How to make #StopAsianHate a reality

Let’s talk about violence against Asian-Americans. Again.

Didn’t we just do this? Yes, we did. Somehow just 2 weeks after my strongly worded open letter, a series of mass shootings perpetrated by a single person broke out at three different spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women.

And what is there to say except…are you fucking kidding me?!

It feels like someone read what I wrote and thought “Hey this Steve guy makes a lot of good points…so I’m going to do the exact opposite of what he wrote!”

FUCKING HELL!!

Alright, alright. Deep breaths Steve. In for 5 seconds. Out for 5 seconds.

And…breathe.

Okeydokey. I can’t believe I’m writing another one of these after I just wrote one a few weeks ago, but here we are. The reluctant sequel to my open letter written for everyone holding animosity against Asian-Americans.

Here we go.

Asian civilians did not cause the COVID-19 pandemic, nor do they have any power within the Communist Party of China

People are understandably upset with the Chinese government. I get it and I understand where that frustration is coming from.

Were they the first line of defense against COVID? Yes.

Did the virus manage to sneak past them and evolve into a pandemic? Also, yes.

Is it okay to take out that frustration on Asian civilians living in a completely different part of the world than the Chinese government? That’s a No.

This is a courtesy that we hope the rest of the world can grant to the United States as well. There’s a lot of things the US government has done that everyone else finds abhorrent. (Children in cages? Invading countries for oil?? Why are we throwing bombs everywhere?!?) When we go abroad, we would hope that other people wouldn’t take their frustrations out on us ordinary people right?

Let’s extend that same courtesy to everyone else.

After all, if you feel the urge to take out your frustrations on ordinary Asian folk living in the United States, but you don’t feel the same urge to assault random Americans, then you might not be as unbiased as you may think.

No, really.

The US Government knew since March 2015 that we were woefully unprepared for an outbreak like this. We had over four years between then and now to get ourselves ready. And what did the United States do? The 45th President decided instead to fire the US pandemic response team in 2018!

As if that weren’t bad enough, the US had months between when COVID first surfaced in China and when it slowly crept all 7,233 miles to the other side of the planet to prepare itself for the virus. What did President 45 do in response?

Nothing. Well…worse than nothing actually. He actively politicized the virus and downplayed its severity. Heck, he is the reason why around half the country still refuses to wear a mask even though all common sense says that wearing a physical barrier over your face will only help stop contagious diseases from spreading further!

If China can be considered to have “dropped the ball” in their COVID response, then the US can be considered to have picked up the ball, walked it to their own side of the field, and spiked it into their own goal while yelling “Praise Jesus” and bludgeoning the referee to a bloody pulp using a McDonald’s sign.

I’m not saying that legitimate complaints about the Chinese government do not exist. What I am saying is this…

We don’t attack random American civilians for the shortcomings of the US government though, do we? That’s because we instinctively know that American civilians are a separate entity from the government. That same logic should apply to Asians.

If you have the urge to attack Asians for the same reason then you might want to check your racial biases at the door.

After all, you know the most prominent example of people who fail to separate a nation from its civilians? The guys who fly this flag…

…and it feels like hyperbole to say that, but it’s not. We’re literally doing the same thing that the terrorists are doing when we take out our frustrations around a foreign nation on ordinary men and women.

We’re better than them, right?

Stop caricaturizing China because it fosters hatred toward undeserving Asian men and women

When I wrote my very first article talking about US politics back in 2018, I thought that it was going to be both the first and last one I would ever have to write because there was no possible way that the world was going to reach the level of “brokenness” that it is right now.

God, I was naïve back then.

I’m going to reiterate something I wrote back then which I still believe today, and that is to resist caricaturing people you disagree with. Including the Chinese government.

Around the same time that the Atlanta, Georgia shootings happened, this lovely post hit the front page of Reddit.

“…stay for the empathy” MY ASS!!

The comments section is equally lovely, with gems such as:

  • “[CONCENTRATION CAMPED]”
  • “[ORGANS REMOVED]”
  • “[COVID]”

Mind you, this post hit the front page of Reddit within 8 days of the shooting. 8 DAYS! Talk about an absolute fucking tasteless post.

