Asian American students talk about how to be an ally

In the wake of Asian American hate crimes rising, student advocates share their opinions about the effects it has had on the Asian American community


Photo illustration by Vanessa Tran / Times staff

Asian Americans face 68% verbal harassment, 20% shunning/ avoidance, 11% harassment, and 7% online harassment.

The Southeast Asian American Student Excellence club (SEAASE) held a panel over Zoom on March 26 to speak on the injustices on the community in response to the rise of hate crimes.

Jessica Li, Chris Fong Chew and Jennilynn Nguyen are activists currently working in the community. As Asian Americans themselves, they share the obstacles that they and many others face.

Asian Americans face 68% verbal harassment, 20% shunning/ avoidance, 11% harassment, and 7% online harassment. These were the statistics in a video shown to the audience that demonstrated the amount of hate crimes occurring in the Asian American community.

Li said that the most vulnerable of recent Asian American hate crimes are the elderly.

“Because of the language barrier, especially if they’re immigrants they don’t know how to report it,” said Li, “the elderly they’re an easier target, because not a lot of people expect the 76 year old grandma in Downtown San Francisco to beat the guy back.”

One thing that they all had in common was an opinion about the Model Minority myth.

“[The myth] was created by white people in power to make Asians the ideal racial minority. Which tells other minority groups that if asians can succeed so can you. This is incredibly harmful,” said Andrew Nguyen, the host of the panel.

“This narrative that Asians work hard, do well in school, and are abiding citizens, not only paints us as a monolithic; but denies and downplays the racism that other minorities face in the U.S.,” Nguyen said.

All panelists agree on the sentiment that Asian Americans are used as a scapegoat.

“We have been used as a wedge between the white people as well as the black, native american, and latinx community,” Li said. “This is a strategy to keep white people in power by saying to other communities ‘look asians can do so can you and if you are upset with us well they did it, they’re the ones to blame.’”

Something expressed by the panelist is not only the harm that the model minority has affected other races, but as well as how that backfires onto them.

“There’s racial gaslighting. Asians are successful and because of that we are free from oppression or racism and the truth is we’re not,” Chew said. “As much as we might have this perception of being wealthy, it forgets that there’s a big part of the Asian community that is struggling.”

Nguyen said, “With the model minority myth they say that asians are successful and that racism must not exist as well too, but it hurts us. They say that we’re educated, wealthy, hardworking, but disguise the truth that we’re treated like second class citizens in this country.”

One panelist explains how this myth has allowed for hate crime.

“Part of the model minority myth is that we’re quiet, submissive and docile. It paints our community as a community that is easy to target, that we won’t stand for ourselves or won’t fight back,” Chew said.

The three paneliest came to the conclusion that hate crime has to be recognized when seen and not allow the media to hide the truth behind those crimes. An example used in the discussion was the recent attack in Atlanta.

“Imagine for an instance that there were three Native American reservations that this white man went to and shot up Native Americans or three barber shops in a black community. Would we then say that it wasn’t a hate crime?” said Li.

The main point that the panelist brought up during each of these points is how others can help the Asian American community and to be an ally.

“Check in with your Asian family and friends and ask if they’re ok, they need support. Ask your city council members as we need more asian representation, support asian businesses,” said Nguyen.

Chew said, “The first step to being an ally is listening. Being able to understand and elevate the voices of those around you. Giving space to have dialogue to understand and learn. Then doing the work; getting out there, getting involved.”