.

When it comes to STEM academia in particular, the push for change has been incremental. Both Sklar and Boribong hadn’t realized how many others had gone through the same experience until Yang tweeted about her experience in October.

Elevating the conversation, though, might lead to some change. After Yang’s tweet spread on social media and after being questioned by NPR about their process of determining who is underrepresented, HHMI has updated their standards.

As of Nov. 12, the fellowship now said it recognizes “there are other ethnic populations who might be underrepresented but who are not currently designated as such by the federal government” and will “continue to consider” how they can better determine underrepresentation in STEM.

They’ve also extended the opportunity to Yang and a few others to complete their application, but Yang said she will not be moving forward with the process.

The larger problem that Sklar points out is that many other fellowships in STEM academia still take their guidance on diversity and representation from the NIH. The NIH, when asked by NPR, said they are required to take their guidance on race and ethnicity from the 1997 standards of the White House’s Office of Management and Budget.

But the OMB standards that same year also said the racial and ethnic groups that are outlined are a minimum base for gathering data, so agencies can go into further detail if they choose to. The Department of Health and Human Services guidance also said agencies are encouragedand can go into further detail. Plus, in 2012, a report to the NIH director outlined concerns about the lack of disaggregated data when it came to minority groups, specifically Latinos.

Sklar said if the NIH doesn’t change their process, she doesn’t expect much to change. In the meantime, she is focusing on what she can control: choosing to disaggregate the data she uses in her own scientific research.

For her, showing the vast differences in the Asian American population in her own research is proof in itself that the same should happen on a wider scale.

“The research needs to come first,” Sklar said, “And show that, ‘Wow, look at these experiences we’ve been making invisible just by glossing over and assuming a very heterogeneous group is actually homogeneous.'”

Source: Southeast Asians are underrepresented in STEM. The label ‘Asian’ boxes them out more

Blow: The Impact of the Browning of America on Anti-Blackness

Likely similar in Canada:

One of the things I often hear as a person who frequently writes about race, ethnicity and equality, is that the browning of America — the coming shift of the country from mostly white to mostly nonwhite — is one of the greatest hopes in the fight against white supremacy and oppression.

But this argument always flies too high to pay attention to the details on the ground. For me, white supremacy is only one foot of the beast. The other is anti-blackness. You have to fight both.

The sad reality is, however, that anti-blackness — or anti-darkness, to remove the stricture of a single-race definition for the sake of this discussion — exists in societies around the world, including nonwhite ones.

In too many societies across the globe, where a difference in skin tone exists, the darker people are often assigned a lower caste.

And, when people migrate to this country from those societies, they can bring those biases with them, underscoring that you don’t have to be white to contribute to anti-blackness.

fascinating report issued this month by the Pew Research Center explored colorism in the Hispanic community and underscored how anti-blackness, or anti-darkness, is no respecter of race or ethnicity. It is pervasive and portends a future in which the browning of America does not succeed in wiping away its racial prejudices.

First, the report reaffirmed what we all know to be true: A majority of Hispanic adults, regardless of skin tone, report experiencing discrimination.

But dark-skinned Hispanics reported far more discrimination than light-skinned ones.

The survey allowed Hispanics to select the skin tone closest to their own on a 10-point scale. Eighty percent of respondents chose the four lightest tones, which the report identified as light-skinned, but only 15 percent chose the six darker skin tones, which the report identified as dark-skinned. Others chose not to answer.

The survey found that:

“A majority (62 percent) of Hispanic adults say having a darker skin color hurts Hispanics’ ability to get ahead in the United States today at least a little. A similar share (59 percent) say having a lighter skin color helps Hispanics get ahead. And 57 percent say skin color shapes their daily life experiences a lot or some, with about half saying discrimination based on race or skin color is a “very big problem” in the U.S. today.”

Intolerance wasn’t only coming from outside the Hispanic community, but also from within it. Nearly half of the Hispanic adults surveyed said that they have often or sometimes heard a Hispanic friend or family member make comments or jokes about other Hispanics and about non-Hispanics “that might be considered racist or racially insensitive.” Dark-skinned Hispanics reported these incidents at a higher rate than light-skinned Hispanics.

When it came to how much attention was paid to racial issues in this country, a majority of Hispanics, understandably, said too little attention is paid to race and racial issues concerning Hispanics. A plurality also said that too little attention is paid to race and racial issues nationally.

But a plurality said too much attention was paid to issues concerning Black people.

This is troubling. Concern over racial issues isn’t a zero-sum game. There should be more concern for all groups and less of a belief that some are receiving too little and others too much.

These issues around how darker-skinned people of all races and ethnicities are perceived and treated must be addressed. This is in part because we are racing toward a future in which the share of minorities who are dark-skinned will only be a fraction.

By 2065, it is projected that not only will Asian Americans outnumber African Americans, but there will also be nearly twice as many Hispanics in the country as Black people.

As I have mentioned before, I worry that white supremacy could be replaced with a light supremacy, a society in which light-skinned people are still advantaged and dark-skinned people are still oppressed, even as the white majority recedes.

Interestingly, in the Pew report, respondents who identified as Hispanic, Latino or of Spanish origin were asked their race and told that for the purposes of the race question, “Hispanic origins are not races.” They could pick more than one race. According to the report, 58 percent identified as white. (Actual census datafound that dramatically fewer identified as white.)

I have seen some encouraging allyship between Black and brown people in my lifetime. Just last year, following the murder of George Floyd, a Pew survey found that an even higher percentage of Hispanics than Black people said that they had participated in protests.

