Are Chinese people racist against blacks?

"The series of murders against Asian women did not surprise me"

The American lawyer and activist Andy Kang can look back on a long history of racism against the "slanting eyes" in the USA. Covid-19 and Trump's xenophobic remarks have exacerbated the situation.

On March 16, eight people were shot dead in three massage parlors in the Atlanta area. Six of them were Asian American women who worked there. Apparently the perpetrator was a man who had regularly used sexual services in the salons and was plagued by a bad conscience. The women were a temptation for him that had to be eliminated.

As an Asian you are branded twice

For many Americans of Asian descent, the series of murders was the culmination of a whole series of acts of violence. In the past year in particular in New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Oakland such attacks - sometimes verbal, often physical - had increased. In initial statements, the police stated that it was not a racially motivated crime in Atlanta because the perpetrator saw mainly women in his victims and not primarily Asian women. This point of view met with criticism in many places. Commentators pointed out that Asian women are often sexualized and viewed as prostitutes and thus experienced such contempt.

"In this case - as is so often the case - sexism and racism mix," says Andy Kang. The 43-year-old lawyer is the director of the Asian Americans Advancing Justice organization in Chicago. «You shouldn't play the two forms of discrimination against each other. It's not an either-or. Asian women in America often experience double stereotyping. "

Kang says the series of murders didn't surprise him. With Covid-19, violence against Asians has also increased. On the one hand, this has to do with former President Donald Trump, who kept talking about the “China virus” and “Kung Flu” (“Kung flu”); On the other hand, there has been repeated violence against Asians in Europe, who were blamed for the outbreak of the pandemic. But in contrast to other countries, Trump did not oppose such generalizations, on the contrary, he still fired them.

Impact of international crises on the Asian-Americans

However, Kang points to a long history of resentment against Asians in the USA: “It began with the construction of the railroad on the west coast around 1860, when the Chinese were perceived as undesirable competition on the labor market. In 1882 the United States passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was supposed to prevent Chinese workers from immigrating. " Pearl Harbor later sparked a new wave of anti-Asian emotions, followed by the Korean and Vietnam wars.

Usually there was hardly any distinction between different ethnic groups. In general terms, one spoke of the "yellow danger" or the "slit eyes". In connection with Mao and Chinese communism, the demonization of the Asians received new food, and later the rise of Japan to an economic power caused aggression. Kang mentions the Chin case: in 1982, Vincent Chin of Chinese origin was beaten to death in Detroit. The two perpetrators thought he was Japanese; they attacked him because they blamed Japanese competition for the decline of the American auto industry. The two killers got away with a fine and a suspended sentence.

In the recent past, the trade war with China has provided new explosives, which, according to Kang, the Chinese are also feeling the effects of in the USA.

Especially old people as victims

What is particularly disturbing is that the victims of the current attacks are often elderly. In New York, for example, a 61-year-old Filipino was injured with a box knife on a train, and in Los Angeles an old man was beaten with his own walking stick at a bus stop. The case of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, known in the neighborhood as “Thai Grandpa”, attracted the most attention. In January it was knocked over so badly in San Francisco that the man who was recovering from heart surgery died as a result of the fall. Numerous celebrities drew attention to the case on social networks.

According to a Washington Post report, an 89-year-old was slapped in the face last summer; then the perpetrator set fire to her blouse. Initially, the woman did not want to cooperate with the police. But after a police officer from the special unit contacted her in Cantonese, she spoke out more openly. Thanks to her information, the perpetrator could be arrested. Perhaps this is a calculation of the perpetrators: They assume that older Asians - and Asian women even more - often hardly speak English, live in isolation in their own community and do not file a complaint. In some cities the police are trying to counteract this tendency by sending special Asian units with appropriate language skills to the relevant quarters.

Andy Kang has an aunt of his own who was attacked in broad daylight in Los Angeles. “The perpetrators want to spread fear,” he says. “The best way to do this is to target the most vulnerable people. It takes more courage to take action against a young, strong guy. "

The question of the ghettos

In the course of American history there has also been a recurring tension between Afro-Americans and people of Asian origin. But Kang thinks that these conflicts within the population should not be overestimated. It is normal that minorities, who are often all struggling somehow for survival, also have struggles over scarce resources. He has the impression that in the course of the “Black Lives Matter” protests the sensitivity among Asians to the situation of blacks has also increased. Ultimately, both population groups suffered from similar discrimination. "Unfortunately, the idea of ​​superiority is still deeply anchored in some whites," he says. "For them, all non-whites are foreigners, no matter how long they have lived here, and they don't really belong to America."

In Chicago there are Polish or Mexican districts, an Indian-Pakistani street, Chinatown, “Little Saigon” and a Korean quarter. Does that promote integration, or does it tend to hinder it? "It can be a launch pad for newcomers," says Kang. “For example, a lot of Rohingya and other immigrants from Burma have been coming here recently. It helps them if they can first find themselves in a familiar environment and form a network. Of course there is a risk of ghettoization. In an ideal world where all immigrants were welcome, there was no need to do so. But in today's situation one is often dependent on the help of compatriots. "

Despite everything, Kang is optimistic. “My father came to Chicago from South Korea in 1958 at the age of 18 to attend an American college. It was the post-Korean War period and a lot of ignorance and aggression met him. Most of what was said to his face back then is no longer uttered today. "