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Asian American unity must be first step

By Christopher Tang | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-04-06 09:10
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People participate in a protest to demand an end to anti-Asian violence in New York City on April 4, 2021. [Photo/Agencies]

Hate crimes against Asians in the United States reportedly increased by 150 percent in 2020 and have escalated this year. To fight hate crimes as a minority group that accounts for 6.5 percent of the US population, Asian American communities should create a united and visible front that must be articulate but not provocative.

It is true that the current US administration responded soon after the killing of six women of Asian descent in Georgia, as US President Joe Biden immediately ordered flags flown at half-staff, visited Georgia, spoke with families of the victims, and condemned crimes against Asians. Despite these comforting gestures, fighting hate crimes against Asians is unlikely to occupy the lion's share of Biden's attention, due to a variety of issues of concern.

So what should Asian Americans do? To create systemic change, Asian Americans need to change themselves first.

First of all, be united. If Asian Americans can let go of their differences and present themselves to non-Asians as a united group, we shall be seen as a more significant group. Numbers do matter.

Because Asian Americans are a highly diverse group, with 50 or so ethnic subgroups including Chinese, Indian, Filipino, Japanese, Korean and Thai, each ethnic subgroup is too small to stand out. Even as the largest ethnic group of Asian Americans with 5 million people, Chinese Americans feel invisible in the US. Despite Chinese immigrants who helped build the first US transcontinental railroad over 150 years ago, Chinese Americans as well as other Asian ethnic groups are treated as "perpetual foreigners".

However, if Asian Americans can unite as a group of 15.5 million people in the US, both their presence and a united voice will be felt much more, thereby lending weight to their campaign against racism and discrimination. After all, the term Asian American was coined by Emma Gee and Yuji Ichioka in 1968 precisely for this purpose. United we stand, divided we fall.

Second, debunk stereotypes.

People of Asian descent in the US tend to be homogenized by the stereotypical description that "all Asians look alike", although different ethnic groups have diverse languages, cultures, heritages and religious and political views.

For a long time, the common perception of Asian men as "emasculated, weak and effeminate", and Asian women as "submissive and exotic" have created race-related issues. Quite often, Asian Americans are viewed as easy prey for crimes like mugging because they are considered less likely to resist or report such incidents, and Asian women experience a higher rate of physical and/or sexual violence.

Moreover, the recent surge in attacks on Asians was almost certainly triggered by former president Donald Trump using derogatory descriptions of COVID-19 and falsely accusing China on various grounds.

The "model minority" stereotype that Asian Americans "do not face serious discrimination" also needs to be debunked. This myth can create a racial wedge between Asian Americans and African Americans, pitting these two minority groups against each other. By debunking this myth, Asian Americans can strengthen solidarity with other minorities.

Third, united actions are needed. As a united group, Asian Americans should report all hate incidents to authorities and to

In addition, Asian Americans can serve the greater community with love and care by volunteering to help the elderly and the poor at places such as local food banks and community centers.

Fighting prejudice is a long game, but unity among Asian Americans and efforts to conduct themselves as upright and caring members of the greater society is a positive first step that will determine the final outcome.

The author is a distinguished professor at the Anderson School of Management at the University of California, Los Angeles.

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