But these groups have different histories with oppression in this country and different ongoing relationships with it. Pew found in 2015 that “immigration since 1965 has swelled the nation’s foreign-born population from 9.6 million then to a record 45 million.” The vast majority of that growth obviously happened after the Civil Rights Movement.

We must all recognize these differences and confront them in honest and deliberate ways. Colorism and racism are cousins, and both are a pestilence.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/11/14/opinion/latinos-colorism-anti-blackness.html

How can universities in the US tackle anti-Asian racism?

Seeing more opinion pieces like this, not just focussed on Asian international students:

In 2011, I moved to the United States for my graduate studies in Boston. Having lived all my life in China until that point, I had never needed to analyse the world through the lens of race because race was, and still is, not a salient social category in Chinese society. 

“You speak very good English” was not an offensive comment to me at all, but rather I received it as a compliment about my many years of learning the language. 

“Where are you from?” at the beginning of a conversation was not a xenophobic remark or a denial of my Americanness, but instead, a genuine curiosity about my background. At least, that’s how I felt back then.

Political tensions between the United States and China in the past few years – and then-president Donald Trump’s labelling of COVID-19 as the ‘China virus’ or ‘kung flu’ – have made conversations about race and racism for Chinese students in particular more real as racism against them and the larger Asian communities has become more rampant. 

It is a crushing realisation for many Asian international students – who comprise 70% of all international students in the United States (China alone accounts for 35% of that total) – that, despite their foreign upbringing, they are instantly racialised once they set foot in the United States. 

The thought that their skin colour alone could see them subjected to physical or verbal violence is unfathomable back in their home countries.

Historic roots

Fear of the ‘yellow peril’, the racist and dangerous view of Asians as dirty, disease-ridden, invasive and perpetually foreign, is nothing new in US history, of course. 

The pandemic was only a catalyst that has exposed, and arguably augmented, this systemic, centuries-old ‘American tradition’ in its ugliest form.

Reports of anti-Asian incidents across all Asian populations – and towards the Chinese in particular – are on the rise, as is violence targeting these groups, the murders of six Asian women in Atlanta in March 2021 being the most horrific example of this. 

And in spite of protests, awareness campaigns and pleas from such non-profits as Stop AAPI Hate, anti-Asian incidents show no signs of abating and the fear is still palpable.

So what can we do to stop this insidious movement? US colleges and universities can play a critical role. 

Countering anti-Asian racism on campus

We should continue to voice our support and solidarity with Asian students on campus and provide tangible short- and long-term action plans to educate the entire campus community on anti-Asian racism. 

Such support should come directly from college presidents and chancellors in order to raise campus-wide awareness. If done right, according to American rhetorician Lloyd Bitzer’s rhetorical situation theory, it has the potential to alter human action

Not issuing any statements or issuing statements that ring hollow not only misses the opportunity for campus-wide learning, but further distresses Asian students, leaving them feeling more invisible and forgotten.

Second, instead of seeing Asian international students simply as a source of revenue, we need to recognise and acknowledge their unique experiences of navigating racism on college campuses and in the greater American society. 

One way to do that is to create on-campus spaces and support groups facilitated by college administrators to validate their experiences and create a safe environment for Asian international students – and all other international students of colour – dedicated to community building and conversations. 

One example of this is a programme at Amherst College, where I work, called Racialization of International Students, organised jointly by the Center for International Student Engagement and the Multicultural Resource Center. It focuses on international students’ own experiences and struggles around race and racism.

Third, it is important for colleges and universities to consider incorporating workshops or training that introduce the concept of race and racism in the United States for all incoming international students during orientation. 

This will equip international students as well as domestic students with proper knowledge and tools to contextualise their unique positions in dialogues on race and racism and prepare them to voice their needs and seek help when they experience racial hatred. 

This is a critical step that will also empower international students to become change agents in combating systemic and institutional racism on and off campus. 

One recent example of this is Princeton University’s new first-year orientation training module required for all entering first-years on the university’s racist history and the power of student activism.

Last but not least, colleges and universities should enhance their counselling centre staffing by hiring more counsellors who are proficient in foreign languages or are from international backgrounds, to provide more culturally responsive counselling services to international students. 

In general, international students experience mental health issues related to transitioning from their home culture to a different culture, that of the host country. 

Since the onset of the pandemic, many of them have been dealing with extra layers of stress, including isolation in a foreign country away from their families and navigating health concerns and racial violence in a non-native language and environment that are different from the experiences of their domestic peers. 

All of these acute realities warrant dedicated institutional attention. For example, Tufts University’s Counselling and Mental Healthteam hires a culturally sensitive generalist clinician who is bilingual in English and Mandarin and has expertise in counselling international students on life transitions, cultural adaptation and racial dilemmas.

Time for action

One of the biggest strengths of the United States as a study destination for international students is its diversity – the diversity of the student body on college campuses and the ‘melting pot’ signature of the nation that is known worldwide. 

But underneath the surface of diversity, race and racism permeate almost every aspect of American life. That reality often overwhelms many newly arrived international students, particularly those from homogenous societies. 

As the United States undergoes an awakening to racism against the backdrop of anti-black and anti-Asian racism, there is no better time than now for US colleges and universities to take concrete actions to orient international students better for a more complete American experience. 

We cannot afford to do nothing because doing nothing will further marginalise and devalue Asian international students on our campuses. We also cannot afford to lose their voices in the fight against racism because that will make our commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion just another empty promise.

Xiaofeng Wan is an associate dean of admissions and the coordinator of international recruitment at Amherst College, United States. He is also a doctoral candidate in the Executive EdD in Higher Education programme at Boston College’s Lynch School of Education and Human Development, United States.

