By Olivia Chung, Guest Columnist
As a Korean girl growing up in a ‘stigma free zone,’ a town ‘so diverse’ that it is solely branded as such, a town that trains its residents to believe racism, xenophobia and discrimination don’t exist because we are ‘woke’ and ‘educated,’ I’ve experienced my fair share of racism, stereotyping and hate. Eyes being pulled back at me, being called countless racial slurs, being told I’m smart because I’m Asian, that “a stupid Asian is an oxymoron,” being given the assumption that I am Chinese because, well, apparently all Asian people are Chinese. Being compared to random Asian celebrities which I don’t NEARLY resemble, yet, always being told, “hey, you remind me of ________.” Being used as the butt of the joke, being told I must LOVE BTS because I’m Korean. Being asked, “where are you from?… no, I mean where are you really from?” Being forced to laugh it off because this is all normal to me.
These stereotypes, these words which inflict such deeply rooted pain and suffering on my community, have become nothing but second nature to us. This bubble of entitlement, privilege and ‘wokeness’ we call Maplewood-South Orange (MAPSO) is nothing but a facade to disguise the amount of hate we actually foster. With BLACK LIVES MATTER written on our local roads, rainbow crosswalks in support of our LGBTQ+ community and so much more, the struggles which us minorities face are tokenized and used to overshadow how dystopian this town truly is — MAPSO is not a perfect little community of educated, liberal people.
Although being labeled as ‘diverse,’ South Orange alone has just 3.89% Asian residents and 0.03% Pacific Islander residents, while Maplewood has even less, with 2.86% Asian and 0.03% Pacific Islander residents. Although it’s not the towns’ faults for having such low Asian populations, the issue lies in how little these towns truly care about Asian American (mis)treatment.
Christian Hall was a 19 year old Chinese American man who suffered from a mental health crisis on Dec. 30, 2020. The Pennsylvania State Police were called to help and de-escalate his situation. Officers claimed that at some point in their interaction with him, he became uncooperative and pointed a handgun in their direction, resulting in their gunfire, killing Hall. However, video recordings show him standing quite far away from the officers with his hands up, no gun in sight. His crisis was not a threat. HE was not a threat.
Unfortunately, this story is all too familiar. However, I question why the reaction to Christian Hall’s murder is so underwhelming. I wonder why his murder didn’t reach the media until over a month later, and even then, it didn’t make headlines. And sadly, the answer lies within the fact that Christian was an Asian American male.
The normalization of Anti-Asian racism is sickening and attention must be brought to this matter. Just to name a few of the Anti-Asian attacks which took place in just this last month alone:
- A 91 year old man was shoved to the ground in Oakland Chinatown
- A Filipino American man was slashed from ear to ear by a stranger on the subway in NYC
- An 84 year old Thai man was assaulted and murdered in San Francisco
- A 64 year old Vietnamese grandmother was assaulted in San Jose
The media refuses to shed any light on Asian American hate crimes because they simply do not care. Especially with the beginning stages of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, people were not hesitant with being openly racist and hateful towards Asian Americans: the Chinese were blamed for the utter existence of COVID-19, Donald Trump labeled COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus” and the “Kung Flu,” Asian Americans were unable to leave their homes without being screamed at, assaulted and even killed for “bringing COVID-19 to America.” This continuing racism towards Asians STILL goes unspoken, and such silence and neglect does nothing but enforce the idea that Anti-Asian racism is okay.
“We don’t need to worry about Asian communities, right? I mean, they’re all rich, smart, successful… they’ve got nothing to worry about…”
We have all been trained to believe in the Model Minority Myth, and in turn have slowly worked towards diminishing any chance of acknowledgement towards the Asian struggle. This all stops now. Seeing such a spike in Anti-Asian attacks, especially on elders, is horrifying. Our elders and our community should not have to live in fear of being hate crimed for something which is uncontrollable. The Asian American struggle can no longer go unnoticed — and it all starts here, in our communities.