Media and Film Studies and Gender Studies Statement on Anti-Asian Violence
The past two weeks following the March 16, 2021 murders of eight people, including six women of Asian descent, in Georgia have been heavy with mourning and sadness for many Asian and Asian American communities. For many, this grief is compounded by how Asian and Asian American experiences have been erased and too often remain invisible in national discourse. Gender Studies and Media and Film Studies offer this statement in solidarity as we move through grief and into analysis and action. The attacks near Atlanta, Georgia are just one example of many in a year of increasing anti-Asian sentiment and violence in the United States and globally, fueled in large part by the former U.S. president’s insistence on racializing the coronavirus as Asian. This anti-Asian sentiment is by no means a new phenomenon; in fact, it is built upon more than a century of racist legislation, harmful stereotypes, and white supremacy that have portrayed Asians and Asian Americans as an invasive contagion.
Making sense of the murders in Atlanta requires a reckoning with the many layers of violence facing Asian and Asian American women, including racism, sexism, classism, anti-migrant and anti-sex ideologies, and the stigmatization and criminalization of sex work. In a recent essay for The Atlantic,Anne Anlin Cheng reminds us that, “America has long conflated Asian female sexuality and criminality.” The Page Act of 1875 restricted the entry of Chinese women into the United States under the pretense of prohibiting “immoral” women from entering the country to work in prostitution. This legislation set the stage for the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, which limited Chinese immigration and banned all Chinese from becoming U.S. citizens, constituting the first discriminatory migration legislation based on ethnicity or country of origin. The “yellow peril” of the nineteenth century has found new vigor during the coronavirus pandemic, revealing just how deeply embedded it is in the popular imaginary of the nation. Within the U.S. context, the military’s long history of Asian dehumanization, the exploitation of Asian bodily labor, and the proliferation of derogatory stereotypes and yellow face in popular literature and media are some of the ways in which anti-Asian rhetoric persists and continues to produces violence that impacts Asian and Asian American communities.
HANA Center agitate against the deportations and other state violence against Asians and Asians Americans, highlighting that the Atlanta murders are part of “a long history of fetishizing women of Asian heritage as submissive, feminine, and sexually compliant, and the proliferation of sex industries around U.S. military bases in Asian countries.”
Red Canary Song (NYC) organizes Asian and migrant sex workers.
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