Source: https://www.universityworldnews.com/post-nl.php?story=20211025095928462

Foundation raises $1 billion to fight anti-Asian hate

Real money:

A foundation launched by prominent Asian American business leaders earlier this month said Thursday it has raised more than $1 billion to support Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

The announcement from The Asian American Foundation, or TAAF, came minutes after President Joe Biden signed legislation aimed at curtailing the rise in hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the United States.

Sonal Shah, the foundation’s president, and TAAF board members were also at the White House, where they briefed administration officials, including domestic policy adviser Susan Rice. They discussed how the foundation plans to spend the $1.1 billion in donations to fight back against hate crimes directed at these communities, according to a statement from the foundation. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris dropped by the meeting to express their support, the foundation said.

Thursday’s news builds on the foundation’s prior announcement that it had raised $300 million from its board members and other donors. More donors have since pledged contributions to its “AAPI Giving Challenge,” an initiative to bring additional funding to Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations that have traditionally been neglected in philanthropy.

“TAFF was founded to close critical gaps of support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and end the longstanding underinvestment in our communities,” said Shah, who previously served as a deputy assistant to former President Barack Obama. ”Today’s historic announcement should send a clear signal to the 23 million AAPIs living in this country that TAAF and our AAPI Giving Challenge partners are here to upend the status quo in favor of a better, brighter future for AAPI communities.”

The Asian American Foundation has said its giving will focus on supporting organizations and leaders measuring and challenging violence against Asian American and Pacific Islanders; developing a common data standard that tracks violence and hate incidents; and helping create K-12 and college curriculums that “reflect the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders as part of the American story.”

Members of the foundation’s advisory council, including CNN host Lisa Ling and actor Daniel Dae Kim, virtually joined the White House meeting alongside representatives from donors, including Mastercard and the MacArthur Foundation.

Separately, TAFF is producing a TV special designed to expand support for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. The program, called “See Us Unite for Change — The Asian American Foundation in service of the AAPI Community,” will air Friday on multiple channels, including MTV, BET, VH1 and Comedy Central.

Source: Foundation raises $1 billion to fight anti-Asian hate

For immigrants like me, the ‘Great Pretend’ doesn’t work anymore

Good reflective piece:

My journey began 8,290 miles away, in India. I grew up in Mumbai, completed my studies, and first set foot in the United States as a young woman in my 20s. When I boarded that flight to California, I did so with my sister’s advice booming in my head: wear long sleeves to hide the henna ink from a recent wedding. But she was really making a bigger point: hide who you are, because they won’t understand you.

My sister’s advice was jarring but well-intentioned. The truth was, I didn’t even need the warning: already, for months, standing in front of my mirror practicing each night, I’d worked to stifle my Indian accent. It was the start of my journey as a performer –learning when and how to shed my identity, and trying to anticipate when it was safe to let my guard down and reveal my true self. I call it “the Great Pretend.”

I feel lucky that I’ve made America my home for many reasons. I’m blessed because I’ve been embraced by so many American mentors, leaders, colleagues and friends. I’m also blessed because only here would my story be possible. My naturalization ceremony 13 years ago was a deeply emotional experience, a moment of incredible belonging. But like so many immigrants, I have always cherished the fact that America wasn’t just a place but also an idea: unmatched possibilities ever in search of their own perfection, for new and next generations to write.

America, by definition, isn’t a finished product — it’s a high ideal purposefully set just out of reach so we can all, — generation by generation, help to pull the country ever closer to its founding ideals.

And for my daughters’ generation if not for mine, I’ve realized that I have some work to do, myself.

It starts with a confession. For all my years in America, I’ve been acting out “the great pretend” — the code-switching, concealing, and compromising that women like me have subjected ourselves to for decades, voluntarily. After 20 years, I wish I could say this daily ritual of cultural camouflage is gone, but it’s not. My Indian code-switching is now as much a part of my identity as the henna ink I’d once tried to hide from passersby in my new home.

But now I realize how important it is for all of us to shed those masks, to recognize the unique situations and unconscious biases experienced by multi-hyphenated professionals, so that we can all be better, do better and work together better.

The bottom line: empowering others begins by empowering yourself.

“The Great Pretend” doesn’t just encapsulate the actions many immigrants take to avoid making others uncomfortable. It’s the often unconscious and unintended– but nonetheless injurious –interactions with peers and even allies that we let go or let slide because we don’t want to rock the boat.

Act I. A cherished colleague compliments my work and my leadership, by suggesting “it must stem from” my “service-oriented culture.” Another colleague assumes I was skilled at math because I’m Indian. A new acquaintance mentions how “polite” Asian cultures are. And of course, there are the many times I walk into a meeting as a senior executive, and a stranger assumes that my younger and more junior, white male colleague is the senior leader and my boss.

Act II. I am invited to be among the feted at a summit celebrating powerful women. I enter the big ballroom to meet my fellow honorees. I feel instantly like a tiny drop of cocoa in a frothy blonde latté. The organizers have assembled us to celebrate a future which is decidedly female, but the participants are dominantly white and native born. How does this continue to happen in the United States when women of color will outnumber white women 53% to 44% by 2060?

Act III. I’m in a meeting of my peers, discussing a vexing issue, working to form a consensus. We think we’ve arrived at an answer. One of my colleagues invokes the old LIFE Cereal ad: “He likes it! Hey Mikey!” The room erupts in laughter, and I join in too. But in my head, unspoken, all I can think is: Who the heck is Mikey? Growing up in India, television was a once or twice a month luxury, usually a chance to see movies released years before in the United States.

1970s, nostalgic commercial pop culture is lost on me, as it is to many of the 17% of the American workforce who are foreign-born and raised. Isn’t it time our shorthand and colloquialisms evolve to include the nearly one in five workers who have lived something approximating my immigrant experience?

