Your jokes, which stem from the ignorance of a President who refers to COVID-19 as the "Kung Flu," are not funny. Your jokes about eating bats are not funny. Your jokes about staying away from Asian businesses, or even worse, Asian people, are not funny. Even if your Asian friend awkwardly chuckles when you tell it.
They are racist and insensitive.
As if Asian-Americans hadn't been through enough, we are being targeted, harassed, and assaulted amidst this global pandemic. This is fueled by xenophobic comments made by the President, the media, and if you're reading this article, most likely, you or someone you know. If you haven't seen the videos of Asians being attacked during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, it's because you are not looking.
I have found myself in a constant state of anxiety leaving my house. As a second-generation Asian American who is fully assimilated into American culture, speaks perfect English, and attends a predominantly white institution, I am terrified. I can't even begin to imagine how my immigrant parents are feeling.
The casual comments from passengers on public transportation about how "If that guy just hadn't eaten that bat, none of this would be happening." The long, glaring, silence of someone staring, which forces me to wonder, "Is it because I'm Asian? Do they think I did this?" The feeling that I can't leave my house without being judged for the shape of my eyes and the color of my skin. Sound familiar? I know I didn't do anything, but I also know what I look like to the world.
There are three things I want readers to take away from this article:
1. Understand the culture.
Asian culture is completely different from American culture. There are many types of Asians (Korean, Japanese, and Indian, to name a few). Not everyone is Chinese. If you don't understand it, read. If you don't want to read, then you have no right to speak on the issue.
2. Be an active ally.
Look out for the Asians around you. Not just me, and not just the ones who can speak perfect English. For example, I would imagine foreign exchange students are terrified of returning to campus because of the hate comments that they will undoubtedly receive from their American classmates. Stand up for them, even if it makes you look like you care. That's the point.
3. Read. Learn. Take accountability for your actions.
It's okay to make mistakes. It's okay if you've made racially insensitive jokes, or used racial slurs, or even made fun of someone's culture. Your mistakes do not define you. The important thing is to own up to them and continue to learn and grow. Life is short. Do you want to be the person that you are right now for the rest of your life?
You cannot call yourself an ally if you are contributing to the violence and hate towards the Asian community. And, for my Asians, you cannot expect people to stand for you if you do not stand for them. We have to support the Black Lives Matter movement, today and everyday - they need us now more than ever. Donate. Support black-owned businesses. Amplify their voices. Minority communities and those who consider themselves allies need to advocate for each other, because no one else will. We are stronger together.