The mainstream mass media coverage of the current anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States during the Sinophobic 2nd Cold War perpetuates 3 major myths which have contributed to their continuation.
Myth #1 – Anti-Asian hate crimes are a legacy of Trumpism
The first myth is to link the current anti-Asian hate crimes to the racist policy of white supremacy under the Trump administration. Surely, Trumpism has contributed to the rise of anti-Asian attacks in the last few years, since Trump had equated COVID-19 virus as the “Chinese virus” and popularized the racist slogan of “kung flu” (as Trump ignited what I had predicted as the “2nd Cold War” in my article titled “Why the Coronavirus Pandemic is Accelerating the Remaking of World Order in the 2nd Cold War,” published in April 2020).
But this myth contains some truth but not the whole truth, since the Left wing of the political spectrum (not just the Right wing) has also contributed to the current wave, and a good example concerns President Joseph Biden’s domestic and foreign policies.
In regard to domestic policies, Biden had so far given all his 15 “cabinet” positions to whites, blacks, Latinos, men, and women—but not a single Asian American was nominated for being a secretary of any of these 15 executive departments. Two Democratic senators (Senator Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, and Senator Tammy Duckworth, D-ILL) had openly criticized his racial bias and threatened to stop supporting him on the Senate floor. And when Biden emerged from a recent meeting (in March, 2021) with AAPI civil rights groups about their concern with anti-Asian hate crimes, he only gave a very brief (symbolic) condemnation of the attacks but went on to give a lengthy speech about his other policies not related to the topic, which gave the impression that he was not really concerned with anti-Asian hate crimes (in spite of his White House initiatives).
In regard to foreign policies, President Biden fired up his anti-China rhetoric (like “The Chinese are going to eat our lunch,” “President Xi does not have a democratic — with a small ‘d’– bone in his body,” etc.). Also, in the first Sino-U.S. meeting for the Biden administration in Alaska (in March, 2021), his Secretary of State Antony Blinken had worsen Sino-U.S. relations to a low point with harsh rhetoric, which put the Chinese counterpart on the defensive and led the latter to give a 16-minute speech condemning the U.S. hypocrisy as an imperial power weak on human rights abroad and inflicted with racism (against blacks and Asians) at home itself. And his U.S. Trade Representative, Katherine Tai, herself an Asian American, was chosen for her deliberate “anti-China” rhetoric.
But anti-China rhetoric (by both the Left wing and the Right wing of the political spectrum) is not benign but has violent social consequences at home. In March 2021, an anti-Asian attacker drove his car into a moving crowd in Los Angeles (during an anti-Asian violence rally) while repeatedly yelling: “F*** China.” And also in March, a Seattle church was targeted with anti-Asian messages: “F*** China.”
Myth #2 – Anti-Asian hate crimes reflect white racism
The second myth is to link the current anti-Asian hate crimes to white racism in American history. Surely, the U.S. has a long history of white racism against Asians. Just remember the annexation of Hawaii (after overthrowing the Hawaiian monarchy), the occupation of Pacific islands (like Guam, Midway, American Samoa, Howard and Baker Islands, Jarvis Island, and others), the Chinese Exclusion Acts, the Japanese American Internment Camps, imperial racism (in the Philippine-American War, the Korean War and then the Vietnam War, with the notorious racial slurs like “f****** gooks” and later “f****** chinks”), and Trump’s “kung flu.”
But this myth contains some truth but not the whole truth, since “many” (not “all”) current anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. were committed by blacks (against Asians), not by whites (against Asians). These black attackers targeted vulnerable groups like Asian elders and women in many cases (but also against middle-aged Asian men in some cases). This also brings back the painful memory of the 1992 Los Angeles “race riots” (after a group of white police officers were not convicted for beating black motorist Rodney King), in which there was also a wave of black attacks on Asian (mostly Korean) businesses.
