Andrew Yang Is The Racially Insensitive Asian-American Black Folks Have Been Complaining About
I recently wrote an article that pointed to the recent surge in racial bias towards the Chinese-American community in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. It juxtaposed the current surge in animus towards them with the regular lived experiences of Black people in the United States. In my piece, I offered insight into the collective hesitation of many Black Americans to answer the call of unity with Chinese-Americans amid the recent attacks, while referencing the racial tone deafness (and, quite often, indifference) that Blacks are often met with when attempting to address racial issues with Chinese-Americans. I also challenged the entire Asian-American community to use this moment to take some self-inventory in order to better understand Black folks’ experiences in their relationships with them.
I was attacked for it.
What I found interesting about those attacks was that they came almost exclusively from Asian-Americans who took offense to the article, many of whom, hurled insults and impugned my character. Some of the responses even contained the very racism that I pointed out in the article, with one commenter arguing that Asians fear ‘white dick’ just as much as they do Blacks. Astoundingly, her response was offered with total sincerity, as if conversations on race concerning Black folks should obviously involve penises.
Conversely, the overwhelming majority of responses from Black readers contained enthusiastic agreement with many key points in the article (with simultaneous pushback against the likening of the anti-Asian sentiment to anti-Black sentiment), and an expressed gratitude and ‘relief’ that someone finally put into words what they have been ‘feeling for so long.’ Many also expressed a lack of empathy, citing regular Asian-American absence in the fight against anti-blackness.
One can easily understand, and even empathize with the heated reactions stemming from personal offense. So, to the entire Asian American community — I get it. However, most of the responses I received from Asian-American readers exhibited a noticeable lack of substantive counterarguments, with little to no focus on any of the details contained in the article. So, after researching the engagement stats on the article, it became very clear that most of the people ferociously pounding away at their keyboards never even read the article.
I had to ask myself, “Was what I said that offensive?” Were my words so stinging and ‘ignorant (as some stated),’ that most of my readers of Asian descent couldn’t even make it past the second paragraph? Was the picture I painted of Chinese and Chinese-Americans’ dismissive approach to racial bias that off?
And, then, Andrew Yang wrote an Op-ed.
In his piece, Yang suggests that in order to be accepted by American society, Asian-Americans must ‘prove themselves’ as less threatening by embracing their “American-ness.” He writes, “saying, “Don’t be racist towards Asians” won’t work,” but instead argues that Asian Americans need to wear red white and blue (yes, he actually said that), perform service to their neighbors, and “do everything in our power to accelerate the end of the crisis,” meaning the COVID-19 pandemic.
If that isn’t the most tone deaf and ignorant position on racism, then, I really don’t know what else to tell you.
Yang’s piece speaks to the racial indifference and insensitivity from many Asian-Americans that Black folks continue to reference; and while I would never suggest that he represents the entire Asian community, I do submit that he represents the harmful racial disposition that Black people have been calling out for decades in regard to the Asian-American community. The notion that a person’s racial identity should be subjected to a ‘worthiness test’ to determine whether they belong isn’t just insulting, but reflective of the character of those who subscribe to such ideologies.
Andrew Yang is a notable business owner, which leaves us to wonder if he carries the same race based ‘prove your worthiness’ purity metric into his business practices, and even hiring protocol. I can’t imagine him viewing his own community as needing to ‘prove themselves’ to the dominant American society, without also placing the same expectation upon the Black and Brown people he chooses to do business with. See where I’m going with this?
No person of color in our country should ever subject themselves to the humiliation of having to prove their worthiness to be respected as a human being. Andrew Yang is wrong for even suggesting it. It takes strength and courage to stand up to hate, and we have a moral duty to push back against it at every turn. Appeasement and acquiescence will never work. Therefore, until we get the guts to not only challenge racism head on, but answer for our own offenses to other races, we will never achieve our true potential.