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Yellow Peril: Why it’s damaging

By Laura Jost

Hi! My name is Laura and I’ll be a rising senior at Crescent Valley this upcoming year. As a person born under the one child policy in China and later adopted, my sense of self was altered after coming to the United States. I was raised by parents who looked very different than myself and after spending nearly my whole life in Idaho with little Asian cultural influence, my identity became more and more confusing. From a genetic background, I ought to submerge myself in mandarin, the lunar calendar and hold some Confucious based values. However, from a cultural standpoint, I grew up with English, McDonalds and a biased educational system.

Growing up with predominantly white peers, there would often be the stereotype of the “smart” Asian who played piano, violin and had no social life. I would get comments about if I knew who my “real” parents were and questions about assignments and homework solely based on the perception that “Asians are smart and hardworking”. People would often call me “ling-ling” or ask if I could see well enough to drive. Many times, I would joke along with it so people wouldn’t call me “too sensitive”. From teachers, many times they assumed I understood the material and as a result, I was left confused and questioning why I didn’t get it because I was Asian and because of that I ought to.

In light of the Black Lives Matter movement, I’ve realized that these microaggressions, discrimination based on stereotypes, and flat out racist comments are detrimental not only to my own perception of who I am, but by accepting them and joking along with them, I perpetuate and accept racism towards other Asians. This isn’t just my story. 

Historically since the late 19th century, Chinese immigrants were discriminated against for working predominantly on the transcontinental railroad and were blamed for “taking away jobs”. Sounds familiar. Fast forward to WWII, and Japanese internment camps destroyed communities due to the irrational fear of spies and sabotage. Even today, with the novel coronavirus, Chinese are attacked with labels calling them bioterrorists and our own president labeling the virus as “Kung Flu”. However, the discrimination of one ethnicity, can have impacts that are not just limited to themselves. This is especially prevalent when observing the “model minority” myth which only furthers the wedge between races. In America, this myth draws from the pattern that Asian Americans tend to have higher incomes, and be more successful than the average person. However, these trends can also belittle and ignore the plight of other BIPOC’s struggles, in a way saying, “Asians are doing so well in society even though they are a minority, why aren’t you” and therefore disregarding the subtleties in the system, perpetuating ignorance and deeping racial divides. 

My own experiences and sense of self are in many ways tied to the stereotypes of my race and the acts upon them. Being cognizant of the extensive history of minorities’ struggles in America in regards to success and fulfilling the “American Dream” is key in fighting against discrimnation and being directly anti-racist. Especially today, listening to those around you from all sides and perspectives, I think, is how we can create a more equitable nation and value our communities.

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