Asian in America

Casual to Deadly: Anti-Asian American Racism from Racism Review

Private Danny Chen dead from anti-Asian racism military JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club
Private Danny Chen dead from anti-Asian racism military JadeLuckClub Jade Luck Club

Private Danny Chen

“Why are Asian Americans disproportionately targeted for abuse?

A harmonic convergence of factors. There’s the perception — and in some cases, the reality — of the “nerd” stereotype. The trinity of social awkwardness, physical frailty and academic overachievement has always served as a magnet for bullies.

There’s the rising tide of animosity toward immigrants, particularly those from predominantly countries that are seen as emerging rivals of the United States, like China and India.

There’s the plain old fact that those who are “different” in obvious ways — appearance, name, faith, accent — are often the focus of unwanted attention in environments where fitting in is prized, like high school. Or the military.

And especially among immigrants and the children of immigrants, there’s the reality that cultural and familial expectations push them to submit to bullying rather than being “disruptive” or succumbing to “distraction.” from CNN

 

My Twitter friend @CalvinHyj had retweeted this from Racism Review. I have to say that after I read it, I couldn’t stop thinking about Private Danny Chen all day, and reading the article put a knot in my stomach. My husband just sent me this link to CNN by Jeff Yang:  Opinion: What the deaths of two soldiers say about anti-Asian bullying which gives further insight into this incident and another suicide from bullying to  Lance Corporal Harry Lew.

I grew up in a beach town in Southern California, with about a 9% Asian American population. Now, I live in a suburb of Boston, and again — deliberately — with about a 9% Asian population. Yet, I still experienced a few incidences of racism — in 7th grade someone called me a Jap. This probably coincided with studying WWII but I can’t really remember.  When I came to Boston in the late 1980s, I remember going to the Boston Public Library and a black kid yelled racial slurs at me. My boyfriend at the time was with me. He is also Asian American but from Queens and commuted to NYC every day for school. This was child’s play for him and it didn’t even phase him. I was angry but passive.

These days, I do not experience racism, and so this article really stunned me.

How about you? What do you make of this article and how does this fit into your world? Would you discourage your child from entering the military in general? How about after reading this article. Please share.

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By Jessie

From casual to pandering to deadly, there have been several disturbing reports about anti-Asian American racism in the news. In the more casual forms of racism, it seems that the whole using someone’s name as a way to retrieve an order at fast food places has gone horribly awry. About a month ago a Chick-Fil-A cashier at a store in Irvine, California assigned racist names to two customers and even typed them into the printed receipts (images here). And, just in the past few days, a woman went into a Papa John’s pizza chain in New York City and got called a racist name on her receipt (see that receipt here). Here’s an idea – maybe we could just go back to the “we’ll call your number when your order is ready?” system.

AngryAsianGrrlMN sums this up well when she writes:

This is the kind of casual racism that isn’t talked about, but that Asian people deal with on a regular basis.  We are the invisible minority, and we rarely get the kind of attention that other minorities do.

I’ll just state the obvious here and point out that these incidents didn’t happen in the distant past or some rural backwater, but in supposedly tolerant, cosmopolitan urban areas in the present, putatively post-racial era.

The pandering form of anti-Asian American racism is coming through, not surprisingly, the presidential campaign. John Huntsman, Republican candidate and former Ambassador to China, is fluent in Mandarin and, rather remarkably, spoke Chinese during the Republican presidential debate recently.  Huntsman and his wife have also adopted children from China and India.  All this “foreign-ness” has proven too tempting for some of his political opponents who are using these facts to pander to peoples’ racism and xenophobia.  As AngryAsianMan notes:

“It’s an election year, so you know what time it is. Racist campaign ads! This latest gem is from someone claiming to be a Ron Paul supporter, attacking Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman for his un-American” values. … Here we go with another round of equating China with all things evil. Complete with an extra Oriental soundtrack — never has Mandarin made to sound so sinister. [This video] is one of the most unabashedly racist attack ads we’ve seen in a while.

The ad asks whether Huntsman’s values are “American” values or Chinese?  And, then rather sinisterly photoshops Huntsman into a portrait of Chinese leader Mao Zedong while thoroughly mixing the fear-mongering metaphors and comparing him to the “Manchurian Candidate.” This kind of strategy is what some people refer to as “dog whistle racism,” in other words, political campaigning  that uses coded words and themes that appeal to conscious or unconscious racist concepts and frames. For example, the terms ‘welfare queen,’ ’states’ rights,’ ‘Islamic terrorist,’ ‘uppity,’ and ‘illegal alien’ all activate racist concepts that already exist within a broader white racial frame.

Among the most disturbing news are the details that are emerging surrounding the death of Private Danny Chen in October, 2011. Chen, 19, grew up in New York City’s Chinatown, and is thought to have committed suicide in Afghanistan after enduring racial taunts and bullying (although some now question whether it was suicide at all). A group of his superiors allegedly tormented Chen on an almost daily basis over the course of about six weeks in Afghanistan last fall. They singled him out, their only Chinese-American soldier, and spit racial slurs at him: “gook,” “chink,” “dragon lady.” They forced him to do sprints while carrying a sandbag. They ordered him to crawl along gravel-covered ground while they flung rocks at him. And one day, when his unit was assembling a tent, he was forced to wear a green hard-hat and shout out instructions to his fellow soldiers in Chinese.ethnic slurs. At other times, they forced him to do push-ups or hang upside down with his mouth full of water.

New York Magazine has an extensive piece about Chen’s experience, including his letters home from the military.  Here’s some of what he wrote to his parents:

“Everyone knows me because I just noticed, I’m the only chinese guy in the platoon,” he wrote home. His fellow recruits called him Chen Chen, Jackie Chan, and Ling Ling. But, he added, “Don’t worry, no one picks on me … I’m the skinniest guy and weigh the least here but … people respect me for not quitting.”

Four weeks later, the Asian jokes hadn’t stopped. “They ask if I’m from China like a few times day,” he wrote. “They also call out my name (chen) in a goat like voice sometimes for no reason. No idea how it started but now it’s just best to ignore it. I still respond though to amuse them. People crack jokes about Chinese people all the time, I’m running out of jokes to come back at them.”

The eight men later charged in connection with his death are all white and range in age from 24 to 35; they include one lieutenant, two staff sergeants, three sergeants, and two specialists. Danny’s parents, of course, are inconsolable at the loss of their only son.

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