Asian American Lives Yesterday And Today

Photo by Kleigh Balugo

By Vinh Tran

Trigger Warning: This article won’t depict any of the violent acts against the Asian community, however, it will directly address the history behind American Asian lives. The contents within this article may incite memories of trauma and have the possibility to cause uneasiness for readers. For those who may find this subject unsettling, I suggest that you revisit this article when you’re in the correct headspace. 

To preface, I am an cisgender Asian American male writing about the lives of Asian American lives and my own personal history. I haven’t been 100% educated on all aspects of what I’m writing about and my words should be taken with a grain of salt given my privilege. However, I’m 100% invested in my duties of being an educated individual and my stake in providing rhetoric for Kindergarten Magazine. Because this subject is a very emotional and touchy topic, I will carry all responsibility for this article. In addition, when I mention Asian lives, this includes Pacific Islanders, when I mention Asian lives, this includes transgender and non-binary lives. All of these opinions are mine alone and are subject to criticism–I’m welcome to any constructive words, my email is vinhtran41099@gmail.com for any inquiries. 

Just a couple weeks ago, multiple lives were lost in the series of mass shootings at various spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Although in the eyes of the journalistic news cycle, this is old news–but to many people and the Asian community, this is yet another dark time in history. It was an obviously racially charged attack, however, some individuals in power have decided to use their platform to address anti-Asian rhetoric and even mention lynching at hearings directly related to Anti-Asian discrimination. Time and time again, the government and those in power have failed in protecting people like me and instead have propelled a history of Anti-Asian discrimination. It doesn’t help that the expression of the COVID-19 virus has been twisted into being depicted as the ‘China virus.’ If it’s not obvious, this phrase paints a giant target on the backs of Asians. Like we’re the sole blame for the virus, when there are various factors to how this virus has spread within this country–not to mention the initial weak response to COVID-19. 

However, the history of Asian hate didn’t just stem from COVID-19, it’s always been here. Even as a kid, there’s this overarching feeling that you’re unwanted just for being Asian. I can’t even count the times where other kids at school would make slanted eyes at me and mimic my language with “ching-chong.” It made me feel ashamed for being Vietnamese. Even when I spoke English, I wore a t-shirt and jeans, and I tried my hardest to fit in–it would never be enough to satisfy everyone. It was only in recent years when I stopped trying to be white and embraced my ethnicity. But the playground scars and memories of growing up an Asian American will continue to eat away. 

With the blatant racism and the barrage of backhanded compliments, there’s an additional reality behind the pain of being an Asian woman. Although I’m not an expert on this, I’ve seen the effects of imperialism and western ideals that have planted their roots within Asian cultures–to the point where equality is out the window. The idea that the ‘ideal’ Asian woman has to be submissive is bullshit. The fetishization, sexualization, and marginalization of Asian women is just an example of the effects of a long-time history of deliberate sexism. 

Something I see frequently today that’s in direct relation to this atrocious history is ‘yellow fever.’ This disgusting agenda being pushed is an accepted reality due to the argument that it should be taken as a compliment. Well you know what? I think that’s bullshit too. The whole concept of ‘yellow fever’ just boils down to being another excuse to disrespect the Asian community. In addition to this, having an interest in cultures and having hobbies is one thing, but craving and fetishizing Asian people and justifying it with a fascination with anime and Kpop culture makes you ignorant–plain and simple.

Ignorance in general for Asian lives as of late has been rampant to the point that every single day, that ignorance turns to violence towards people that look like me. Just recently, an Asian woman was attacked in the streets of New York and the security guards who failed to intervene in the attack just looked at Vilma Kari and shut the doors. Amidst the surge of Anti-Asian attacks, there are still people who choose to ignore the reality behind it all. The negligence behind this will just only add fuel to the fire that is Asian hate. 

I don’t want anyone else to end up in news headlines. Asian lives shouldn’t be targeted so vehemently, the truth of it all is that it’s terrifying to be an Asian person living in the United States right now. But if this history of Asian hate continues and today’s headlines are an indication of what’s to come, I really don’t want to imagine how life will be like years from now. With that being said, it’s not just Asian lives that are marginalized and selected for hate crimes. But if your pro-Asian rhetoric involves anti-blackness or any type of discrimination–it’s not welcome in the AAPI community. #StopAsianHate 

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