I want Act IV of my story to wrap up the plot with a twist: it’s time to stop acting — acting surprised, acting oblivious, or acting like someone else — to blend in.

Empowering ourselves means ending “the great pretend” and pointing out our perspectives to well-intentioned people—because it’s the only way we will all learn.

Empowering ourselves means incorporating the reality of intersectional identities — among increasingly heterogenous workplaces — into the core human relations and culture-building functions of any organization. Not because it’s politically correct, but because it benefits productivity and morale. Not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s the smart thing to do.

It shouldn’t take a tragedy like the mass shooting in Atlanta and the many other recent examples of anti-Asian violence for us to recognize that some life lessons need to be discussed openly — every day. Why? Very simply, because I want my Indian-American daughters to grow up knowing that pretending is never normal. And when the day comes, I don’t want them to wear long sleeves to cover the Henna drawing. I want them to write their story in bold ink the whole world can see and understand. That’s what we owe each other — and that’s what we owe the America we love.

Source: For immigrants like me, the ‘Great Pretend’ doesn’t work anymore

Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

Useful historical reminder:

The pandemic has been responsible for an outbreak of violence and hate directed against Asians around the world, blaming them for the spread of COVID-19. During this surge in attacks, the perpetrators have made their motives clear, taunting their victims with declarations like, “You have the Chinese Virus, go back to China!” and assaulting them and spitting on them.

The numbers over the past year in the U.S. alone are alarming. As NPR has reported, nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians have been reported just in the past year to Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S.

Then came mass shooting in Atlanta last week, which took the lives of eight people, including six women of Asian descent. The shooter’s motive has not been determined, but the incident has spawned a deeper discourse on racism and violence targeting Asians in the wake of the coronavirus.

This narrative – that “others,” often from far-flung places, are to blame for epidemics – is a dramatic example of a long tradition of hatred. In 14th-century Europe, Jewish communities were wrongfully accused of poisoning wells to spread the Black Death. In 1900, Chinese people were unfairly vilified for an outbreak of the plague in San Francisco’s Chinatown. And in the ’80s, Haitians were blamed for bringing HIV/AIDS to the U.S., a theory that’s considered unsubstantiated by many global health experts.

Some public health practitioners say the global health system is partially responsible for perpetuating these ideas.

According to Abraar Karan, a doctor at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, the notion persists in global health that “the West is the best.” This led to an assumption early on in the pandemic that COVID-19 spread to the rest of the world because China wasn’t able to control it.

“The other side of that assumption is, ‘Had this started anywhere else, like in the U.S. or the U.K. or Europe, somehow it would’ve been better controlled, and a pandemic wouldn’t have happened,'” says Karan, who was born in India and raised in the U.S. He has been working closely with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health to respond to COVID-19.

China’s response was not without fault. The government’s decision to silence doctors and not warn the public about a likely pandemic for six days in mid-January caused more than 3,000 people to become infected within a week, according to a report by the Associated Press, and created ripe conditions for global spread. Some of the aggressive measures China took to control the epidemic – confining people to their homes, for example — have been described as “draconian” and a violation of civil rights, even if they ultimately proved effective.

But it soon became clear that assumptions about the superiority of Western health systems were false when China and other Asian countries, along with many African countries, controlled outbreaks far more effectively and faster than Western countries did, says Karan.

The Twitter Blame Game And Its Repercussions

Some politicians, including former President Donald Trump publicly blamed China for the pandemic, calling this novel coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” or the “Wuhan Virus.” They consistently pushed that narrative even after the World Health Organization (WHO) warned as early as March 2020, when the pandemic was declared, that such language would encourage racial profiling and stigmatization against Asians. Trump has continued to use stigmatizing language in the wake of the Atlanta shooting, using the phrase “China virus” during a March 16 call to Fox News.

A report by researchers at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF), released this month, directly linked Trump’s first tweet about a “Chinese virus” to a significant increase in anti-Asian hashtags. According to a separate report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 U.S. cities increased 149 percent in 2020, from 49 to 122.

“Diseases have often been racialized in the past as a form of scapegoating,” says Yulin Hswen, an assistant professor of epidemiology and biostatistics at UCSF and lead author of the study on Trump’s tweet. Sometimes, it’s to distract from other events that are occurring within a society, such as the early failures of the U.S. response to the pandemic, says Hswen.

Suspicion tends to manifest more during times of vulnerability, like in wartime or during a pandemic, says ElsaMarie D’Silva, an Aspen Institute New Voices fellow from India who studies violence and harassment issues. It just so happened that COVID-19 was originally identified in China, but, as NPR’s Jason Beaubien has reported, some of the early clusters of cases elsewhere came from jet setters who traveled to Europe and ski destinations.

“What you’re seeing in the U.S. is this pre-existing, deep-seated bias [against Asians and Asian Americans] – or rather, racism – that is now surfacing,” says D’Silva. “COVID-19 is just an excuse.”

A Racist History In Global Health

For Karan, though, the problem lies deeper — with the colonialist history of global health systems.

“It’s not that the biases are necessarily birthed from global health researchers,” he says. “It’s more that global health researchers are birthed from institutions and cultures that are inherently xenophobic and racist.”

For example, the West is usually regarded as the hub of expertise and knowledge, says Sriram Shamasunder, an associate professor of medicine at UCSF, and there’s a sense among Western health workers that epidemics occur in impoverished contexts because the people there engage in primitive behaviors and just don’t care as much about health.

