There has been an appalling increase in violent incidents targeting vulnerable Asians in Vancouver and cities across North America…particularly Asian females and the elderly. Their fear is palpable. Spurred on by media reports focusing on China as the epicentre for the COVID 19 pandemic, fueled by negative stories blaming the Chinese for money laundering, corruption, rising real estate prices and the questionable detention of the “Two Michaels”, unstable individuals prey on those perceived as being weak. The hapless victims are viewed not as people but as tangible proxies to vent their irrational emotions.
Pop culture has almost always portrayed Asian women as being meek and submissive. Asian females have been hyper-sexualized and dehumanized while Asian men have been emasculated…in stark contrast to the depiction of the virile White and Black male. We’re considered physically non-threatening therefore when an Asian person is victimized the perpetrators feel they have little fear of retaliation. In a culture where fighting back is revered, we have historically served as society’s punching bag…the subservient “model minority”.
Seldom represented in politics, entertainment, business, religion, media and sports…we are almost invisible…blending into the background…always on the fringe where we’ve been conditioned to feel more comfortable. The few times Asians are seen is during cultural celebrations or cast in acting roles playing insignificant characters with funny accents. This only reinforces the notion that Asians are less Canadian or American. We silently acquiesce…satisfied to exist in lack lustre, uninspiring mediocrity. Because we’ve yet to shatter society’s glass ceiling, we’re regarded as foreigners in our own land. Those who try speaking out often have their opinions drowned out in a thunderous sea of Black and White voices. Others see themselves as so completely assimilated, they view their own heritage with disdain exposing a subconscious inferiority complex imprinted after a lifetime of bombardment by demeaning images.
Contrast this to the Black experience where their history is one of rebellion. Also viewed and treated as inferior, they fought back on the streets and the playing fields inspiring future generations to grasp the Black Pride torch with clenched fists. The Black Lives Matter movement is a direct by-product of the tumultuous relationship between Black and White societies. Their stereotypes are the polar opposites to that of Asians, to the point where many people feel varying degrees of intimidation and adulation.
If the coronavirus, money laundering, corruption, high real estate prices, and the arrest of the Michaels were attributed to Africans, it’s highly unlikely Black women and the elderly here would have been singled out. Because of their history of open defiance together with the influence of many powerful, high profile Black personalities, they are a vital thread in the cultural fabric of Americana. Through blood, sweat and fear they have carved out a seat in mainstream America’s communal table.
Not so for us Asians who linger pliantly beside the table taking orders, shuffling for scraps… hoping one day for an invitation. An abstract illusion that can be merely dismissed by a wave of a hand, or an unexpected push, punch or kick. Bruce Lee…c’mon down!