Blaming too much on white racism ignores the rising tide of what I originally proposed and predicted as “reverse racism” and “reverse sexism” (by minorities against others) long ago in my 2002 book titled “The Future of Capitalism and Democracy” and my 2004 book titled “Beyond Democracy to Post-Democracy.” But the mainstream mass media in the U.S. have continued to ignore this political incorrectness, thereby perpetuating hate crimes.
Myth #3 – Anti-Asian hate crimes victimize Asians
The third myth is to link the current anti-Asian hate crimes to their negative impact on Asian victims. Of course, it is horrific to watch all these unprovoked attacks on mostly Asian elders and women on the street, so the attackers have to be brought to justice.
But this myth contains some truth but not the whole truth, since there are individual, social, and cultural factors which have contributed to these attacks. Consider three illustrations below.
First, many (not all) Asian victims living in Asian communities and elsewhere (especially among those in the older generation) do not speak and understand English well, but this becomes a serious problem for legal prosecution, because the victims did not understand (or could not repeat) the racial slurs uttered at them during these attacks, and therefore the attackers could not be charged for “hate crimes.”
Second, many (not all) Asian victims living in Asian communities and elsewhere have little or no knowledge of American philosophy, sociology, jurisprudence, politics, or anthropology, but this becomes a serious problem for legal prosecution, because many Asian victims were afraid to “talk to police,” refused to “file charges against the attackers” (which then left police officers with little choice but to release the arrested attackers from police custody in some cases), or did not bother with “litigations” and “lawsuits” against racist institutions or organizations. In an ABC-KSAT 12 news report (in March 2021), “hate incidents against Asians are happening,” but “victims are not reporting them,” to the extent that the total cases are officially under-reported and that many reported cases often do not end with desired results.
Third, many (not all) Asian victims living in Asian communities and elsewhere do not vocally participate in “American politics” and do not actively contribute to “culture wars” which have touched the heart and soul of American society and culture over the decades; in so doing, they “isolate” themselves (in business) and “do not belong” to the larger political society and culture. This becomes a serious problem for legal prosecution, because many (not all) Asian victims have no major socio-political forces (allies) that can put pressure on the justice system to defend them. By contrast, this could not happen, on average, to Jewish and black communities nowadays, because they are well-connected with major socio-political forces, after having been well submerged into American political fights over the decades; just think how much the death of one black man (George Floyd) had stirred up the entire American society in the summer of 2020 (but the same cannot be said about the death of one Asian — already at least 10 of them — in the current anti-Asian attacks).
These three unspoken factors have contributed to the “negative stereotype” that many Asian Americans are “weak,” “do not fight back,” and “do not belong” (with their focus on business, but not on American civil society, political society, and political culture), so bullying, harassing, or attacking them is often perceived (by racist attackers) as having no major legal and political consequences, because many (not all) Asians have isolated themselves (in business), have not spoken out and fought hard in the American political and cultural spheres over the decades, and therefore have no major socio-political allies to defend them. Of course, a stereotype, by definition, is just a generalization, since it does not reflect all members in a group. But the point here is that many Asian Americans have something to learn from Jewish and black Americans, who, on average, have spoken out much more loudly and fought much more forcefully to pursue their civil and political rights over the decades. To be “silent,” “passive,” and “a-political” is not a “viable” option for a small minority in America, and the current anti-Asian attacks are a “brutal wake-up call” to Asian Americans.
In sociology and anthropology, the power of myths has been used by different social strata to lay blame on others for problems which are still unresolved. Myths can be highly comforting but do not resolve the deep roots of acute social problems.
In the present context, all races (whites, blacks, and Asians) in the U.S. are responsible for the current wave of anti-Asian hate crimes (for reasons already explained above). But the “risk” in a crisis also has its “opportunity”: Can all races in the U.S. work together long enough to make a more united, stronger America by overcoming “racism” and “reverse-racism”? Future history will tell to what extent this is a wishful thinking, or, alternatively, a visionary inspiration.