The media has always been white-washed, as Caucasians are deemed the default ethnicity. The neutralization of whiteness sets people of color back, but we’re still fighting for a justified representation in the media.
Since the beginning of pop culture, Asians all over the world endure racist humor, fetishization, and cultural appropriation.
Asians take on the (involuntary) role as laughing stalks in the white media. It’s been normalized for us to be the butt of the joke, despite how racist and derogatory things can get.
The current pandemic originating from Wuhan is another excuse to reinforce the prejudice that the white media has on Asians. With the COVID-19 outbreak in the past year, we have seen around 3800 reported cases of hate crimes towards Asians.
From being ridiculed in the media to being physically or verbally assaulted in the streets, the xenophobia and micro-aggressions aimed towards the Asian community must end.
Misleading information and #fakenews in the media have built up to the polarised society we live in now. This article highlights the detrimental forms of micro-aggression and racist stereotypes made against the Asian community.
Asia is larger than just East Asia
Nearly two-thirds of the world live in Asia. India itself rakes almost 2 billion citizens, making up 17.7% of the world’s population.
The lack of representation of Asians in the media causes the western population to be misinformed about the continent of Asia.
Hollywood’s depiction of Asians mainly consists of East Asians, (such as Asians from countries like China, Japan, and Korea) subjecting them to most of the hate crimes in Western countries.
The media especially possesses a blindspot towards Muslim-Asians. South-Asian Muslims (from countries like Pakistan or Bangladesh) are one of the largest “minority” groups in England. However, we fail to see an accurate representation of them in the media.
As Asia is bigger than most assume, “Asians” are merely just an umbrella term for people of various colors, from various backgrounds, with various cultures, who all deserve equal representation.
The fetishization of Asian women
The Asian fetish is rooted in white sexual imperialism. Since the eras of Western soldiers colonizing Asian soil during the wars, they’ve felt a certain sense of dominance against Asian women.
The movie ‘Madame Butterfly’ portrays just that. It’s a story of an American Navy officer who falls in lust with a Japanese geisha. He then abandons her. She waits patiently for three whole years, only for him to arrive home with an American bride of his own.
The media continues to impose a subservient image of Asian women, portrayed to either be eager in their acts of servitude or possessing a submissive/hyper-sexualized nature.
This started with the first major Asian actress in Hollywood, Anna May Wong. She played the roles of a slave, sex worker, and criminals.
The imposed stereotype that Asian women possess sexual availability and an innocent but eagerness to please men provokes a perception of “exotic-ness” among Caucasian men, fuelling the continuation of fetishizing Asian women.
The “yellow fever” has always been an excuse of merely “just having a type.” However, the Atlanta shooting incident, where gunmen Robert Aaron Long killed 8 women, 6 of which were Asian, proves otherwise. His statement that he was “just getting rid of the temptation” of his sex addiction emphasizes that the hyper-sexualization of Asian women is more than just a matter of “preferences.”
The “Model Minority” myth
Heavily perpetuated by the white media, the “model minority” myth brings a lot of damage to the Asian community. The stereotypical role of Asians in films, such as Indians as I.T. experts and the Chinese naturally being math geniuses, contributes to this myth significantly.
This stereotype is detrimental towards the Asian community, as it brings additional pressure for them to excel at specific fields naturally. This also makes it psychologically harder for them to reach out for help due to these nonsensical stereotypes.
Mainstream media has also projected an image of East Asians as predominantly wealthy people.
This undermines the struggles of low-income Asian groups, such as those from the Philippines or Vietnam. Refugee groups from low-income countries could face a lack of resources and help/attention because of the stereotype that deems all Asians as wealthy.
This myth also stereotypes Asians as shy, quiet and submissive.
Stereotypes play a huge role in our psychology and the way we socialize ourselves. Pre-existing insecurities form in the Asian community due to these stereotypes. This could cause them to actually become less outspoken than their white peers because that’s the “expectation” of them in society.
The Asian American Journal of Psychology has conducted a study that concluded the White-Americans who endorse the model minority myth are more likely to exhibit xenophobia towards Asian-Americans, as well exhibit increased anti-Asian sentiments, proving that these stereotypes are in fact, racist.