“[Western health workers] come in with a bias that in San Francisco or Boston, we would never let [these crises] happen,” says Shamasunder, who is co-founder and faculty director of the HEAL Initiative, a global health fellowship that works in Navajo Nation in the U.S. and in eight other countries.

In the early days of COVID-19, skepticism by Western public health officials about the efficacy of Asian mask protocols hindered the U.S.’s ability to control the pandemic. Additionally, stereotypes about who was and wasn’t at risk had significant consequences, says Nancy Kass, deputy director for public health at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics.

According to Kass, doctors initially only considered a possible COVID-19 diagnosis among people who had recently flown back from China. That narrow focus caused the U.S. to misdiagnose patients who presented with what we now call classic COVID symptoms simply because they hadn’t traveled from China.

“Inadvertently, we [did] a disservice both to patients who need[ed] care and to public health,” says Kass.

It’s reminiscent of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, Kass says. Because itwas so widely billed as a “gay disease,” there are many documented cases of heterosexual women who presented with symptoms but weren’t diagnosed until they were on their deathbeds.

That’s not to say that we should ignore facts and patterns about new diseases. For example, Kass says it’s appropriate to warn pregnant women about the risks of traveling to countries where the Zika virus, which is linked to birth and developmental defects, is present.

But there’s a difference, she says, between making sure people have enough information to understand a disease and attaching a label, like “Chinese virus,” that is inaccurate and that leads to stereotyping.

Karan says we also need to shift our approach to epidemics. In the case of COVID-19 and other outbreaks, Western countries often think of them as a national security issue, closing borders and blaming the countries where the disease was first reported. This approach encourages stigmatization, he says.

Instead, Karan suggests reframing the discussion to focus on global solidarity, which promotes the idea that we are all in this together. One way for wealthy countries to demonstrate solidarity now, Karan says, is by supporting the equitable and speedy distribution of vaccines among countries globally as well as among communities within their own borders.

Without such commitments in place, “it prompts the question, whose lives matter most?” says Shamasunder.

Ultimately, the global health community – and Western society as a whole – has to discard its deep-rooted mindset of coloniality and tendency to scapegoat others, says Hswen. The public health community can start by talking more about the historic racism and atrocities that have been tied to diseases.

Additionally, Karan says, leaders should reframe the pandemic for people: Instead of blaming Asians for the virus, blame the systems that weren’t adequately prepared to respond to a pandemic.

Although WHO has had specific guidance since 2015 about not naming diseases after places, Hswen says the public health community at large should have spoken out earlier and stronger last year against racialized language and the ensuing violence. She says they should have anticipated the backlash against Asians and preempted it with public messaging and education about why neutral terms like “COVID-19” should be used instead of “Chinese virus.”

“Public health people know there is a history of racializing diseases and targeting particular groups,” says Hswen. “They could have done more to defend the Asian community.”

Source: Why Pandemics Give Birth To Hate: From Bubonic Plague To COVID-19

There Is No Rung on the Ladder That Protects You From Hate

Good overview and reminder of the diversity of Asian Americans and how anti-Asian incidents are increasing fear:

The Asian-American experience is a tale of contrast.

We are immigrants, or descendants of immigrants, from more than 20 countries in East, South and Southeast Asia. We speak different languages and eat different food. Some lead America’s most successful companies, like Google and Zoom. Others run small businesses, like Chinese restaurants and spas, which have been the hardest hit by the pandemic. We also have the nation’s largest wealth gap: While some Asians earn household incomes that far exceed the national average, others consistently have the highest poverty rates.

The endless list of disparities and nuances has made solidarity elusive for Asian-Americans, even as activist groups demand that our issues be recognized. While Asian-Americans are the nation’s fastest-growing racial group — now 6 percent of the population — not everyone’s priorities are the same, far from it in some cases, so increasing numbers haven’t led to increasing power, politically or culturally.

The events of the past year — from the former president’s racial slurs to the series of attacks on Asians, leading up to the Tuesday shootings of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at massage parlors in Atlanta — could be uniting people for a new reason: fear.

In a country with hate crimes at their highest level in more than a decade, the professional status that many Asian-Americans enjoy, conferred by competing and succeeding in the most elite educational and professional institutions in America, doesn’t help.

Anna Mok, a Chinese-American executive at the consulting firm Deloitte, who lives in San Francisco and acknowledged that she was in a position of privilege, said hate crimes against Asian-Americans over the last year had prompted friends to urge her to not even go outside for a walk.

“I don’t think I’ve ever felt that degree of physical vulnerability,” Ms. Mok said.

She added that many other Asian-Americans working for big companies had described similar magnitudes of stress to her: “There’s no buffer, there’s no isolation. No matter how much money one makes, no matter how successful one is, it’s the reality of being an Asian in the U.S.”

Asian-Americans are also becoming the most economically divided demographic in the country. In 2016, their incomes ranged from about $12,000 at the 10th percentile to roughly $133,500 at the 90th percentile, with a median of about $51,000, according to the Pew Research Center. That compares with about $15,100 and $118,000 for whites.

The income disparity is, in part, driven by immigrants, who accounted for 81 percent of the growth in the Asian adult population over the past five decades. Many who arrived under the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965, which gave priority to people with family ties, and after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 were relatively low-skilled workers. Later, the Immigration Act of 1990 brought in a new wave of higher-skilled immigrants under the H-1B visa program, which helped American companies hire foreigners with exceptional skills.

Many Asian immigrants have higher levels of education than native-born Americans, which is largely why they settle in at the top of the income ladder. At the same time, Asians at the bottom of the ladder have lower education levels.

In nearly a dozen conversations this past week with scholars, activists and historians, the sadness and grief around this inflection point was clear — as was the recognition of how starkly divided two professional paths for Asian immigrants in this country have been.

