You Can’t Stan K-Pop Without Resisting Anti-Asian Racism
In March 2020, about a month after the South Korean film Parasite won four Oscars, including Best Picture – the first non-English language film to win the Academy’s highest honor – US states have started issuing lockdown orders for COVID-19. Soon after, we began to hear reports that Asians and Asian Americans across the United States had been beaten, spat, stabbed and attacked in a multitude of other ways.
Fast forward a year later, and shortly after the Korean American film Minari was nominated for six Academy Awards, six Asian women – including four of Korean descent – were shot in three Atlanta area spas. When South Korean actress Youn Yuh-jung, who won an Oscar for playing grandmother in Minari, announced to his family his intention to travel to the United States to attend the awards ceremony, his son, who lives in the United States, warns him not to come for fear of hurting himself.
This is the sad, strange and paradoxical reality in which we live today. Korean pop culture and creative works of the Korean diaspora (such as Minari) enjoy unprecedented global popularity, yet Korean Americans and other members of the Asian and Pacific Islander American (AAPI) community are being assaulted, harassed and murdered. Stories about NextShark, an Asian-American news site that has provided the most extensive coverage of anti-Asian violence throughout the pandemic, are tear guts and appalling. According to Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks hate incidents against members of the AAPI community, 6,603 anti-Asian hate incidents took place across the country between March 19, 2020 and March 31, 2021. And these are just the reported cases – many hate crimes go unreported.
How is it possible that when Asians finally start to be seen as “cool” and “hip” in the West, we are also being brutally attacked and even killed on a regular basis, often in broad daylight?
Unfortunately, there is no simple answer to this question. But America has long had a model of Asian scapegoats for its societal and economic ills, with white workers blaming the Chinese. for stealing their work and bringing diseases—Which led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 – to our own government which forcibly sent over 120,000 Japanese Americans to internment camps during World War II, to two white workers from the automobile, which would have been out of work in 1982 as Japanese automakers beat the Americans. companies, killing Vincent Chin, an American of Chinese descent, whom they mistook for Japanese.
When times get tough, it’s always easy to point the finger at someone else. And it’s even easier if that person doesn’t look like you and is someone you might think of as “foreign” and “different”. It’s even easier when your own political leaders feed those impulses by using terms like “Chinese virus” and “kung flu” in the midst of a global pandemic.
While the rise of Korean pop culture and the increase in Asian representation in Hollywood may change the way Asians are viewed by some people (especially the younger generations), there are still many more who remain. rooted in their sectarian mentality and continue to acquire racist tropes about Asians. . Centuries of misrepresentation, erasure and alteration of Asians in America have resulted in blatantly ignorant assumptions that persist today, such as the tendency to label anyone of East Asian or Southeast Asian descent. harmful stereotypes (including the fetishization of Asian women and the association of disease) and tired, xenophobic taunts like “Go back to China”. Anti-Asian racism has been normalized in this country for so long that many Americans to this day seem to think racism is okay if it is directed against Asians. Many also do not recognize AAPIs as a marginalized group due to the persistence of minority myth model, with a recent survey showing that around one in four white people do not see anti-asian racism as a problem. It will take a long time to undo those prejudices and misconceptions about AAPIs that have been deeply rooted in the collective American consciousness.
It’s also hard not to wonder if the globalization of Korean pop culture is causing anxiety and resentment in some Westerners – in the same way that Japan’s economic boom in the 1980s sparked anti-sentiment. Asian in the United States. The Korean wave, or Hallyu, which refers to the growing popularity of Korean culture across the world, has impacted the way of life and culture in almost every corner of the world. Of beauty products at games and e-sports at foodmusic TV, movie, fashionand wacky internet trends, the Korean wave has helped shape almost every major global cultural trend. Could some subconsciously fear that Western dominance in world culture is threatened by the ever-expanding Korean wave? Very probably. This may be one of the underlying reasons why American and German Radio personalities have hurled racist vitriol against K-pop superstars, BTS, for example.
For me, the escalation of anti-Asian violence over the past year has served as a wake-up call. I’ve found that it doesn’t matter how many Americans buy Korean products (the Atlanta spa shooter drove a Hyundai, for crying out loud), or how many ethnic Koreans can win awards prestigious on the international scene, there are still a lot of people. out there who tend to verbally harass or even physically hurt anyone who looks Asian. I have also seen cases in which people (like this 72 year old white woman who wrote to novelist RO Kwon) claim they enjoy Korean pop culture before they start spitting insidiously racist language at Koreans. Susan Lee, writer, tweeted that it’s possible that the obsession with K-dramas and K-pop has actually made some people more racist “because they think they ‘understand’ being Korean, so they pass themselves off as them. racist thoughts / tendencies. “
With the rise of anti-Asian sentiment, some Koreans living in the United States are return to South Korea. I have considered moving to South Korea several times over the past year, even though I was born in the United States and have lived most of my life here. While South Korea certainly has its own issues, at least I wouldn’t have to constantly worry about being attacked outside of my home just because of my looks.
I really hope I don’t have to pack my bags and go. I want to give my home country another chance. I want to believe that one day I – and many others who look like me – won’t have to walk the streets constantly looking over our shoulders. So I ask you all: defend the AAPI community. AAPIs make up only seven percent of America’s population, but with the help of our allies, we can collectively push for the changes we so desperately want to see.
If you’re not sure where to start, here are some suggestions:
- Examine your own biases. It’s entirely possible to love K-dramas and K-pop while still having racist views on Koreans and Asians in general. Don’t be like that white grandma mentioned above.
- Check in with your AAPI colleagues and friends. They may look OK on the outside, but trust me, a lot of us are suffering right now. Some of us may be hesitant to share how we really feel because we are used to thinking that no one else cares about us. So show the AAPIs in your life that you care.
- Learn about the history of the Asian United States, especially the history of anti-Asian racism in the United States. The PBS documentary Asian Americans and books like The making of Asian America by Erika Lee and The Chinese in America: A Narrative History by Iris Chang are great starting points.
- Donate to organizations like Golden house who are fighting to shatter the harmful stereotypes of Asians and Asian Americans in the media that have contributed to the current climate.
- Speak on behalf of the AAPI community. If you see someone of Asian descent being verbally or physically attacked, be an active bystander. Hollaback! useful offers spectator intervention training.
Remaining silent is not an option when many Asians and Asian Americans across the country are targeted every day.
Dismantling stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans will be a slow and painful process – a long, arduous journey that we should not have to take on our own. Korean culture and entertainment fans should be allies of the AAPI community – and no, blocking out a K-pop group or watching frenzied K-dramas doesn’t automatically make you an ally. Engage in at least the five actions listed above. I can’t stress the fifth point enough: please, if you see an Asian person being harassed or assaulted, stand up for them, just like you would stand up for your favorite K-pop artist from racist abuse on social media.
But don’t get up just because you like Korean culture or other Asian cultures. Do it because human lives should be valuedand because people of Asian descent – whether it’s your favorite K-pop singer or the average Asian person you see on the streets – deserve to live free from racism and violence.
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