Asian Matters

My wifey told me the Stop Asian Hate movement, or whatever you call it, is blowing up, and I should write about it this month. Is it blowing up? Are the woke digital hall monitors swapping black squares for yellow circles, at least until the George Floyd verdict? I check social media so infrequently my reality is different from most.

Facebook should offer a Switch Realities feature on the news feed. Every time you tap the toggle button, instead of languishing in the same echo chamber, all your friends are swapped for random users who opted into the feature as well. The privacy waivers would be messy, but sign me up King Zuck the Omniscient.

All I know is obviously limited to what my brain takes in: super friendly white neighbors and strangers in Orange County, Calif., The New York Times, CBS This Morning, CBS Evening News, Netflix, NBA on TNT.

You might find this offensive or betrayal of tribe, but I don’t have a strong opinion yet on the broader significance of the Atlanta spa shootings or reported uptick in anti-Asian racism. Sorry my mind doesn’t work that way. Emotion is meant to be felt. Logic is meant to be applied.

We had a running joke in marketing when trying to show incrementality about what can, in good conscience, be considered “stat sig.” Generally you can find and/or massage the data points needed to back up whatever you want to say, but that doesn’t mean it’s true or statistically significant.

Wide-ranging percentage increases in wrongs committed against Asian Americans are being tossed out like GameStop stock prices. I appreciate the attention for a glibly marginalized minority and a president who can express compassion. But I don’t know what to make of the perceived swell of COVID-related xenophobia yet.

No doubt Wuhan was short on Christmas cards from U.S. zip codes last year. Suppose, however, COVID never happened. I’m not so sure someone capable of ambushing an old lady today wasn’t going to do something heinous anyway, pandemic or Trump or Hillary.

And by the way, more than a few of these subhumans attacking elderly Asians were Black. If the goal is productive discourse about race… Do we want to go there, leftward echo chambers? It’s much less cumbersome to use Trump and white privilege as a catch-all reason and shoehorn something as nuanced as race in America into monolithic narratives. Yeah let’s save the inconvenient stuff for another hashtag.

Marky Mark Wahlberg was beating helpless Vietnamese men with sticks 30 years ago. If we had ubiquitous camera phones and addictive media platforms back then, I surmise there would be plenty of cases similar to the ones going viral now.

This one of a lady my mother’s age should evoke in you the same heartbroken rage the Floyd video did. I could easily work myself into a frenzy, imagining if it were my mom and then realizing it was somebody’s mom.

But you can find something like that every day. In a country this big, even a low baseline of crime will yield some awful stuff. I refuse to model my reality on which videos are fed to me and which emotions and biases they feed.

The guy who attacked this woman was homeless and on parole for stabbing his mother to death. Not to downplay very real anti-Asian racism or homogenize these incidents, but I don’t consider this vile assault a symptom of anything systemic or institutional or widespread.

There are sick and evil people. They are rare if you can pry yourself away from screens and look around (preferably not NYC or SF).

Increased awareness is beneficial for sure, especially for people like me whose empathy muscles are prone to atrophy living year after year in a bubble of privilege. I am just hesitant though to declare a crisis across large swaths of America and join the hand-wringing and chanting slogans. It wouldn’t be honest coming from me at this point.

Overall I believe if you zoom way out on the Twitter timeline — and think in larger time increments than the rabid minute-to-minute electronic hunt for dopamine — being Asian in America was better for me than it was for my parents, and it will be better for my son than it was for me. He’ll have his own challenges, like coming up with retorts to the inevitable coronavirus and Communist China remarks on the playground. But he also will grow up in an America with a ton more Asian representation and inspiration in politics, culture, entrepreneurship, sports, everything.

I had the same kind of anti-knee-jerk reaction to Charlottesville, Va., and don’t want to conveniently abandon the mindset just because we’re talking about my skin color now. Tough-to-watch videos do not signify the end of humanity. Good overwhelmingly outnumbers bad in the world in everything except attention.

Of course race is an ever-present thing. The Atlanta gunman said he acted out of a desire to eliminate temptation for his sex addiction, not racism. OK maybe he wasn’t thinking explicitly I hate Asians, but he doesn’t get to make the call to so neatly extricate race from pain. If he shot up a Black church and said he wasn’t racist, that he just hated religion, no one could accept that.

I am going to botch the correct sociological terminology, but with Asian women there is this sordid fetishization-sexualization-objectivization-submissive-stereotype-military-history-massage-parlor-happy-endings-me-so-horny-love-you-long-time component. Race was a part of what happened in Atlanta.

That said, I don’t know that it was a watershed moment in a crescendo of anti-Asian behavior in our country. I am zero percent scared to walk outside or for my parents in Plano, Texas, where they’ve lived for 32 years. Anyone with the capacity to blame a random Asian individual for a novel virus probably wasn’t too far from being a bigot before March 2020.

It’s not the worst thing for them to reveal themselves now and see what numbers they have. I’ll take the under.

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