The Asian-American story has been a complicated narrative. There are the restaurant workers and massage therapists nested in metropolitan enclaves, but there are also the high achievers attending elite schools who end up in well-compensated careers. Often one generation of immigrants in service jobs raises the next generation of corporate strivers. In this moment, though, as the population grows, the groups are becoming increasingly isolated from one another.

In the aftermath of a summer of protests for racial justice and increasing awareness of the Black Lives Matter movement, corporate employees of color, including Asians, are demanding equity and inclusion, which would put an end to a white-dominated culture. The workers in spas and nail salons don’t have the luxury to even think about that; they are more vulnerable to the whims of their white clientele. In a nation already divided by politics, religion and income, here is a community divided within itself.

But the “kung flu” pandemic — the xenophobic language, fueled by President Donald J. Trump, that added hate crimes to a deadly disease and the rest of the list of things for Asian-Americans to fear this past year — may be gradually bringing people together.

Last year, reported hate crimes against people of Asian descent in New York City jumped 833 percent from 2019. Nearly 3,800 hate incidents, which range from name-calling to assault, against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, a group that has collected data for the last year. (The number could be higher because not all incidents were reported.) Sixty-eight percent of those incidents were reported by women.

As the country reeled from the all-too-familiar scenes of mass shootings in Atlanta, especially killings that may have targeted people because of their race and gender, some scholars recalled an earlier death. In 1982, Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American, was beaten to death by two white men at a time of rising tensions over Japanese dominance in the auto market. The killers, who insisted the attack was not racially motivated, were sentenced to three years of probation.

The fact that the men did not serve jail time sent tremors through Asian communities. Activists formed civil rights groups to protest.

We know that the Vincent Chin murder really did help communities across different ethnic groups come together,” said Nancy Yuen, a sociologist at Biola University in California.

Yet for decades, policymakers and government leaders have historically treated Asian-Americans as if they were invisible. That was in part because of the diverse makeup and smaller size of the group, which made it challenging to gain influence and attention. Ellen Wu, a history professor at Indiana University, said Asian-Americans had to compile data just to prove that they were minorities who suffered from issues like discrimination. Being recognized has been an uphill battle ever since.

The shared pain and disrespect could finally be giving Asians grounds for solidarity — and a platform to be visible. On Twitter, the hashtag #stopasianhate went viral, and all over the country, crowds gathered in the streets this past week, lighting candles for the Atlanta victims and holding signs proclaiming “Asian Lives Matter.”

Asian-American professionals in journalism, medicine and technology reflected on a year of swelling anxiety and pain from microaggressions. On my social media feeds and in conversations, fellow Asian-Americans recounted being chastised by a white person at a grocery store to keep a distance, enduring a road-rage encounter that felt ambiguously racist and being ignored by a worker at a store who was happy to help white shoppers. For Asian-American women, the nature of the Atlanta attack sparked a conversation about racism and sexism — times they had heard men yell lines like “Me so horny” while walking down the street.

Doctors who were usually booked full with appointments found that their calendars were empty, which tracks with the broader trends of how discrimination has manifested in the past year like patients refusing medical care from doctors and nurses of Asian descent. Some doctors even reported verbal abuse by their patients.

Stop AAPI Hate, the organization documenting reports of Asian hate incidents, noted sharp upticks in verbal harassment, shunning and physical assaults over the last year.

For those working remotely during the pandemic, who could mostly stay home and felt less vulnerable, their fear began to manifest when they saw photos posted online of Asian elders — people who looked like their parents — beaten to a pulp. Ms. Mok, the Deloitte executive, moved to San Francisco in January from Palo Alto, Calif., to be closer to her father, who is 88 and lives alone there.

“My own sense of helplessness when I told him, ‘Please don’t go out, not even to get your newspaper,’ was very difficult for me to handle,” Ms. Mok said.

Ms. Wu said she had noticed unity in the last year even among Asian activists who usually butted heads. She mentioned groups that have been fighting fiercely over the future of affirmative action in higher education. Both sides published statements condemning Mr. Trump’s racial slurs about Asians spreading the coronavirus.

“There’s something about the Covid issue and the anti-Asian hate issue that presents this common denominator, a point of convergence,” Ms. Wu said. “There is a certain baseline where, across the board, there does seem to be recognition and fear that bad things are happening to people of Asian ancestry, undeniably.”

Jo-Ann Yoo, the executive director of the Asian American Federation, a nonprofit network of community groups, has spent the last year producing videos about small Asian-American businesses hit hard by the pandemic and speaking at rallies and news conferences about hate crimes against Asians.

It has been devastating and infuriating, Ms. Yoo said. But she is hopeful, in a way, that the year of increasing attacks and now the violence in Atlanta will begin to bridge the class divide by creating a dialogue among people of Asian descent. The victims at the spas, like the 16 percent of Asian workers in the service industry, had to leave home to make a living during the pandemic.

When most people are vaccinated and white-collar workers are fully back out in the world — commuting, stopping for coffee and heading to offices — the way the world has changed in the past year could further force solidarity: Any Asian could be targeted.

Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/03/20/technology/personaltech/asian-american-wealth-gap.html

Sullivan: When The Narrative Replaces The News

Valid points by Sullivan on the media’s responsibility to provide context and background to hate crimes and incidents, including comparative data between groups and perpetrators:

There’s a reason for this shift. Treating the individual as unique, granting him or her rights, defending the presumption of innocence, relying on provable, objective evidence: these core liberal principles are precisely what critical theory aims to deconstruct. And the elite media is in the vanguard of this war on liberalism. 

