The Media and Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

Erlan Benedis- Grab

New York City has the largest population of Asian people of any city. It always had ethnic enclaves, as many Chinese settled during the turn of the century. But now Asians from all over make up over a million New Yorkers.  However, race in America is never serene. At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, last year hate crimes have risen against Asians by 150% even though there was an overall decrease. In New York, they rose by 833%. 


Initially, the problem seems to be the Coronavirus. It originated from China and as a result, is associated with Asia. The anger is built towards the Asians who are easy scapegoats against a systemic problem. But the real culprit, the catalyst, is the Media. Consumed by their chauvinist worldview, Asian people are feeling the real repercussions of this. 


The ideas of the Yellow peril are back with a vengeance. Western media churns out sinophobic

hit pieces designed to fan the fuel of Racism. 100 years ago, it was depictions of the Chinese as bloodthirsty anti-colonial savages who threatened the Western order. Today it comes from a less overtly racist standpoint, but a xenophobic one nonetheless. It portrays China as a powerful but unfeeling and malignant force, which is incompatible with Western values. 

These posters designed to fearmonger are incredibly ironic. Why does China have a mask, despite having just 4,386 deaths compared to America’s 985,000? China has over 4 times as many people! Why is China reaching into Taiwan as if it is a forgein invader? The modern Taiwanese population is not indegious, but rather refugees from Chiang Kai Shek’s failed state. Hardly an invasion, unlike the genocidal campaigns against the Native Americans. Where is the American eagle snatching Iraq, Iran, Libya, Vietnam, Serbia and South America? Why is China a dragon facing up to us? For we contributed and benefited to the Imperialist century of humiliation that killed tens of millions, yet we are the victims? Why is China depicted as a dystopian society when Edward Snowden was persecuted & threatened with death, for revealing the U.S. government spying on its own citizens? What happened to people who faced the U.S. state today and now? Are we taught about the children killed  in the MOVE bombing, FBI assassinations of Fred Hampton and peresections of other panthers? 


Firstly, creating conspiracy theories about organ harvesting, coronavirus, etc to attack China domestically. Every day newspapers remind us of the Yellow menace: “It came from a secret Lab, what else might they be making,” “the Muslim Minorities are under attack, they are just like the Nazis,” The Government watches your every move.” This move was first made by fringe reactionary newspapers, but just as quickly by “respectable” newspapers. When Imperialism rears its ugly head, its media will goose step in line.


Secondly, criticizing the Communist Party of China as an external threat. “China controls WHO, China controls the UN, we must stop China from controlling us,” said Marsha Blackburn, a senator from Tennessee. But it’s not just far-right propaganda spewing this nonsense. The Washington Post, owned by one of America’s most voracious capitalists, follows suit. Responding to China criticizing mass shootings against Asians, democrat Stephaine Murphy responded,  “it is part of a broader strategy that the Chinese Communist Party is enacting to undermine our democracy.” As if American “democracy” has prevented institutional racism against minorities. 


But it’s the government that they are criticizing, not the people they say. The reality is it’s not that simple. American liberals love to sing songs of the “American” identity and racial harmony. “We are all American after all,” every conceivable chapter in American history rejects this notion. The average American is a benighted geographer, lacking basic analysis of history and culture of different countries. So when they see these things in the Media it reinforces their existing bias, with nothing else to do they begin to hate the people. 


Remember Iraq? The whole generation of the 1980’s was conditioned to hate Arabs. They had seen the “terror” of the Iranian hostage siege and they were no stranger to interventions throughout the middle east. When 2003 came around, their beliefs were reinforced. “SADDAM’S WMDS” Bush and his Axis of Evil cried, and the media goosteped in line. In fact 93% of MSM coverage during the time was pro-invasion. And so hate crimes against Arabs spiked, Mosques were wiretapped and America had an enemy to justify more profit. 


The hate towards Asians is the same. Their pawpaw bombed Vietnam they already have racist bias. Now they’re ready to explode all across America , even in NYC. But it’s also different, unlike Arabs and African-Americans, Asians are not seen as dangerous and violent but rather cunning and emotionless. It’s in part due to the economic success of Asian-Americans, but can also be attributed to portrayal in media such as techno-orientalism. Sci-Fi genres often use this trope of highly developed but robotic depiction of Asian culture. This setting of cities in movies like Blade Runner & Ghost in the Shell (the white one) are electrifying, but grimy and ruthless, specifically Asian coded. These movies even use explicitly asian figures on billboards and holograms to depict this dystopian environment. Even in Big Hero 6 the asian version of San Francisco is futuristic and awe-inspiring yet its inhabitants are sleazy and conniving. Moreover, is the portrayal of Asians themselves these cyborgs who are emotionless and subservient such as in Cloud Atlas & Ex Machina. This narrative is especially appalling to Asian women which this trope runs around, This not only reinforces the model minority stereotype but the Fetishization of Asian women in general. 


This is how the the news on one hand promotes active resentment towards Asians, while movies dehumanizes them through cheap tropes that reaffirm harmful stereotypes. The end result, a continuation of hate in America.