What do you think about the election?
So many words could be said. I of course, just like everybody else, am in shock, am disgusted, you know, whatever other expletive you want to use. But I’ve also become not surprised…it’s become numbing. Because you know how Trump behaves is how a lot of everyday people behave. A lot of people you’re friends with, your neighbors. Very good people are racist, homophobic, Islamophobic. It’s disgusting and visceral, but I also have to remind myself that this is nothing new either. I’m a little disappointed in the reaction, but at the same time I’m not. The fact that this was even a race, you know?
How have xenophobia and racism against Asian Americans manifested in this election?
So I definitely think that Islamophobia is one of the ways. I mean of course, Trump is talking about Islamophobia in terms of refugees from Syria. But many many Muslims live in Southeast Asia, especially Indonesia and Malaysia, and the fact that folks look at someone with a headscarf and think, “Wow, what a terrorist” or, “Their religion can’t be trusted” is really problematic in that you no longer have to be quiet about your racism. You can just say, “I support Trump,” and that’s code for, “I think people in headscarves are dangerous,” you know?
Given that these sentiments have always existed, do you think the Asian American response to xenophobia and racism has changed? Or not enough?
To be honest, I haven’t seen that much reaction in terms of Asian Americans specifically. I mean, they definitely responded to the Watters World segment on FOX, but I see little in terms of solidarity from the average Asian American, in terms of solidarity for Muslim folks, for Latinx folks. And I’ve seen institutionally Asian American organizations come out and condemn Trump, but it’s been a typical reaction. Asian Americans have had a…not tepid, but a safe reaction.
What would have to change to get Asian American folks more angry and mobilized?
I think that we should recognize the fact that AAPIs have done great work. Actually the Brown v. Board decision was based off of an earlier supreme court decision that was brought up by Chinese laundromat owners in San Francisco, and they fought for immense victories in Asian American communities, you know? There’s a whole history of radical AAPIs and an immense reaction to racism and xenophobia, but I guess right now there’s a lot of complacency going around. Our grandparents and ancestors have already done a lot of great work. Chinese miners are no longer being chased out of town, Japanese Americans are no longer placed in internment camps, Hawaiians are no longer outrightly have their land outrightly taken away. So it seems like the most ‘obvious’ forms of racism have already been eradicated or addressed, but I think what we need for more of a reaction is for AAPIs to recognize that more sinister, less obvious things are going on. Things like the model minority myth, things like the fact that we are used as a wedge against other people of color. If we can take the time to fully reflect on that, I think a lot of rage will come out.