Written by Ethan Jiao
Ever since the inception of COVID-19, people have found ways to perpetrate xenophobic hate against Chinese people all around the world. Many Asians have been attacked or discriminated against by individuals calling the coronavirus the “China virus,” assaulting Asians or even murdering them.
The fact is, racism against Asian Americans has been around for well over a century. During the late 1800s, the Chinese Exclusion Act and the banning of Chinese laborers by the United States government fostered a negative sentiment toward Asians. Later, during World War II, the U.S. federal government established internment camps for approximately 120,000 Japanese Americans — most of them U.S. citizens.
Since 2020, Asians and Pacific Islanders have been blamed for the pandemic and suffered greatly. On March 18, 2021, a shooter opened fire at an Atlanta spa, killing eight victims, six of them being Asian.
The list goes on and on.
Sometimes it is easy to fall into the category of being racially insensitive, which simply means being unaware of the implications of insulting or inappropriate words, although your intentions might be harmless. However, insensitivity can turn into racism if one refuses to learn or educate themselves about certain racial issues and still keeps making those same mistakes, claiming ignorance.
I remember when I first came to the United States from Hong Kong, I received many racial comments such as, “Do you eat dog?” and “Ching Chong.” I never thought that in such a diverse country people would fail to acknowledge that racial slurs should not be made anytime to anyone. Then I realized most people were never educated on the topic of racial insensitivity. Children grow up making squinty eyes or telling the Indian kids that they stink. Even adults make assumptions and statements such as, “Oh, you must be good at the violin.” Or, they ask, “Can you translate that for me?”
I am sorry to disappoint, but the only instrument I play is the calculator.
All jokes aside, some of these assumptions may have some truth. But in reality, we are all the same. Culturally, Asians seem to be hardworking, academically talented and successful. And, it seems Asians generally have it all put-together. But Asians are just like any other group of human beings. Some of us are better at academics, some are not. Some of us are more privileged, and others not so much. The problem here is making the false generalization that if a part of something is true, then everything else must be true as well.
If we try to think about everyone as normal human beings, many situations can be eliminated by not making false assumptions based on racial profiles. I still get mistaken as Korean now and then. Just because there are many Koreans on this campus does not mean that anyone that looks East Asian is Korean. The same goes with last names — I am not limited to Kim, Lee or Chan. Although those names are common, it does not apply to every single Asian you may encounter. Of course, I am sure many people do not have the ill-intent to be offensive or inappropriate. But it is crucial to keep in mind that in many cases, people can appear racially insensitive.
Being racially insensitive is a big problem that has been heavily overlooked. Many people make the excuse that they were not aware, and therefore are not responsible for their actions. I think everyone has a job to rethink their presumptions about people they encounter.
Being racially insensitive does not only apply to Asians but every other race as well. People have suffered enough just because of the lack of awareness, and it should not continue to be an overlooked problem affecting future generations.
So, are you racially insensitive?