Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a significant uptick in crimes against Asians worldwide. Donald Trump‘s hostile rhetoric, calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus, ” magnified anti-Asian sentiments throughout America.
Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization documenting incidents of hate and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, recorded 3,795 cases since March 2020, including hate speech, vandalism, and physical assault.
Just last week, an Asian mother in New York City was spat on, an elderly Asian woman in San Francisco was punched from behind, and six Asian women in Atlanta were massacred by a gunman who blamed his “sexual addiction.”
The recent rampage points to the widespread anti-Asian racism plaguing the world and the sinister racial sexualization deeply intertwined with our communities. As a gay Asian man, I’ve faced discrimination and fetishization throughout my life, especially in navigating relationships with other gay men.
When I was on dating apps, racism surrounded me. From sexual position to body size, cruel jokes filled my inbox. From racial identity to language, my culture was brushed off and confused for another in almost every introduction. Swiping through profiles, headlines and descriptions read “no Asians,” leaving me confused and angered as to why such blatant intolerance was allowed on the platforms.
Racial insensitivities were often masked as compliments: “You’re attractive for an Asian,” “You speak English well,” and “You’re so articulate.” And I often felt treated like just another collectible–for men who would show me their entire Rolodex of Asian ex-boyfriends or those who wanted to check off their Asian or minority “box.”
Even after departing dating apps, unwanted sexual messages would find their way into my social media inboxes. From Instagram to LinkedIn, I’m reminded of my identity almost every day–fetishized and sexualized by my community.
The atrocities of this past year have cemented many thoughts on my race. No matter how diligently I followed the model minority myth sold to me, the racism I would endure has always been out of my control. Hard work and diligence would not shield me from inequity, and silence would only reinforce and amplify the vitriol.
We cannot ignore racism. From our offices to our homes, from our public spaces to online worlds, it has always been all around us.
The more we can acknowledge it, the sooner we can begin to take the steps needed to abolish prejudice in our actions, thoughts, and words and become more inclusive and equitable.
We cannot buy off racism either. Every victim’s donation fund is not an opportunity to absolve the guilt of not having done enough.
In the wake of violence and pain, we can leverage our solidarity to build long-lasting friendships and curious relationships to inquire how we can better show up for one another. Dialogue invites us into each other’s complex lives, dismantling reductive stereotypes, labels, and biases.
To my Asian family, I see you. The oscillating pain and numbness are both valid. Take this opportunity to vocalize your needs. Share your stories or take a rest– this time is for yourself. Give your body the attention and space it deserves.
To my allies, I invite you to create space, stand against racism, and offer ways of addressing systemic change without the need to be prompted. Put down the comedic punchlines that normalize biased ways of thinking. Reject the sexualization and racial fetishization of our Asian and other marginalized communities.
We all deserve to be individuals free of discrimination.
We all deserve to experience joy free of fear and retribution.
We all deserve to live and experience life unbounded by the limitations of others.
Together, we are stronger than racism. Stop Asian hate.
Steven Wakabayashi is a gay second-generation Japanese-Taiwanese-American, creating equitable mindfulness and design spaces in New York City. He is the host of Yellow Glitter, a podcast on mindfulness through the perspective of queer Asians, founder of QTBIPOC Design, and shares a weekly newsletter of his perspective on the world on Mindful Moments. You can find him on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook.