At a press conference in Queens, Evelyn Yang, wife of New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, slams a New York Daily cartoon depicting her husband as a tourist.
“It’s not funny. It’s racist. It’s toxic,” she said, almost in tears. “It’s very hard to explain this to our children”. She also cites that it “perpetuates the trope of the Asian foreigner.” The original cartoon supposedly depicted Yang’s eyes as slits, receiving a modification for the final publication.
Evelyn later said in a statement on twitter:
“I can’t believe my eyes. To publish this racist disfiguration of @AndrewYang as a tourist, in NYC where I was born, where Andrew has lived for 25 years, where our boys were born, where 16% of us are Asian and anti-Asian hate is up 900%. #StopAsianHate.”
With the COVID-19 pandemic tracing its origins in Wuhan, a rise in anti-Asian sentiment has taken root not just in the US, but also in Australia as well. Last year, one Chinese-Australian family home was vandalized with the message “COVID-19 China die”. According to the Guardian, a landmark survey of 1,040 respondents found that 18% of Chinese Australians were threatened or attacked in 2020. 31% said that they had been called racial slurs due to their Chinese heritage, and 37% reported having been treated differently or less favourably due to their background.
However, Dr. Jennifer Hsu of the Lowy Institute, an international policy think tank in Sydney, mentioned that China and Australia’s strained relationship may have also spurred anti-Asian racism as “a response to the Chinese Communist party seeking to influence or interfere with Australian politics”.
The targeting of Yang is reminiscent of another incident regarding Asian-American NBA star Jeremy Lin back in 2012. An ESPN article entitled “A chink in the armour” was published on their mobile app, sparking condemnation. Although the writer who inserted the phrase was eventually fired, it reveals the often casual nature of Asian racism. The difficulty with this societal culture, however, is that it is easy to write off racism as being without mal intent. And, as some may argue, is it really racism if there is no harmful intention?
The Conversation notes that anti-Asian racism is almost invisible due to the ‘model minority myth’: the stereotype that all Asians are intelligent, hard-working, and economically prosperous. These seemingly positive traits are said to disguise many issues such as prejudice, poverty, labour abuse, and psychological needs—even further, they propound the idea of the ‘other’, a collective mass separate from the general.
Hence, even if a racist remark is not directly pernicious towards the recipient, in a large scale disaster such as COVID-19 where people are isolated, vulnerable, and ready to blame, it is not a far stretch to see unconscious racism spark into open hostility.
“Andrew Yang’s Wife Chokes up over ‘Racist’ New York Daily News Cartoon.” n.d. The Daily Wire. Accessed July 3, 2021. https://www.dailywire.com/news/andrew-yangs-wife-chokes-up-over-racist-new-york-daily-news-cartoon.
Fang, Jason, Samuel Yang, and Bang Xiao. 2020. “‘It’s Just Evil’: Racist Vandals Target Chinese-Australian Family’s Home, Rock Thrown through Window.” ABC News. April 22, 2020. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-04-22/racist-coronavirus-graffiti-sprayed-on-family-home-in-melbourne/12170162.
“Nearly One in Five Chinese-Australians Threatened or Attacked in Past Year, Survey Finds.” 2021. The Guardian. March 2, 2021. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2021/mar/03/nearly-one-in-five-chinese-australians-threatened-or-attacked-in-past-year-survey-finds.
Lee-An, Jiyoung, and Xiaobei Chen. n.d. “The Model Minority Myth Hides the Racist and Sexist Violence Experienced by Asian Women.” The Conversation. https://theconversation.com/the-model-minority-myth-hides-the-racist-and-sexist-violence-experienced-by-asian-women-157667.