Not a model minority, china doll, nor punching bag

By Amber Li, March 23, 2021

Every single day I’m terrified. I’m terrified for my family, for my friends and their families, for myself. I’m terrified of strangers on the street, of racist slurs and ignorance on social media, of police who justify and humanize hate crimes against people who look just like me.  

With the exuberant 150% increase in Anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States this past year, I’m terrified, and above all, I’m furious. I’m furious at how American society will never allow Asian Americans to simply be Americans. How we will always be “othered” by the media and by this society that loves to oppress people of color.  

I’m so tired of drowning in my family’s grief around the dinner table each night when we discuss the disgusting hate crimes against our grandparents, our parents and our siblings. I’m exhausted from being on high alert walking in public, terrified to trust that a stranger would just walk by peacefully. 

Justifying the murder of six Asian women and the brutal attacks of Asian elderly in broad daylight is undoubtedly racist and ignorant. Justifying and asking questions like: “But where are you really from?” and “Do you really eat dogs?” is unquestionably racist.  

“You’re in America, speak English.” For a country that has no official language, its citizens sure love to share how obtuse they are if they hear me, my family, or my friends speak in our native Cantonese. I can’t even speak my mother tongue fluently, and yet just knowing it is enough of an offense to convince them that I am not fully American.  

I do not have to prove my citizenship to anyone. I should not have to defend my culture. I’m infuriated at how society constantly appropriates my culture and degrades, fetishizes and exoticizes my people. America loves Asian culture, clothes, cuisine, but it sure as hell does not love Asian people.  

In recent times, ignorance has been weaponized and intertwined with hate. From “Wow, your English is very good,” to, “Go back to China and take your Kung Flu back with you.” From offensive words to senseless violence. 

Asian Americans are forced into the “model minority” stereotype, being depicted as quiet, obedient, hardworking, high-achieving and well-educated. Like many stereotypes, these forced traits are extremely dangerous and ignorant, homogenizing all Asian Americans into one perfectly oppressed group 

God forbid we start to protest and act against our stereotype otherwise we’ll be treated worse than other people of color are. The “model minority” suggests that we should be happy with our oppression, because, hey, at least we aren’t being treated with the outright and blatant institutional racism that Black Americans are being treated with, right?  

By pitting Asian Americans against Black Americans, our country is exacerbating racist stereotypes and enforcing Anti-Black hate, exploiting one group of minorities to dehumanize and antagonize the other.  

But what can I expect from a country that has been doing this to people of color and my family for generations. From the Chinese Exclusion Act, to Japanese internment camps, to U.S. occupation in the Philippines and Cambodia. Invading our countries, killing us and raping our cultures and people while simultaneously barring us from American society and treating us as less than. It doesn’t matter that Asia is the largest continent with 48 distinct and unique countries, because in America, you won’t matter unless you’re white. 

I’m frustrated that the government in these past four years has done nothing but inflame this bigotry to turn bitter and physical. I’m frustrated that our Congress and justice system would rather offer condolences than actually take proactive measures to prevent hate crimes and systemic injustices against minorities.  

If the American government won’t take action against these hate crimes, I sure as hell will. We should not have to endure racism in any form, whether that be violence, vandalism, ignorance, punchlines, or silence. I have no tolerance for racism, no matter what it looks like. 

People don’t get to decide whether their own actions and behaviors are racist. Those around them do. I will educate myself and others on how to hold racists accountable for their bigotry and ignorance. What will you do? 

Here are some resources to help take action against Anti-Asian violence:   

(According to a study done by the non-profit Stop AAPI Hate, almost 45% of these hate crimes in the past year were committed in California. Almost 22% of undergraduates at Cal Poly Pomona from 2020-2021 are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.) 

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