Racism, classism, sexism and the lore of Asian Americana

Carletonian - Sun, 04/11/2021 - 12:29pm

You’ve heard of it by now: On March 16, eight people—including six women of Asian descent—were murdered in a mass shooting across several Atlanta spas. The immediate aftermath was whiplash drenched in ripened unease. 

In the year prior to the shooting, there had been a steady trickle of alarm regarding the rise of racial attacks on Asian Americans in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and incendiary rhetoric—“China Virus,” “Kung Flu”—from political  leaders and media personalities. Quiet enough an alarm to not yet grasp national attention but steady enough a stream to render us unable to look back and say this came out of nowhere.

The tragedy in Atlanta was, to some eyes, a smoking gun. Six Asian women working in Asian massage parlors had been shot and killed. What was this if not a traumatic, dramatic and deeply American piece of proof of brutal anti-Asian racism and the need for reckoning? Calls began for the shooter to be charged with a hate crime.  Yet officials have refrained from citing race as an inciting issue, publicizing instead the shooter’s given explanation: that his sex addiction—in conflict with his religious values—pushed him to “eliminate” his desires. In relaying this info, Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County sheriff’s department noted that it had been a “really bad day” for the shooter.

The “bad day” comment has been sufficiently panned, and Baker was removed from the case. But the debate over hate crime classification—and more broadly, motive—rages on. The legal crux of the issue is this: to prosecute a hate crime, it must be proven beyond reasonable doubt that a crime was motivated by bias. But how exactly can motivation be proved unless a perpetrator testifies precisely so or there is a record of explicitly biased language? The bigger issue is that motivation contains multitudes, and it’s impossible to disentangle it from entrenched cultural assumptions.

I say this  because the discrimination and stereotyping of Asians that I’ve witnessed in my lifetime—save this past year—has been trivialized, normalized or dismissed. Anti-Asian racism has often been relegated to the sidelines of race conversations in America for a number of reasons.  Stereotypes—we are good at math, driven by “honor” and filial piety, practice some sort of martial arts—are “flattering” ones, we’re told; at worst, they’re innocuous. But any caricature is dehumanizing and this one has burrowed so deeply in our cultural assumptions that it is often not even recognized as racial.

The two following statements, then, can both be true. The Atlanta shooter may genuinely believe that racism played no role in his violence. And anti-Asian racism was, in fact, at the heart of the attack.

The traumatic rise of pan-Asian identity

Discrimination against Asians has roots long before my lifetime, but this rich, violent, institutional history goes largely untaught. 

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882—driven by the idea that cheap Chinese immigrants were responsible for economic depression—was the first law to exclude a specific ethnic group from entering the United States. The Immigration Act of 1924 banned immigration of any individual who by virtue of race or nationality was ineligible for citizenship. Because laws passed in 1790 and 1870 excluded people of Asian lineage from naturalizing, this effectively banned all Asian immigrants.

In 1887, 34 Chinese gold miners were ambushed and murdered in Hells Canyon, Ore. No one was punished for these crimes. In 1907, white laborers in Bellingham, Wash. violently  rioted against a growing South Asian population, who they found responsible for stealing jobs and wages. Within days, the South Asian community had been “wiped off the map,” according to a beaming local newspaper.

Following the events of Pearl Harbor and the official declaration of war between the U.S. and Japan,  Japanese Americans—many of whom were in fact citizens—were forcibly relocated to detention camps from 1942 to 1946 given the government’s suspicion-without-warrant of loyalty to the Japanese government.

Then in 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten to death in Michigan by two white men using a baseball bat. The men, one of whom recently lost his job, believed the thriving Japanese automobile industry was to blame for their economic challenges and wanted to exact revenge. Chin was of Chinese descent. The perpetrators were fined $3,000 and served 3 years’ probation.

Chin’s brutal murder is frequently cited as a catalyst for the solidifcation of a pan-Asian American identity and voice. After all, the use of “Asian American” in a vacuum is meaningless. As Jay Caspain Kang wrote for the New York Times: “ Nobody grows up speaking Asian-­American, nobody sits down to Asian-­American food with their Asian-­American parents and nobody goes on pilgrimages back to their motherland of Asian-­America.” 

