Tag Archives: #stopasianhate

Racial Inequity Impacts Older Asian Americans

The impact of racial inequity on the lives of elderly Asian Americans has been rudely brought to our attention by the attacks on Asian elders. AARP is hosting several initiatives in an effort to stop Asian hate and advocate for the elders that reflect its promise to protect and serve older Americans of all colors.

 In a webinar on May 6, an AARP panel, #StopAsianHate: Advocating for Our Elders, called attention to the ways individuals, organizations and communities of color can advocate for AAPI elders as they face fallout from the pandemic, racism and ageism. The discussion tackled stereotypes and how to provide support.

Key AAPI organizations discussed policy and planning of racial equity and communications, to bring visibility to their work  supporting elders and to provide information on resources.

 “You can’t legislate racism away,”  said John Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC), pointing out that federal advocacy, though critical, cannot replace educating the public. He urged that a war of words, language and beliefs, hate has to be fought in the classrooms of life. 

Videos of black violence on Asians have been given currency in an attempt to deflect the issue, he added. Viral stories of other communities of color attacking Asian Americans are circulating on social media, when in reality less than 5 percent of the attackers are African American, said Yang.

With better understanding comes better appreciation of the community, and that helps build bridges between different groups, Yang explained. “We must stand together in our fight against hate of all kinds.”

One approach would be to pay tribute to and commemorate the many contributions that generations of Asian American and Pacific Islanders have made to American history, society and culture. Yang suggested that schools could highlight the contribution of Asian Americans in the history of  country.  Images from World War II and railroad workers should not feature only white Americans. Pictures of Asian Americans who helped build this nation alongside other Americans should be shared in classrooms. 

The common thread that runs through history is that the American Asians are perpetual foreigners in their own country.

“No matter how long you have been in the US you are seen as a foreigner. Any time you have a threat in the US, and here there is Covid19 threat or real geopolitical tension against the Chinese government, the backlash happens against Asian Americans. What is different this time however is, the elderly and women are disproportionately being attacked as they are being perceived as vulnerable,” said Yang.

Asian American hate, though systemic throughout American history, has taken new meaning in the wake of the Covid 19 virus and the license to hate given by the previous administration.

“AARP strongly condemns all racially motivated violence and harassment,” stated Nancy McPherson, AARP California State Director. “We must come together as a community to empower and uplift one another, especially during these trying times. This May, let us recognize and celebrate Asian and Pacific Islander Americans’ integral contributions to the United States’ past, presence and future.”

Edna Kane-Williams, Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, AARP, stated that AARP unequivocally stands in support of AAPI.

AARP is making sure that it is a megaphone for this message.”This is not a time for organizations to stand silently along the sidelines hoping that people get the message. We really have to be active allies and not passive allies. This is not a benign event that is happening. It is malicious. It is  malignant and it really must stop. We must signal our support of the AAPI community and our absolute rejection of what is happening in no uncertain terms,” she said.

“We have to signal our support for the AAPI community and absolute rejection of what is happening. Most importantly we hope everyone leaves this webinar with an idea of what each one of us can do individually. Each one of us must step up.”

Panelists urged the public to step up to support the AAPI community with suitable words and deeds. Words are important and carefully crafted words can damage the cause and exacerbate tensions against the community. Small gestures of kindness to an elderly AAPI neighbor for instance a bunch of flowers on Fathers Day will go a long way, said Yang. 

“Let us all commit to stopping AAPI hate by taking three actions: Learn about how detrimental the ‘model minority myth’ is to AAPIs; shatter the ‘perpetual foreigner’ image of AAPIs; and reach out and support your AAPI friends, neighbors, and colleagues,” said Daphne Kwok, Vice President Diversity Equity & Inclusion, Asian American & Pacific Islander Audience Strategy.


Ritu Marwah is an award-winning author whose story Jinnah’s Daughter, featured in the New York Times’s Express Tribune blog, exemplifies her deep interest and understanding of history and the place of people in it.

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash


 

Fair and Lovely Billboard in Bangladesh (Image by Adam Jones and under Creative Commons License 2.0)

From BLM to Colorism: Racism Rears Its Head in Many Forms

In 2018, when Prince Harry married Meghan Markle, the world watched with awe. The event was a royal departure from the expected for Markle, an American actress. But since then much water has flown under the bridge. The interview given by Harry and Markle to American talk show hostess Oprah Winfrey in March fired up the disturbing issue of racism. Both the guests revealed on the show that the royal family expressed concern over the skin color of their son Archie, leaving shocks and gasps in its trail across the globe. 

