The Global, Imperial, and Capitalist Roots of ‘Anti-Asian Hate’

Published June 2021 in episteme issue 6: in the wake of the atlanta shooting: non/citizen perspectives on anti-asian racism and sinophobia at
Artwork by Monyee Chau, 2020. Courtesy of the artist.

To begin, I want to acknowledge the current grief, anger, and fear of Asian and Asian American communities here in the United States, where I am located.

From March 2020 through March 2021, during the ongoing covid-19 pandemic, there were more than 6,000 reported incidents of anti-Asian hate in the United States, ranging from verbal harassment to physical attacks. Women were 2.2 times more likely to be victims of such incidents, and the elderly have been targeted in particularly tragic ways. Such racist violence peaked on March 16, 2021 with the mass murder of 8 people in Atlanta — 6 of whom were Asian women –by a 21-year-old, white, male evangelical Christian.

After the Atlanta murders, the national and global conversation on anti-Asian racism within the U.S. became mainstream news in a way that it arguably never had before. As such, we — scholars, activists, and writers — may now have rare opportunities to inform and shape the discourse in meaningful ways.

In this moment, I want to suggest a seemingly simple but vital shift. We need to deepen public understanding not only of so-called “anti-Asian hate” but of its roots: yes, white supremacy – but not as a thing in itself, rather, as it has been historically shaped by Western imperialism, Western liberal humanism, and the intertwining of these with capitalism and colonialism.

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