This isn’t in any way to deny increasing bias against Asian-Americans. It’s real and it’s awful. Asians are targeted by elite leftists, who actively discriminate against them in higher education, and attempt to dismantle the merit-based schools where Asian-American students succeed — precisely and only because too many Asians are attending. And Asian-Americans are also often targeted by envious or opportunistic criminal non-whites in their neighborhoods. For Trump to give these forces a top-spin with the “China virus” made things even worse, of course. For a firsthand account of a Chinese family’s experience of violence and harassment, check out this piece.

The more Asian-Americans succeed, the deeper the envy and hostility that can be directed toward them. The National Crime Victimization Survey notesthat “the rate of violent crime committed against Asians increased from 8.2 to 16.2 per 1000 persons age 12 or older from 2015 to 2018.” Hate crimes? “Hate crime incidents against Asian Americans had an annual rate of increase of approximately 12% from 2012 to 2014. Although there was a temporary decrease from 2014 to 2015, anti-Asian bias crimes had increased again from 2015 to 2018.” 

Asians are different from other groups in this respect. “Comparing with Black and Hispanic victims, Asian Americans have relatively higher chance to be victimized by non-White offenders (25.5% vs. 1.0% for African Americans and 18.9% for Hispanics). … Asian Americans have higher risk to be persecuted by strangers … are less likely to be offended in their residence … and are more likely to be targeted at school/college.” Of those committing violence against Asians, you discover that 24 percent such attacks are committed by whites; 24 percent are committed by fellow Asians; 7 percent by Hispanics; and 27.5 percent by African-Americans. Do the Kendi math, and you can see why Kendi’s “White Supremacist domestic terror” is not that useful a term for describing anti-Asian violence.

But what about hate crimes specifically? In general, the group disproportionately most likely to commit hate crimes in the US are African-Americans. At 13 percent of the population, African Americans commit 23.9 percent of hate crimes. But hate specifically against Asian-Americans in the era of Trump and Covid? Solid numbers are not yet available for 2020, which is the year that matters here. There’s data, from 1994 to 2014, that finds little racial skew among those committing anti-Asian hate crimes. Hostility comes from every other community pretty equally. 

The best data I’ve found for 2020, the salient period for this discussion, are provisional data on complaints and arrests for hate crimes against Asians in New York City, one of two cities which seem to have been most affected. They record 20 such arrests in 2020. Of those 20 offenders, 11 were African-American, two Black-Hispanic, two white, and five white Hispanics. Of the black offenders, a majority were women. The bulk happened last March, and they petered out soon after. If you drill down on some recent incidents in the news in California, and get past the media gloss to the actual mugshots, you also find as many black as white offenders.

This doesn’t prove much either, of course. Anti-Asian bias, like all biases, can infect anyone of any race, and the sample size is small and in one place. But it sure complicates the “white supremacy” case that the mainstream media simply assert as fact. 

And, given the headlines, the other thing missing is a little perspective. Here’s a word cloud of the victims of hate crimes in NYC in 2020. You can see that anti-Asian hate crimes are dwarfed by those against Jews, and many other minorities. And when you hear about a 150 percent rise in one year, it’s worth noting that this means a total of 122 such incidents in a country of 330 million, of which 19 million are Asian. Even if we bring this number up to more than 3,000 incidents from unreported and far less grave cases, including “shunning”, it’s small in an aggregate sense. A 50 percent increase in San Francisco from 2019 – 2020, for example, means the number of actual crimes went from 6 to 9

Is it worse than ever? No. 2020 saw 122 such hate incidents. In 1996, the number was 350. Many incidents go unreported, of course, and hideous comments, slurs and abuse don’t count as hate “crimes” as such. I’m not discounting the emotional scars of the kind of harassment this report cites. I’m sure they’ve increased. They’re awful. Despicable. Disgusting.

But the theory behind hate crimes law is that these crimes matter more because they terrify so many beyond the actual victim. And so it seems to me that the media’s primary role in cases like these is providing some data and perspective on what’s actually happening, to allay irrational fear. Instead they contribute to the distortion by breathlessly hyping one incident without a single provable link to any go this — and scare the bejeezus out of people unnecessarily. 

The media is supposed to subject easy, convenient rush-to-judgment narratives to ruthless empirical testing. Now, for purely ideological reasons, they are rushing to promote ready-made narratives, which actually point away from the empirical facts. To run sixteen separate pieces on anti-Asian white supremacist misogynist hate based on one possibly completely unrelated incident is not journalism. It’s fanning irrational fear in the cause of ideological indoctrination. And it appears to be where all elite media is headed.

Source: https://andrewsullivan.substack.com/p/when-the-narrative-replaces-the-news-9ea?token=eyJ1c2VyX2lkIjoxMDcxOTUwNywicG9zdF9pZCI6MzM4NTQ3NDcsIl8iOiJ3SVY5SCIsImlhdCI6MTYxNjMyMjg4MiwiZXhwIjoxNjE2MzI2NDgyLCJpc3MiOiJwdWItNjEzNzEiLCJzdWIiOiJwb3N0LXJlYWN0aW9uIn0.p90yZ3tRiph43-8Wq6msRWTYlRMmdY_GZy0T0FrTkOQ&utm_source=substack&utm_medium=email&utm_content=share

Asian-Americans Are Being Attacked. Why Are Hate Crime Charges So Rare?

Interesting analysis of some of the challenges:

On a cold evening last month, a Chinese man was walking home near Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood when a stranger suddenly ran up behind him and plunged a knife into his back.

For many Asian-Americans, the stabbing was horrifying, but not surprising. It was widely seen as just the latest example of racially targeted violence against Asians during the pandemic.