Again, I’m not saying that there aren’t legitimate criticisms that can be said about the Chinese government. What I am saying is that drawing caricatures stifles legitimate political conversation and instead fosters hatred toward ordinary Asian men and women who don’t deserve it.

It’s in the same vein as referring to COVID as the “China virus” or the “Wuhan flu”. Sure, it’s a historically accurate fact that COVID originated in China. However, calling it the “China virus” blurs the distinction between…

  • People of Chinese descent (or any Asian descent since white folks can’t tell them apart)
  • The geopolitical region on Earth that we refer to as “China”
  • The Communist Party of China

The word “China” can correctly refer to any one of the above. Caricatures such as the Reddit one pictured above and the term “China virus”, however, lump all three of these into a single box and foster hated toward all of them. And that’s how you end up with people attacking random elderly folks in Chinatown, NYC because they can no longer tell the difference between Asian civilians and a fucking pathogen. It sounds crazy—because it totally is—but that’s how it starts.

No really, it’s actually been scientifically demonstrated. When researchers analyzed tweets corresponding to the week before and the week after Trump’s tweet with phrase, “Chinese Virus”, comparing week before to week after, there was significantly greater increase in anti-Asian hashtags associated with #chinesevirus. [1]

Or, as I so eloquently put it last time I spoke about this, using the term “China virus” is racist because it’s twice as long as using the term “COVID” and consumes twice as much oxygen to say out loud just to emphasize the part of the world the virus came from.

Be aware of the groups you are a part of because they influence your perception of reality

In a part of the story that literally sounds like satire, the sheriff spokesman offered this explanation for the shooter’s actions: “He was pretty much fed up and kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did.”

Really? The shooter just had a “bad day”? He was at the “end of his rope”? That’s when you know that truth is stranger than fiction…if you were watching a courtroom drama and the defendant’s lawyer started using this defense, you would wonder if you had accidentally bumped the remote and changed the channel to Comedy Central.

The plot thickened when people snooped the sheriff’s Facebook page and found, unsurprisingly, that he himself was racist. His social media page featured merchandise with the label “COVID 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA”. For a reminder of why this is racist, scroll back up about four or five paragraphs where I explained it.

That says a lot about the situation in Atlanta. When you see a racist sheriff defending, rather than condemning, the actions of an active shooter, it means he’s admiring a fellow racist for doing what he’s always wanted to do himself. And when out of all people the fucking sheriff is racist—you know, the one guy who’s supposed to serve as a paragon of justice—that speaks volumes as to how deeply the roots of racism have buried themselves into the environment.

And that begs the question…do individual people join racist groups because they themselves are racist to begin with? Or, do nonracist individuals join racist groups and then become racist as a product of their environment?

I believe it’s both, actually.

You have people who are inherently racist, who derive no benefit at all from their racist actions, and who actively go out of their way to hurt people just for the sake of hurting people. Nothing I’ve written is meant for them because no amount of well-reasoned arguments will ever get through to them.

And then, you have people who didn’t start off racist but learned to display such behavior as a product of their environment. As I’ve written before, the people you surround yourself with literally change your perception of reality on a subconscious level. Even when you don’t think it does. Here’s what I mean.

In a 2005 experiment conducted by Gregory Berns of Emory University[2], test subjects were asked a question similar to this one. See if you can get it right for yourself.

By the way, there’s no trick here. There’s no “gotcha” or anything like that. Are they the same shape? Here’s a hint: if the shape on the left were rotated 180 degrees, would it match up to the one on the right?

The answer is…of course they’re the same shape!

Stunningly though, almost half the people who participated in the experiment got this wrong.

Here’s why.

In the experiment, volunteers were shown two different objects on a computer screen and asked to decide whether the first object could be rotated to match the second, similar to what you saw above. When played alone, the volunteers were incorrect only 13.8 percent of the time. In other words, they got it right almost 100 percent of the time as you would expect.

But, when played with a group of other people—who were actually actors instructed to unanimously give the wrong answers—the amount of time that the volunteers got it wrong jumped dramatically to 41 percent!

Wait, why?!

Were the volunteers consciously giving the wrong answer to fit in with the group? Or, did the group’s opinion actually change the way they saw the shapes?

