Media Watch Race The World Inequality

It’s time we recognize the media’s role in perpetuating Asian hate

The Tempest Exclusive series Media Watch investigates and introspects on the intricacies of free speech around the world, right from The Tempest newsroom. 

It took another tragedy for Black Lives Matter to become mainstream, and the #StopAsianHate movement is no different. Despite the skyrocketing numbers of Asian-targeted attacks across the United States last year – there were 3,800 incidents – recognition that the Asian community is being targeted is only now landing headlines and receiving nightly news segments. 

Perhaps this coverage is too little, too late.

Of course, the Asian-targeted shootings in Georgia on Tuesday, March 16 deserved mass media coverage. But what about the 3,800 biased crimes Asian Americans had to endure in 2020? Those deserved just as much awareness and attention, but there are so many victims out there who have been ignored. 

This has been going on for too long. In February, a Chinese man was walking home in Manhattan’s Chinatown when someone sprang up from out of nowhere and stabbed him in the back. The victim, whose name has not been released, was in the hospital for more than two weeks before being discharged on Sunday, March 14. 

How has this perpetual fear affected the lives of Asian Americans daily? How have Asian-run businesses uniquely suffered because of COVID-blaming and the implications behind the term “Chinese Virus”? 

Asian Americans have faced a long history of discrimination in this country. From “yellow peril” to the myth of the model minority, racism is nothing new to them. The first wave of immigrants from Asia, particularly from China, faced brutal discrimination in America in almost every aspect of society. This culminated in the infamous Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which not only prohibited Chinese immigrants from entering the country but also forbade Chinese Americans from returning after visiting family still in the homeland. The “racial purity” desired by the government didn’t allow this act to be officially repealed until 1943, but Asian Americans had to endure even more government intervention on their rights before then. The Alien Land Laws prevented non-citizens from owning land, which particularly targeted Asian Americans since they were prohibited from earning their citizenship altogether.

 From entertainment to politics, recognizable Asian groups like BTS and Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) have spoken out about #StopAsianHate, but stereotypes persist. 

Plus, the lack of media coverage naming events like these as hate crimes and holding people accountable has allowed for such horrific events to persevere. I can’t help but wonder that if the news media had appropriately covered these events, would there be as much Asian hate today? Identifying these attacks as hate crimes could contribute to people understanding this as a major problem in America. 

The media has had a major hand in sensationalizing the hardships Asian communities have faced, as many people blamed Chinese Americans for the COVID-19 pandemic, including news outlets themselves. French newspaper Le Courrier gained notoriety when they published a January 26 article with the headline “Yellow Alert”. Even when the media seems to be trying to help the situation, sensationalism and ratings are always their priority. With the constant coverage of COVID-19 and the debate on whether or not the virus was released from a lab in Wuhan, China, sensationalism has only strengthened the racist fear of Asians. 

It didn’t help that former President Donald Trump had branded COVID-19 with terms like the “Chinese Virus” and “Kung-Flu”. His viscious rhetoric encouraged many people  to believed that Asian Americans spread the virus and therefore deserved hate, ridicule, and violence. 

It wasn’t until eight women were killed, six of them Asian, that the media started to address #StopAsianHate instead of the “Chinese Virus”. While many news outlets have condemned former President Donald Trump’s use of the phrase, the nonstop coverage of its political incorrectness has rooted itself in people’s heads–in a drastically negative way. After Robert Aaron Long, 21, open-fired on three Asian-owned massage parlors across the Atlanta, GA area, he told Cherokee County authorities that he had a sexual addiction and by murdering the targeted victims, he was eliminating his “temptation”. Considering that this is not the first case of Asian-targeted violence in America, many have analyzed this alleged motivation. 

“We’re perpetually foreigners, and that idea plays out with women as being oversexualized,” said Helen Kim Ho, founder of the Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice in an article from The Washington Post. “All of that had to have played out in this man’s own mind. In addition to the unspoken notion that Asian people are easy targets.” 

On the topic of perpetuating fear/hatred toward the Asian American community through sensationalism, John C Yang, president and executive director of AAJC, directly addressed the media’s role in all of this. “The media has a responsibility to […] lift up the stories of Asian Americans,” he said on an episode of Only in America, a podcast from the National Immigration Forum. “If they do that responsibility, we’ll start to see a different narrative about what Asian Americans are.”

Next month is May, Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month. While the conversation about #StopAsianHate should be a year-long discussion, it’s important to remember this message in May while these communities are hard at work to promote ending systemic racism in America. The media has the power to shape the news into how they want people to view events, people, and the world itself. So when they change their narratives to influence certain ethnic groups, particularly Asian Americans who have shouldered the blame for the world’s current problem, we can finally walk the path that ends Asian hate. 

To learn more about Asian hate and how to join the conversation, click here for guidance and resources from the Asian American Journalists Association

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