Asian Americans hail from over 20 different countries at different points in time; we speak different languages; we have different customs and beliefs. The entire continent of Asia is not one big happy family, and factions of the diaspora do not necessarily associate with or relate to or even like each other. A personal note:  I have always felt exceptional unease identifying as or speaking for Asian Americans. I qualify—I suppose—by virtue of being Chinese and American, but beyond my personal anxiety that I will never be Chinese enough nor American enough to feel a right to “belong,” I have never quite understood what this great technicality should mean.

But for Asian Americans in 1982, if a Chinese man was attacked over the success of Japanese automakers, it no longer mattered whether we felt common ground because we were subjected to common terror. That terror manifested in protests, civil suites and, for some time, a growing political voice. I’m no expert on this community of “mine,” but my perception is that between the 80s and my birth, this sense of solidarity and desire for a voice has hushed. With the growing myth of model minority, perhaps we were convinced that Asians do not face common terror—or terror at all.

And here we are now, in a reboot frenzy. If a Thai grandfather from San Francisco can be shoved and killed in a driveway;  a Filipina woman beaten on a Manhattan sidewalk with the assailant shouting “You don’t belong here!”; and a Burmese family of three—including two children ages 2 and 6—stabbed with intent to kill in a Texas Sam’s Club because a perpetrator thought they were “infecting people with the coronavirus”  all over a virus that  originated in Wuhan, China and was addressed poorly on global scale, then there is a renewed and reliable consequence to this phantom identity, and it is the trauma that binds us.  

Crazy Poor, Crazy Rich Asians

The 2018 release of the film Crazy Rich Asians—the first major studio film with an all-Asian ensemble class since 1993—was a splintered cultural moment. On one hand, the film was celebrated as an important step in Asian recognition; its commercial success, an indicator that there was something to gain in telling Asian stories.  But as important as the film was, was it really good? 

As Mark Tseng-Putterman wrote for The Atlantic, the film boiled down to “affluence-porn”: “Take the opening scene, whose drama hinges on Eleanor Young triumphantly distinguishing herself—in the eyes of a white hotel manager—from the kind of Chinese who might stay in London’s Chinatown. While viewers are compelled to cheer these moments as subversive, such scenes stage a certain kind of respectability politics for a presumed white audience.” 

Young, the audience is told, is the “right” kind of Asian—one who fits the image so that we may sympathize with her.  

The emergence of the “right” and complementary “wrong” kind of Asian in the Western eye is intertwined with the onset of the model minority myth. That is, the naive idea that Asian Americans are universally well-educated and well-off because they universally  work hard. (A radical swing from previous characterizations of the group as cheap, disposable labor.)  

This concept is further extended by racist mouthpieces to claim: the Asians are proof that America is indeed a meritocracy. With this glowing reputation, how could Asians credibly claim to suffer racism? And moreover, how could any minority group? The argument goes like this: any minority raising concerns about oppressive practices should simply work harder.  

But the model minority myth is, in fact, a myth. Asian Americans may in aggregate be the highest earning ethnic group in America, but to look at an average without looking at the range is missing the entire story, as Asian Americans also experience the highest degree of income inequality in America.

The six Asian victims of the Atlanta shooting were working class. The victims of viral anti-Asian attack videos have mostly been elders. The stories and livelihoods from these vulnerable states of Asian America have little place in the Asian image at the forefront of American imagination.

So the consequences of the model minority myth are pernicious and varied: it dismisses Asian achievement, erases the stories of non-conforming members of the community, is used as a tool to more directly other minority groups, and ultimately obscures the idea that anti-Asian racism can exist.

A fever pitch

The six Asian victims worked at massage parlors—which, in the Atlanta area, is an industry linked to sex work. It is irrelevant whether the victims were sex workers or not, because the shooter’s ability to reduce them to objects or temptation—and law enforcements subsequent ability to sympathize with this idea—is what’s really troubling.

