- Madison Marvin
They say that the eyes are a window into the soul. But my eyes are as dark as an endless abyss, so what does that say about what lies beyond them? My eyes are like onyx and ash, sucking in all the surrounding rays of light and crushing them in my pupils. And they say that you need to keep your eyes wide open, but my eyes are narrower than yours. Slanted, slit-eyed, snake in the grass. You don’t trust me because of them. You say I am not like you. You narrow your eyes and point accusing fingers behind white masks of ignorance. But my hands are no dirtier than yours. My eyes can see the same as you. So why does my world look so different? Why do I get spat on, sworn at, side-eyed with suspicion? Why are people with my same eyes getting the light drained out of them? Why is it that when I cry, you don’t care about the tears that fall from my eyelashes? When I smile you tell me my eyes disappear; is this your way of telling me not to smile anymore? I wish you would see the world through my eyes. Would you like how the sun doesn’t get in them? How my skin doesn’t burn, how my hair soaks in all the warmth of a summer’s day. Because brown, deep like the earth and just as rich, is pure and lovely even in darkness. Even when it’s not honeyed by golden rays or softened by candlelight. When in its purest form, my eyes are as black as the universe before the sun was born. When you can see your reflection in my eyes, would you like who you see? Would you notice the way my eyes crinkle in the corners when I laugh, how they go red when I cry, and can widen in surprise, just like yours? I wish that people would see beyond my eyes. Wish that I wasn’t reduced to sultry, serpentine, sinister, sordid, sneaky, sideways stares. I wish that my eyes weren't a reflection of my soul, because I don't want my soul to be limited by what my eyes can see.
Hi, my name is Madison Marvin. I am a Chinese-Canadian adoptee, and I wrote my piece on the struggles of anti-Asian racism and xenophobia, especially in regards to COVID-19. I wanted to share some of my experiences and to hopefully encourage others to do research on xenophobia and to examine their own internal prejudices. I wrote this piece after the attacks in Atlanta where a white man shot and killed 6 Asian-American women. Since the emergence of the COVID-19 in early December of 2019, there has been a drastic increase in racist Anti-Asian sentiments and violence against those of East Asian descent. These racist views have been fuelled by the media through the use of blame, fear, and scapegoating of the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community (AAPI). The fear and stigma surrounding infectious diseases give rise to already existing racial prejudice. Disease, specifically that which is as uncontrollable and unpredictable as COVID-19, is the perfect breeding ground for racism and discrimination. The fear of a diseased “Other” is a common scapegoat used to ease people’s uncertainty. The “Oriental Other” is built on racist ideas about East Asian and Chinese individuals, including the narrative that Asians are dirty, diseased, and unclean. These stereotypes are fueled by media coverage which places blame on Asian individuals for COVID-19, allowing those in a society which already held preconceived racist ideas about East Asians to project their xenophobia behind the guise of health and safety concern.
The fear of the ‘perpetual foreigner’ surrounds those in the AAPI community, as they are viewed as a threat to Western hegemony. The increased fear and hatred of Asian Americans echoes that of the fear of the “Yellow Peril”. Additionally, the West’s history of scapegoating the AAPI community allows for the perpetual violence, discrimination, and hatred towards those of East Asian descent. When violence against Asians has occurred since COVID-19, racism is most often, if not always, the instigator. Many attackers have been known to blame Asians for the virus, and see violence as a means of payback and to let out their frustrations and fear. These racist and cowardly acts are the inevitable result of the blame and hatred towards Asians. The scapegoating of marginalized communities is an easy outlet for those who fear disease and illness. These racist sentiments are perpetuated by news media, and people in power who use phrases such as the “Chinese Virus”, the “Wuhan Virus”, and the “Kung Flu”. All of these names place blame on Asian Americans, and this incites further fear, violence, and discrimination against the AAPI community.
By using the term “Kung Flu” one is not only playing on a racist stereotype that all Asians can perform martial arts, but it also ties back into the idea that all Asians are at fault for the Coronavirus. It makes Asians out to be a monolith, spreading the idea that the virus is the fault of all those of Asian descent. This is a further example of Orientalism, which describes the way in which the East is depicted by the West, and how the various diverse populations of Asia become reduced to a single representation. This dehumanization of Asians also allows for the mistreatment and violence against them, as it is viewed as justified. If it is solely China and Asian individuals’ fault for COVID-19, and all those within the Asian population are viewed as a singular entity, then any Asian person can be treated with violence, humiliation, and prejudice, and it is ‘justified’ because they are all at fault. This mindset is dangerous, racist, and wrong, and has led to violence and death. The generalization and homogenous language used for Asians allows for the violence and discrimination against them. It reinforces Western hegemony and nationalism, and alienates and stereotypes the AAPI community. The internalized Western perception of Asia as dirty, diseased, savage, and sick leads to the blame of Asian Americans for COVID-19. This blame turns into fear and hatred, which leads to the violence, discrimination, and dehumanization that the AAPI community face.