I have always admired Serena Williams for her sheer strength. Williams, married to Alexis Ohanian, also went through the same ordeal. The tennis queen faced barbs over the skin color of her unborn child at the time of pregnancy. She also penned a letter to her mother on how she faced criticism over skin color and body shape.

The ugliest side of racism shook us all when we heard about the tragic death of 46-year-old George Floyd. The incident received widespread criticism across the world over the way African-Americans are treated in the US and lent much-needed support to the Black Lives Matter movement. As a mark of protest, Bollywood celebrities expressed their solidarity with the movement. Actor Kareena Kapoor Khan went a step ahead by posting on Instagram All Lives Matter, which also received a fair amount of flak.

In Toni Morrison’s novel The Bluest Eye, published in 1970, the author highlighted how African-Americans are treated solely based on their skin color through the character of an African-American girl, Pecola Breedlove. Pecola also desires blue eyes as an end to her troubles in life, a fact that has been deeply embedded in our young minds through fairy tales where princesses are always fair and beautiful. Dolls for baby girls invariably have blond curls and blue eyes. 

L to R top: Amarjit Kaur Sekhon, Jaswinder Kaur; L to R bottom: Amarjeet Kaur, Jaswinder Singh (Image from Indica News)
Those affected in the shootings in Indiana. L to R top: Amarjit Kaur Sekhon, Jaswinder Kaur; L to R bottom: Amarjeet Kaur, Jaswinder Singh (Image from Indica News)

However, it is not just the African-Americans who are often at the receiving end, but Asians too. Last month, the brutal killing of four Sikhs in Indiana has sent shockwaves across the community. Sikhs are among the most targeted groups in the US, according to The Sikh Coalition. An article states, “Since 9/11, dozens of Sikhs have been assaulted because of their appearance, often by perpetrators with white nationalist beliefs.”

The ghastly incident, which took place on April 15, rapidly gained solidarity movements providing much-needed comfort in times of racial discrimination. A week later, 10,000 people gathered in a virtual vigil and the message given was Stand Together in Solidarity. The reminder was that America is a multiracial country. Grassroots organization They See Blue, founded in 2018 to advance South Asian engagement, has also come out in solidarity and demanded a full investigation into the incident. 

Colonialism has helped foster the belief in white supremacy. Little doubt then that in India, a British colony for over 200 years, fair skin is still desirable. Unfortunately, women are judged more for their skin color than men. 

Back in school, many students made fun of a fellow classmate because of her dark skin color. I remember once during an excursion, a male student remarked that as he is a man, it does not matter that he is dark but for women, it matters. The notion that women have to be more desirable is problematic in itself, and skin color is one of the yardsticks to measure a woman’s beauty.

A 2018 study by Itisha Nagar mentioned that fair-skinned attractive people received higher ratings than dark-skinned attractive ones based on profiles shown for marriage. The study also says that Asian immigrants in the West desire lighter skin tone. It is believed that fair-skinned women draw better husbands, a fact amplified by matrimonial ads where the majority wants submissive homely bahus (brides) with fair skin.

In 2018, I went on an assignment to the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. In a small village shop, I found sachets of a popular fairness cream which has now changed its name by removing the word fair. All the ads for this product had the same recurring theme: a dejected dark-skinned girl on the verge of despair suddenly achieving success in life by becoming fair after applying the cream. 

But things are changing. The BBC reported how matrimony site Shaadi.com was forced to remove skin filters after major backlash. More such steps are welcome. 

The Dark is Beautiful Campaign was also launched to reinforce the idea of a beauty that is different than the standard accepted one. It has been supported by actresses like Nandita Das and Tanishtha Chatterjee. Even Chennai-based photographer Naresh Nil has depicted images of gods and goddesses as dark-skinned. His Shiva and Sita are dark instead of being fair and white. 

Bollywood has also come of age. In the movie Bala, Latika Trivedi, played by Bhumi Pednekar, is finally accepted for being dark even though her Instagram pictures are all airbrushed at the request of her aunt. I hope that with such campaigns, discrimination based on race and color finally ends…


Deepanwita Gita Niyogi is a freelance journalist based in New Delhi