We know the answer, because the volunteers had MRI scans as they were doing the activity. The volunteers weren’t consciously trying to fit in with the group. They gave wrong answers because the group’s opinion changed their perception of reality!

That’s why the existence of racism at the systemic level has the capacity to breed racism in individuals.

That’s why the people you surround yourself with have the capacity to build you up or tear you down, as well.

You see, most living things have a biological drive to create. Men and women create by serving as productive members of society through their jobs, hobbies, or charitable pursuits. Birds create by building nests for their young. Even the single-celled organisms inside your gut create by maintaining a hospitable environment for your internal organs.

And then you have life that seeks only to destroy. To inflict pain and suffering on others. See racists, xenophobes, misogynists. See that person who voted for the 45th President of the United States saying, and I quote, “He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” (Huh, funny how every one of those examples are all human beings?)

There’s two key things I want you to take away here. First, be the type of person who seeks to create rather than destroy. And second, make sure you’re surrounding yourself with other people who also serve life by creating rather than destroying.

In fact, it’s better to stand alone in solidarity (at least for a little while) than it is to have social connections with people who hate other people. Think back to most of our favorite heroes. Spider-Man lost his Uncle Ben through his own rash actions and learned after standing on his own that “with great power comes great responsibility”. Batman separated from the League of Shadows after realizing they were little better than the criminals they fought. Luke Skywalker trained alone on Dagobah where he would be free of the “anger, fear, aggression” that might lead him to the Dark Side.

It’s far too easy to just “get sucked in” to hateful, racist, xenophobic behavior if you surround yourself with people displaying such behaviors or if you live in an environment that is itself hateful, racist, or xenophobic. You wouldn’t even notice it’s happening. You’d think that you would consciously recognize this mindset shift taking place inside your head, but the research shows that it doesn’t happen that way. Instead, what happens is that your very perception of reality becomes warped until you become a version of yourself that you wouldn’t recognize today.

That’s why I urge you to be aware of the groups that you are a part of. Because those life forms—the hateful, racist, xenophobic people in the world—reside on a plane of existence lower than the bacteria found inside of your colon.

Please stand with me in solidarity to make #StopAsianHate a reality

I knew that this was going to happen.

That’s why I wrote over. And over. And over. And over again in the months leading up to the Atlanta, Georgia shootings asking everyone to stand with me in solidarity. To beg anybody who would listen to help us and to be a part of the resistance against hate.

It’s not because I enjoy talking about politics on my blog. It’s not even because I want to talk about this stuff. It’s because I knew that we were in danger. It’s because every single Asian who’s ever been treated differently, or discriminated against, or been blamed for the “China virus” saw the writing on the wall and knew that this was coming.

So, please, I ask you to stand with me in solidarity. This isn’t a fight just for Asians. This isn’t even a fight for nonwhite, nonmale, non-straight, or non-Christian people. It’s a fight for ALL of us to stand together against the forces of hate that exist in the world.

Here’s a few ways you can help keep up the good fight:

  • Vote! Get educated in the elections happening around you—not just the big ones for President or whomever—but also the smaller, local ones and vote.
  • Donate to causes that you believe in.
  • Let the people around you know who you support and what you stand for.

I’m doing all three of the above, and I hope that you’ll join me.

Even if you can’t vote because of citizenship laws or whatever…even if you can’t afford to donate right now because times are tough…something as small as the conversations you have with the people around you create a ripple. Those ripples add up to something huge.

That’s how we’ll make #StopAsianHate a reality.

Sincerely,

Steven Zawila
(A proud Asian-American)


[1] Yulin Hswen, Xiang Xu, Anna Hing, Jared B. Hawkins, John S. Brownstein, and Gilbert C. Gee, 0:

Association of “#covid19” Versus “#chinesevirus” With Anti-Asian Sentiments on Twitter: March 9–23, 2020

American Journal of Public Health 0, e1_e9, https://doi.org/10.2105/AJPH.2021.306154

[2] Berns GS, Chappelow J, Zink CF, Pagnoni G, Martin-Skurski ME, Richards J. Neurobiological correlates of social conformity and independence during mental rotation. Biol Psychiatry. 2005 Aug 1;58(3):245-53. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2005.04.012. PMID: 15978553.

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