Certainly, misogyny and objectification, but the history of sexualization, exoticism and assumptions of subserviency that has plagued Asian women makes race impossible to ignore here.

Like the history of discrimination againt Asians, that against Asian women in particular is vast. For the sake a space and my sanity, I won’t delve too deep, but the highlight reel runs from the Page Law of 1875 to Orientalizing prose such as “Madame Chrysantheme” (“They express unlimited sensuality, they are more or less stupid, and above all they are willing,” wrote Edward Said) to high school students Trang Pak and Sun Jin Dinh fighting over their sexual relationship with a white Coach Carr in Mean Girls (2004). Funny!

Asian fetishism in our current times has a clever—and in many cases, supposedly funny—new name: Yellow Fever. It seems innocent, and almost sanitized, now, and there is a great deal of pressure to be flattered or at least amused that so many non-Asian men “prefer” Asian women. 

But however we call it,  this is a concept predicated on the idea of Asian women as sexual and subservient, which opens us up to a slippery slope: sexualization to objectification to dehumanization to the view of Asian women as nothing more than a source of temptation to be eliminated.  What Atlanta makes clear is that the lines between Yellow Fever and Yellow Peril—”desire” and dehumanization—don’t really exist. 

A fun fact: In 2000, The Carletonian wrote about a group of Carleton students protesting against the band Bloodhound Gang for their song “Yellow Fever,” which they felt dangerously sexualized Asian women. Then in 2003, The Carletonian reported on the “hardcore ultimate IM” final coming down to two teams: Yellow Fever and Fickle Chinese Mistress. Yellow Fever, the article noted, included players from Cut, GOP and Syzygy. Fickle Chinese Mistress was a mostly freshman, male team. I can’t and won’t make additional assumptions about the make-up of these rosters and intentions behind these names, but even the most optimistic view leaves me deeply uncomfortable.

Back to Atlanta

This backseat concoction of racism, classism and sexism that has systematically dehumanized Asian Americans, specifically undercut the plights of vulnerable Asian Americans and offered up Asian American women as objects of lust set the foundation for the shootings in Georgia, no doubt. 

It’s not enough,  probably, for a hate-crime conviction, and I question whether that legal designation really matters. What matters, I think, is that we begin to recognize anti-Asian racism as real racism, and we challenge The Narrative of Asian Americana that has stripped members of their individuality and the ability to share their stories.

In the aftermath of Georgia, these conversations have indeed been happening. And it’s an optimistic and jarring sight.

At the same time, I can’t help but wonder how long this energy and attention will last. And whether someday, my grief, disbelief and rage from the last year might atrophy, and I will  settle back into The Narrative. Whether I will look back on this piece with regret and embarrassment, wishing that I had kept quiet and let things blow by the way I taught myself to early on. I really hope not.

The post Racism, classism, sexism and the lore of Asian Americana appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

To sweep the glass no more

Carletonian - Sun, 04/11/2021 - 12:27pm

This piece is written on behalf of Asian Students in America (ASIA) at Carleton.

There is a story that comedian Hasan Minhaj recounts in his standup special, Homecoming King, where he remembers his family’s car windows being smashed in the days after 9/11. He described the image of his father hunched, sweeping up the glass shards quietly. 

Many Asian Americans who have immigrant parents or are immigrants themselves can recall something similar, though perhaps not as dramatic or heartbreaking as Hasan Minhaj’s experience. It is a sentiment many of us are familiar with. You can’t pronounce our names? No problem, just call me [insert generic English name here]. There is a restaurant in New York called Joe’s Shanghai, whose Chinese name means the fawn announcing the arrival of spring. Can’t stomach authentic Chinese food? No problem, we’ll invent new dishes like General Tso’s Chicken for you. That’s a dish invented in 1952 in New York City. Don’t see us as part of the community? No problem, we’ll stay quiet, out of your elected offices and polls and protests. Asian Americans have consistently been the least likely to vote or run for public office out of any ethnic group in the U.S. 

