Dear President Biden, here’s the reality that young Asian Americans are facing every day

This week President Biden signed off on a bill meant to address the rise in Asian American hate crimes. Here’s why that isn’t enough.

It’s a given fact that hate is becoming more prevalent lately, but I didn’t think I’d already be facing it in high school. You’d think that a liberal high school in an affluent suburban Chicago town would be at the forefront of tackling social issues. You’d be wrong.

This week, a poster went up in my school hallway. It was an advertisement for the Turning Point USA chapter at our school. For context, Turning Point USA is an organization that advocates conservative narratives in high schools and colleges. The poster depicted a scene from a popular video game “Among Us”, in which there is an imposter (‘SUSpect’) whose goal is to kill people. Under the imposter who’s dressed in a red suit, there is a caption. It reads “China Kinda Sus.”

I’m a freshman in high school. Maybe because of the town where I live, seeing the rise in Asian American hate crimes had not struck a chord with me. Despite being the son of Taiwanese immigrants, I filtered the news out as a flurry of similar bad news stories that roll out on a daily basis. Seeing this poster in my own school woke me up. 

Let me be clear. I have nothing but respect for the teachers and faculty that make up my student life. I am grateful for the quality of education that I receive. I understand that the school wants to respect all opinions. I understand that the administration doesn’t want to be called out for suppression of free speech. However, there has to come a time when this expression crosses the line. This was a school-approved message. Even if it appeared as poking fun at Communism, we have to recognize a deeper meaning behind this thinly veiled message of hate. With China as its vector, this hate is weaponized to corral young recruits. It unites its followers to hate Chinese or anyone who looks Chinese. It’s insidious and infectious—it poisons young minds when they are most impressionable and normalizes this stigmatization.

We have to go beyond the cliché messages of respect and kindness. We must actively work to prevent morals of hate. This extends beyond just hate towards the Asian American community. We need to recognize hate of any group as an assault on every group. When messages like these are allowed to spread through the hallways of a school, no group is immune.

For me, this has become personal, giving the recent attacks a fresh perspective. These are people that look like me. People that speak the same language, eat the same food, and celebrate the same holidays. It isn’t just frightening. It’s demoralizing. In 2021, I can find anti-Asian messages on the walk to my math class. I can bring up a seemingly racist poster at lunch with friends, and it will be laughed off as a joke. 

I truly hope that this was just a slip in judgement, an isolated event. I know this isn’t a sentiment shared by most people at my school. Even so, we have to be diligent.  Bills that are signed by our President don’t do enough to address the root of the problem. We need to start in our conversations and interactions. Rhetoric matters. Think about how our thinking can be influenced by a seemingly harmless “joke”. What may seem minor can have consequences. We have to reject messages that spread hate. Then, we can begin healing our divisions.

Click here to view the newspaper publication

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