But the perpetrator, a 23-year-old man from Yemen, had not said a word to the victim before the attack, investigators said. Prosecutors determined they lacked enough evidence to prove a racist motive. The attacker was charged with attempted murder, but not as a hate crime.

The announcement outraged Asian-American leaders in New York City. Many of them protested outside the Manhattan district attorney’s office, demanding that the stabbing be prosecuted as a hate crime. They were tired of what they saw as racist assaults being overlooked by the authorities.

“Let’s call it what it is,” said Don Lee, a community activist who spoke at the rally. “These are not random attacks. We’re asking for recognition that these crimes are happening.”

The rally reflected the tortured public conversation over how to confront a rise in reports of violence against Asian-Americans, who have felt increasingly vulnerable with each new attack. Many incidents have either not led to arrests or have not been charged as hate crimes, making it difficult to capture with reliable data the extent to which Asian-Americans are being targeted.

That frustration erupted on a national scale this week after Robert Aaron Long, a white man, was charged with fatally shooting eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at spas in the Atlanta area on Tuesday night.

Investigators said it was too early to determine a motive. After Mr. Long’s arrest, he denied harboring a racial bias and told officials that he carried out the shootings as a form of vengeance for his “sexual addiction.”

The Atlanta shootings and other recent attacks have exposed difficult questions involved in proving a racist motive. Did the assaults just happen to involve Asian victims? Or did the attackers purposely single out Asians in an unspoken way that can never be presented as evidence in court?

Soh: Attacks on Asian-Americans reveal a strange racial double standard

While I agree that having heirarchies–ethnic, racial, religious etc–are unhelpful, my sense of Canadian media coverage is that anti-Asian attacks have received extensive and appropriate coverage as race-based attacks.

Not sure why the Globe would publish an op-ed focussed on the US without mentioning similarities and differences with Canada. :

The surveillance-camera video is horrifying to watch. In broad daylight, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, was slammed to the ground while on a morning walk in San Francisco; he never regained consciousness. In Oakland, a man attacked a 91-year-old man, a 60-year-old man, and a 55-year-old woman in Chinatown. Nearly two dozen violent incidents in the area have been recorded in recent weeks.

These incidents are just part of a recent and unfortunate trend, particularly during the Lunar New Year. In a Pew Research Center study conducted last July, about 30 per cent of Asian-American adults said they have experienced discrimination because of their ethnicity or race since the pandemic began.

Former U.S. president Donald Trump’s rhetoric has been blamed for stoking anti-Chinese resentment. He repeatedly referenced the “China virus,” the “China plague” and the “Kung Flu” while in office, holding the country responsible for the pandemic.

And yet, as these crimes continue, there has been a failure to see these attacks as racially motivated. Mr. Ratanapakdee’s homicide, for instance, is not being prosecuted as a hate crime. It wasn’t until Hollywood actors spoke up that media attention was drawn to these incidents, with Daniel Wu and Daniel Dae Kim offering a US$25,000 reward for information. That led to the arrest of 28-year-old Yahya Muslim, who is not facing hate-crime charges.

Being level-headed about emotional subjects is never a bad approach, as it prevents us from jumping to conclusions about unclear events or any legal concerns. But in this case, what is the likelihood that multiple victims, targeted randomly, just happened to all be Asian? If an alarmingly high number of people belonging to another visible-minority group had been violently assaulted and murdered, would anyone doubt that the attacks were racially motivated?

It feels like a double standard. And it can feel, broadly speaking, as if racism against Asians is not taken as seriously as racism against other groups. Take, for example, a job listing posted by a Bay Area tech company recently, which explicitly sought “non-Asian” applicants. Or consider the debate on affirmative action sparked most recently by the case of Students for Fair Admissions versus Harvard; in 2019, a federal judge ruled against Asian-American applicants who believed they had been systematically discriminated against by university admissions officials, and who sought a race-neutral process.

That’s where it can feel like obsessions with race are erecting a bizarre racial hierarchy – one in which apparently only white perpetrators can commit racist or hateful acts, and one where discrimination against certain groups counts less or hurts less than discrimination against others.

Because the general economic success of Asian diasporic communities in Canada and the U.S. is dissonant with the narrative that societal white privilege limits and is hostile to visible minorities, we are too often stripped of any progressive clout afforded to “people of colour.” In the eyes of some, we are being recategorized as “white.” From this ideological view – one I disagree with – it isn’t possible to be racist toward white people.

Further complicating this lack of logic is the history of strained relationsbetween Asian and Black communities in the U.S., most notably between protesters and Korean business owners in the Rodney King riots. Asian-Americans have been long held up as an example of successful assimilation, and by doing so, they become used to dismiss the genuine concerns of Black Americans, pitting one group against another.

But protecting racial groups is not a zero-sum game; ensuring the safety of one does not need to come at the expense of another. We can identify racist acts while advocating that they should not be used to justify retaliatory harassment or prejudice against others.

Since the start of the pandemic, I’ve been asked whether I think claims of Sinophobia have been overblown to forward an agenda of race-baiting. In short: No. Because I am often mistaken as having a different Asian ethnicity, it’s been amusing and sad to see what some will say in my presence, only to furiously backpedal their opinions once I tell them that I’m a Canadian of Malaysian-Chinese descent.

For those who remain skeptical, I’d ask how they would feel if people who shared their racial ancestry were being violently targeted and terrorized, and then made to feel that their concerns weren’t legitimate, especially during a time of the year that would normally be celebratory. Acknowledging where the coronavirus originated can be done without blaming or discriminating more widely against people of Asian descent.

Source: https://www.theglobeandmail.com/opinion/article-attacks-on-asian-americans-reveal-a-strange-racial-double-standard/