Many of us do these things because being an immigrant is tremendously difficult. “It is the price we pay,” to paraphrase Minhaj. Pay your dues in smashed windows, small dick jokes, and fetishization in order to give your children a better life. When you are on top, then no one can laugh at you anymore. Or so the story goes.

But like many aspects of life, COVID-19 has forced Asian Americans to rethink the truths in the messaging of our parents. For over a year, Asian Americans have seen violent hate crimes from those who we consider our neighbours and fellow compatriots, our fellow citizens. This has culminated in the senseless and violent murder of six Asians in Atlanta, Georgia, weeks before the state legislature voted to pass voter suppression laws. Every day, more hate crimes against Asians get reported from every corner of the country, and every news headline makes us a bit more likely to buy pepper spray, take an Uber for a walking distance, and look over our shoulders. It is tiring to walk around with clenched fists, no less than feeling fear in what we thought was our home. 

It makes national AAPI month this April particularly hollow. It makes corporate declarations that they stand with Asians soulless. American society has repeatedly refused to recognize Asian Americans as a crucial element of American culture and history. This academic year, the Carleton history department offered 39 American history courses that focused on domestic American history. Several touched on black, Latinx, and indigenous histories. None touched on Asian Americans. This is not to say that these courses are not valuable, quite the contrary: studying the history of the various peoples of the U.S. reminds us that it is not only white people who are Americans. Asian Americans cannot continue to be left out of this diaspora. We do not learn about the stories of people like Daniel Inouye. He fought Japanese internment during WWII to serve, then won a medal of honour after losing his arm saving his platoon in World War 2 and later served as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, the highest-ever position achieved by an Asian American. We do not learn about Lau v. Nichols, which mandated the constitutionality of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes in public schools that helped the lives of millions of immigrants. We do not learn about the Pacific railroads being built with Chinese blood, just for a chance to stay. The only U.S. city whose Chinese name is not just the phonetic translation is San Francisco, where the first Chinese immigrants arrived. 旧金山, the Original Eldorado. It was the hope and spirit of many to come, yearning to breathe free in this more perfect union. Fogbound and adrift, they carried with them nothing but the audacity to dream of a better life for their descendants. We cannot continue being the footnotes of this country’s history. We demand to be recognized as an integral thread of the American fabric, just like all who have breathed upon this land.

A hundred and seventy years later, we are still fighting to fulfill those words, “a more perfect union.” This AAPI heritage month, may we continue to strive to realize the audacity of our forebearers. May we continue to persist in the face of the winds against us, even as they blow ever stronger.

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Categories: Colleges

How to address vaccine reluctance

Carletonian - Sun, 04/11/2021 - 12:26pm

Last weekend, I turned twenty—a sort-of-big birthday but very bittersweet. I was grateful to spend the day with loved ones, to be healthy, to have happiness, to be able to celebrate at all. But there was also sadness: I turned 19 three weeks after the country shut down in March 2020, so my birthday became a bleak milestone announcing that it has been one year gone. Unlike last year, however, there is now the promise of a twenty-first birthday celebrated in public, delivered in the form of the newly available COVID-19 vaccines. 

While I am anxious for a return to normalcy, one that extends well beyond the context of birthday celebrations, my reaction to the possibility of getting vaccinated could be described as reluctant at best. After a year of being hyper-protective of my body and health, the idea of receiving this vaccine—quickly developed, newly released—feels like a risk. And I’m not alone in my hesitation. 

Data gathered following the development of the COVID-19 vaccines have not necessarily been promising: considerable percentages of Americans have still not committed to the prospect of inoculation. According to a March article from the Pew Research Center, only 51% of Americans either had been or planned to be vaccinated at the time of publication. 17% claimed that they would likely receive the vaccine. The other 30% said that they likely or certainly wouldn’t receive the vaccine. Perhaps most surprising is the fact that within this 30%, merely 36% could be described as anti-vaxxers. Instead, the most prevalent reasons for remaining unvaccinated are perfectly rational: they include “concerns about side effects” and reservations about the pace of progress, as well as acknowledgment of insufficient information about efficacy. 

