Sinophobia and the aftershocks of trump

I try to take my news in a few days after, but for those of you who don’t know, in my country, there have been thousands of attacks on persons of Asian descent, and one of the most recent attacks was a mass shooting in the city of Atlanta, GA, in which six Asian-American women were killed. This is not necessarily new; what is new is that there are so many of them in such a short period of time.

Trump called coronavirus “the Chinese virus,” as if it were invented in China with the intent to harm. Coronavirus exists everywhere; this mutation emerged in China, but was no Chinese invention. Am I blaming him for his role in every single one of these racist attacks? Absolutely. He’s a racist, and he’s been baiting his chumps with anti-Asian rhetoric since his presidential campaign.

Of course, you can’t bait someone to do something they wouldn’t otherwise be willing to do. Sinophobia, and Asianophobia in general, have been endemic to the American population for centuries. Racism is a problem, but what is particular to racism against Asians is a pervasive belief that they’re not Americans, or that they are here illegitimately somehow, or that they are permanent visitors in a country they’re born in.

Asians in America and Asian-Americans may feel that they’re walking around with targets on their backs nowadays, and that’s not an overreaction, because they’re not even safe in big cities where we tend to see less of this thing. If Asian-Americans are not safe, then Americans are not safe. If visitors to this country are not safe, then no one is safe.

What is particularly disturbing is to be reminded that many Americans still fetishize and objectify female Asian bodies, that they are objects of desire and subjugation to be manipulated like dolls. I remember meeting quite a few guys who specifically got jobs teaching ESL in Korea because of their attraction or fetish for Asian women, figuring they could increase their chances of getting one if they were immersed in the community. And the thing is, they were pretty nonchalant about it. It wasn’t even talking about like their culture or even really so much the way they looked, but gross stuff, like their perceived passivity and perceived (wished-for) desire to be swept off their feet by a man of European descent. I guess they confused Asian women not flat out pushing them to the ground and stomping on their balls as a desire to be swept off their feet, because many of them were quite surprised to find out that Korean women are not pushovers, and that in fact, they approach dating seriously and don’t morph into doormats. Many of them were surprised to find out that Korean women were on to them well before they shot their shot, well before they even approached the court, and wouldn’t even entertain and awkward conversation in broken Korean. Not that there were no relationships; I knew a few men married to Korean women or engaged to them, but those men weren’t coming home to housewives fetching their pipe and slippers and making their dinner. But mostly, the men who went to Asia with the hope of purchasing for themselves an Asian dolly were quite surprised to find out that Korean women are actually people, just like the white and black women those men had turned their backs on for being too inaccessible and too unyielding.

It’s always been there, you know. As a culture, we have always looked at Asians as some form of foreign invader, no matter their ties to America. They could be born here, fight wars for this country, marry here, pay taxes here, have and raise their children here, salute this flag, celebrate the 4th of July, call themselves an American, celebrate our normative holidays, and do everything we think an American should do, and for some reason, cannot believe they’re Americans.

I was 19 the first time I heard an Asian with a Southern drawl, and we looked at her, and she looked at us, and the look on her face said everything. Of course, we were visiting a rather rural area of South Carolina from New York, and it was all a little more Southern than we expected. I mean, people asking us if we need help in a store, then hearing our Northern accents, then ignoring us. People asking us why we don’t have New York accents, or why we talk TV. We weren’t sophisticated either; I didn’t know too many Asian people at that age. I knew a few, and their families owned and operated the Chinese restaurants in town, or their fathers were immigrants who came to practice medicine here. Most of what I knew about Asians was from media, and it didn’t occur to me that they would venture away from the coast or below the Mason-Dixon line, and if they actually did that, it never occurred to me that they could assimilate in fairly common ways, like speaking the language the way other locals do. It’s just not how they’re portrayed: when you don’t meet a lot of people of Asian descent, you learn about them from television and movies, in television and movies, they are always foreign, even when they’re here because it’s not geography that’s the issue but Otherness, and typically, they’re foreigners in one of two camps 1) they’re here to destroy Americans or 2) they’re sitting around waiting to be rescued by Americans.

In the case in Atlanta, the shooter decided on the prior before killing these women. I can’t help but wonder if that was because he felt #2 was correct before he projected his guilt onto them.

So when I wrote earlier about this Aquarius energy being about who belongs, and who is part of us, I also wrote that we have very different ideas about who is part of us. In my country, there are two separate realities, and in one of those realities, the us — the “real” Americans — is a very elite group of people poised to pounce at a moment’s notice in the name of the increasingly ineffable freedom. Then, there’s the other half, and frankly, I’m actually starting to wonder who, in our reality, we consider to be part of us, because if I can simply ignore the news because it doesn’t make me feel good, then who do I consider to be part of us, in deed and in action, despite whatever I say in word?

I can’t fix anyone else.

I noticed though how the world doesn’t seem to stop quite the way it does when six people get murdered somewhere in America for some cockamamie reason akin to wanting to curb your own sexual appetite.

I can’t help but think that if Trump didn’t say it was essentially okay if he would have just taken to hiding in the shadows of the Internet, his own imagination, and then eventually had become an ESL teacher in Korea, or China, to figure out how to get his kicks legally.

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