May was Asian-American History month. Did you know that? I’m embarrassed to say that I was not aware of it a few years ago as I was focused on the Derek Chauvin murder trial and the 1-year milestone of George Floyd’s murder. So, to my Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, please forgive me.
This year, I hope to make up for that oversight by focusing on the curious journey of our AAPI brothers and sisters from “model minority, to invisible minority, to hunted minority,” to directly quote Karl Taro Greenfield from his piece in the April 12th 2021 edition of Bloomberg business, entitled: “Asian Americans are Ready for a Hero.” Let me share a few lines from the article with you.
Mr. Greenfield begins by saying: “Picture an athlete. Now a movie star. And now a politician. You probably pictured a white man. Or a Black or Latino person. I’m guessing you didn’t picture an Asian American. I know I usually don’t. And I’m an Asian-American television writer who thinks up imaginary people for a living.”
This is a remarkable way to begin an article, wouldn’t you agree? Greenfield goes on to point out that: “There has been no Asian-American Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, or Barack Obama. In California, Arizona, and a host of other states, Cesar Chavez Day is a state holiday. Who’s the national, towering Asian-American figure who would be so honored? Andrew Yang?”
For those who missed it, Andrew Yang is an Asian-American businessman, politician, and author who ran as a Democratic candidate for President of the United States in 2020. Now do you know who he is? Maybe… maybe not. And that is the point of Mr. Greenfield’s article.
He goes on to point out that “The absence of Asian-American cultural and political figures who imprint themselves into America’s collective consciousness means we are viewed as a race of middle managers. Yes, there’s one C-suite position in the org chart where nobody is surprised to see an Asian face: Chief Technology Officer. How did we get here, successful economically but without the commensurate social status? How did we go from “model minority” to invisible minority to hunted minority?” Here I want to pick up the conversation where this leaves off.
On March 16th of last year, one had to have been literally living under a rock not to have heard about the series of mass shootings that happened at three different spas or massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women, and one of the officers serving as a spokesperson referred to the actions of the shooter as being the result of having a bad day. Really? And already this year, just in California, there were 2 shootings in January around Lunar New Year that affected Asian communities. How does one respond to that kind of attitude if not with disbelief at the insensitivity of that kind of comment?
There are so many directions I could go with that statement. And here is the thread I choose to follow: Fancy colored diamonds. See if you can think this through and follow along with me on this next time!