I cite these numbers to show that too many Americans are reasonably uncomfortable with the COVID-19 vaccines, and to then challenge the current rhetoric about vaccinations within some progressive circles. There seems to be promotion of the idea that one needs to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, lest she be deemed selfish or ignorant. This approach is not particularly productive—it effectively applies the broader (politically charged) conversation about vaccinations and anti-vaxxers to the COVID-19 vaccine specifically. Unfortunately, in doing so, it fails to encourage those in a state of uncertainty from seeking vaccination. 

I’m of the mind that when attempting to persuade someone, it is best not to use insults as the method of choice. Instead of making the recipient miraculously agree, insults trigger a defensive response that has the effect of repellence rather than attraction. This is especially true when it comes to contentious matters like those regarding COVID-19, which hit a sore spot for so many people.

In my case, I am absolutely unreceptive to being called “selfish” when I have spent the last year at home to minimize the risk of infecting myself or my family. Furthermore, the implicit choice to receive the vaccine or perpetuate the spread of COVID-19 is a false dichotomy. In reality, the options are actually to either receive the vaccine or continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing (effective preventative measures which, for now, need to be done regardless of vaccination status). 

Additionally, I am not a fan of hurling the term “ignorant” in response to hesitation about the vaccine. I do not have a background in biology. No one in my family has a background in biology. When I read about the vaccine, I do not have sufficient knowledge to fully understand what it means for one company to use mRNA technology while another company doesn’t. It is difficult to contextualize the risk involved with the vaccines while reading about cases of serious reactions or fatalities following inoculation. Ultimately, I am lucky to have the time and resources to answer my questions (more or less) by conducting further research. A lot of people do not. 

My goal in writing this article is not to deter readers from receiving the vaccine. Despite my hesitation, I will likely choose to be vaccinated—and sooner rather than later. The appeal of worrying less about getting sick or transmitting the illness to loved ones, as well as the probability that access will soon be restricted to the vaccinated, is too great to deny. My decision to get the vaccine, however, does not mean that my concerns have dissipated. 

When nearly 50% of the population is less than certain about—if not fully opposed to—receiving the COVID-19 vaccine, the number is too large to ignore or to simply write off as comprising political outliers. Essentially, when it comes to making a choice concerning one’s body, it is crucial that the individual be 100% comfortable with the final decision. Instead of shaming the population into receiving the vaccine, then, we should focus on educating people so that they can make the decision themselves, willingly and enthusiastically.

This means making reliable resources readily available, delivering information in accessible terms, and, most importantly, acknowledging risks and assuaging fears, responding with compassion rather than belittlement.

The post How to address vaccine reluctance appeared first on The Carletonian.

Categories: Colleges

First Impressions

Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Sun, 04/11/2021 - 9:33am

The exercise was to look at the painting and observe your impressions. Despair is the first word that comes to mind. Even without knowing the title, you initially think of a man nearing the end of his life. Maybe he has regret. Maybe he suffers from dementia. Maybe he misses his beloved, who died too […]

The post First Impressions appeared first on Untethered Dog.

Categories: Citizens


Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Sun, 04/11/2021 - 9:14am

How do we recover our faith in life? Basically, we start where we are; we start where our butts are. We do kind things for others, and we pay more attention to all the beauty and goodness that surround us. We make gratititude lists of everything that blesses us, that gives us feelings of safety […]

The post Spirituality appeared first on Untethered Dog.

Categories: Citizens


Tom Swift - Untethered Dog - Sun, 04/11/2021 - 8:10am


The post Test appeared first on Untethered Dog.

Categories: Citizens

And even more transmission?

Carol Overland - Legalectric - Sat, 04/10/2021 - 7:36pm

We’ve seen increased promotion of even more transmission, with claims it’s NEEDED, sorely needed, to reach renewable goals. What utter crap…

We’ve also seen “Grid North Partners” spreading their misinformation, working on making a “CapX 2050” happen.

