ASST. CAMPUS LIFE EDITOR
Recently I’ve noticed a trend of people saying that Asian people are not “people of color” and should be considered “white.” I think this stems from the idea that some people view Asian people as the “model minority.” This is the idea that certain minorities, usually in reference to Asian Americans, do better academically, socioeconomically, etc., than other minorities, and that other minorities should use them as a model to do better. This is problematic in and of itself, as it pits minorities against each other when we should all be working together. But regardless of whether Asian people have more privilege or not, privilege does not equate to whiteness.
Nathan Lam from the Asian Student Association explained it as “they [asian people] might seem white compared to that, but they’re not white. It’s just a different history, so I can see how people get tricked into thinking that sometimes but they’re [asian people] definitely not white.” White only applies to people that are non-hispanic, and of european decent. A “person of color” is anyone that is not white regardless of privilege or behavior. Asian people, or any other people of color, for that matter, should not have to talk about how they have been marginalized in order to prove that they are not white.
On that note, while we should not even have to prove our place as minorities, Asian people have experienced racism in the past and continue to experience racism now. My mother was an immigrant who came to California in the late 1960s. While she was not treated as badly as some minorities at the time, she still experienced terrible racism. When asked about some of her experiences, she recounted one particularly haunting story: “I had a friend whose dad was racist; she even told us that he was. Every Time we’d go over to her house, he would be inside glaring out the window. We often went swimming in her pool while he glared, but he would drain the pool every single time we were done swimming because, in his eyes, our skin color meant that we were dirty.” This happened when she was a 1970s teenager in Cerritos, Calif., an area with a heavy Asian population.
One of the most well-known instances of racism against Asian people were the Japanese internment camps during World War II. From 1942 — 1945 although the last internment camp didn’t close until 1946, around 120,000 American citizens of Japanese descent were taken from their homes and put into these camps. The government knew that almost all of the Japanese-Americans did not pose a threat, but John DeWitt an army general that was in charge of the West Coast at the time explained, “A J—p’s a J—p. They are a dangerous element, whether loyal or not.” The 1944 court case, Korematsu v. United States, regarding the constitutional legality surrounding these internment camps ultimately ruled that the Japanese internment Camps were constitutional. Certain documents during the case were suppressed. These documents were from the Office of Naval Intelligence, stating there was no evidence that Japanese-Americans were acting as spies or sending signals to enemy submarines. While it isn’t widely talked about, Asian people still experience racism in the 21st century. This past summer, Harvard University went under scrutiny when they were sued by the Students for Fair Admissions. The action group analyzed around 160,000 Harvard applications that were submitted between 2000 and 2015. The results showed that Asian applicants were given lower scores on certain “personality traits,” such as likability, courage, kindness and being widely respected. This is racial bias and discrimination.
Amanda Lane, of the Asian Student Association said, “I think the racism against Asian-Americans comes through microaggressions more than it does through more obvious things. People don’t lynch Japanese people, but through microaggressions of being like ‘all Asian food stinks’ or things like that where people are saying those things with an underlying tone of ‘I know that this is going to hurt you because this is something that’s important to you,’ and they don’t realize that food is a really important part of a culture, and even just to say that a part of their culture isn’t accepted in America.” People aren’t always as aware of racism and microaggressions towards Asian people. As I have stated in a previous article for the QC, Alohomora:unlocking the themes behind J.K. Rowling’s fake diversity, “There have been sixteen films including actors in yellowface that came out between 2005 and 2015.” Even one film would be terrible, but the sixteen films in only ten years went through an extensive editing process (that requires the approval of hundreds of people along the way), and still got away with including yellow face.
This past Halloween, I was at a party and noticed a guy dressed up as a “rice farmer” in a conical straw hat and a chinese hanfu, or robe, with Japanese characters on it. This past summer, someone very close to me called me a racial slur without a hint of sarcasm,in his voice (not that that would have helped.) People make fun of “Asian” accents without being called out all the time, and if they are, they play it off as a joke and tell us to stop being uptight. My mother explained that she “feels like people like Asian culture, but they don’t like Asian people. They like our food, our travel destinations, our style, our video games, etc. But they don’t like us as people.”
Logan Paul, a well-known YouTuber, made headlines this past summer when he filmed a dead body in the Japanese “suicide forest.” That video was highly inappropriate for any culture, but especially in Japan, where respect is everything and suicide is even more a taboo than it is here. But something that almost nobody talked about, was what Logan Paul did in his Japan vlogs before. He dressed up in Pikachu kigurumis, or onesies; threw Pokéballs at random people walking by (including a policeman), harassed bystanders in a fish market, (where American tourists have previously been banned for obnoxious behavior), and even said, “I swear, Tokyo is just a giant playground.” While I would love to say this is just a product of him being a socially unaware person, and it is, it’s also a reflection of how many people view Asia. Many Americans view Japan, and other Asian countries, as bright, colorful lands with cartoon characters instead of human beings. Deep down, one of the reasons they think it’s acceptable to make fun of our accents and dress up in bastardizations of our traditional clothing is because they don’t see us as real people.
Andrew Gallegos of the Asian Student Association explained, “I think it’s just that people need to be more open-minded and willing to try different things rather than kind of just shutting it all out and saying, ‘well, I’m not familiar with this, so I’m not even gonna try it.’” He backs this up by continuing, “and I think that definitely comes across with food, cause I know people who are like ‘Oh well, I’m not going there because I dont know whats on the menu I dont know whats in their stuff’ and the way that they say it – you can tell that it’s not just because they want a list of ingredients, it’s a little deeper than that.” While that wouldn’t seem to apply to people seeing us as cartoon characters, it is. People want to see Asians as one thing, despite the fact that there are 48 countries in Asia. Within each country there are so many diverse and beautiful personalities, but only what they want to see us on a surface level.
We’re all so diverse, even within our respective cultures and we’re so much more than the surface-level stereotypes. I’ve been told countless times, “You don’t act very Asian” to which I reply “What do Asian people act like?” I do act Asian, simply because I am Asian. ‘Asian’ isn’t a personality. Grouping every Asian person into a stereotype shows that people only want surface-level stereotypes and don’t care enough to dig deeper and see us all as complex unique human beings.
That is why it is ridiculous for people to say that we don’t deserve to be people of color. Although we don’t experience nearly as much racism as other minorities, but we shouldn’t be competing. We aren’t white and we’ve been marginalized; shouldn’t that be enough? So, instead of being rivals, why don’t we work together to empower each other as people of color?