Do we really need to do this AGAIN?!?!?!

Apparently, they think we do… sigh…

This appeared recently, an article linked to this blurb, and it’s disturbing:


Right… read it and get ready for another decade long fight. I figure I’ve got that long and more, so let’s get to it! Are you ready?

Transition… transmission… transition… transmission…

Categories: Citizens

Submit your 2021 high school graduate's information today

Northfield News - Sat, 04/10/2021 - 4:00pm
The Northfield News will again publish its annual special section featuring area high school graduates. And just like last year, we’re celebrating the seniors two ways.
Categories: Local News

Raider Wrap with Jimmy LeRue and AJ Reisetter 4-10-21

KYMN Radio - Sat, 04/10/2021 - 11:25am
Lots of Activity on today’s program.  Activities Director Joel Olson joins the Wrap to discuss all the recent developments happening around spring sports and other school activities. We swing into spring with head golf coach Adam Danielson. The golf team kicks off their 2021 season this week with a lot of excitement and enthusiasm after

City's long list of racial equity work gets state commissioner's notice

Northfield News - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 7:30pm
Northfield Human Rights Commission members described the racial equity work groups across the city have recently undertaken during a virtual meeting Thursday with a state commissioner.
Categories: Local News

Three Oles are big winners in NFL’s Big Data Bowl

St. Olaf College - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 4:31pm
St. Olaf College graduates Marc Richards '16, Sam Walczak '14, and Jack Werner '16, along with teammate Wei Peng, are the champions of the National Football League's Big Data Bowl.
Categories: Colleges

More frequent severe weather may require some planning for the future

Northfield News - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 4:30pm
As Severe Weather Awareness Week begins Monday, area residents are encouraged to consider their own emergency plans.
Categories: Local News

To Include is To Excel: Inclusivity Advocates

St. Olaf College - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 3:50pm
As part of our series highlighting To Include is To Excel projects, Residence Life Area Coordinator Damian Waite shares how the Inclusivity Advocates program has grown in recent years.
Categories: Colleges

City Council Work Session Meeting

City of Northfield Calendar - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 3:20pm
Event date: April 13, 2021
Event Time: 06:00 PM - 09:00 PM
801 Washington Street
Northfield, MN 55057

County law libraries offer important resource

Northfield News - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 1:25pm
For area residents dealing with simple legal issues, law libraries offer a free, little-known resource that could see a significant increase in popularity in a post-pandemic world.
Categories: Local News

Finding a family in St. Olaf athletics

St. Olaf College - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 12:56pm
Named the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC) Co-Rookie of the Year in her first season at St. Olaf, K’Lynn Lewis '22 has had an incredible basketball journey that has taught her invaluable life skills and influenced her future aspirations.
Categories: Colleges

Fossum weighs in on jail situation; Council approves Hillcrest village plat; Pownell offers strategic plan update, vision for new plan

KYMN Radio - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 12:02pm
By Rich Larson, News Director As the debate continues over what to do about the Rice County Jail situation, County Attorney, John Fossum said it is clear to him that the current jail, which is nearly 50 years old, is not big enough and does not meet the needs of the county.  Fossum, who was

Representative Todd Lippert discusses work in the Legislature

KYMN Radio - Fri, 04/09/2021 - 9:18am
State Representative Todd Lippert talks about topics being addressed at the Legislature including budget issues such as funding for education and taxes, and talks about the status of some of his bills and committee work.

The Weekly List – The One Hit Wonders Show, Vol. II

KYMN Radio - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 6:00pm
This week Rich and Dan pay tribute to those people who captured lightning in a bottle and had a career that spanned exactly one hit.

Centers a free, confidential resource for small business owners, prospective entrepreneurs

Northfield News - Thu, 04/08/2021 - 5:00pm
Southeastern Minnesota has a wealth of resources available for entrepreneurs looking for COVID-19 relief and those wanting to start their own business or expand an existing one.
Categories: Local News
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