Where’s the Outrage? Chinese Name Tags being Ripped Off at Columbia University

Columbia University has long prided itself on its liberal activism and advocates for racial justice. From Trump’s election victory to his deportation order, from Citibank’s funding of Dakota Pipeline to Israeli U.N. ambassador Danny Danon’s speech, Columbia students were outraged at all these incidents and fervently protested on College Walk. However, all the social justice warriors at Columbia remained relatively silent when an actual racist and xenophobic incident happened on Columbia campus February 1st: door tags of Chinese names were ripped off in Columbia residence halls.

During Chinese New Year, some Chinese students at Columbia realized that their door tags with names in Chinese spelling were removed. After dozens of Asian students reported the door sign vandalism, Columbia’s Associate Dean of Multicultural Affairs Melinda Aquino sent an email to leaders of Asian identity-based groups in which she said she’s sorry for the unhappy incident and would like to reach out and offer support. There was no strong condemnation, no mention of investigation to find the perpetrators, and the email was only sent to a very small number of students. The comments that many Chinese students received from their schoolmates were mostly “ignore the incident and the show the childish perpetrators that nobody cares about their foolishness!” Excuse me? Would you say the same if the xenophobic efforts were directed at black, Latino, or Muslim students? If that were the case, the incident would be all over the news and the perpetrators would be expelled from college without doubt.

The Chinese students who were victims of the xenophobic behaviors made a video in which they explained the meaning of their Chinese names and expressed how important their Chinese names are for them. A beautifully made video but I was very confused why those Chinese students made such a video as if the xenophobic attack was directed at their names not themselves. The perpetrators obviously didn’t rip off the door tags because they dislike Chinese names; they did it because they are racist against Chinese people. Since I am friends with some Chinese students at Columbia, I asked them why they reacted in this way. “We don’t want to look angry and uncivil.” They answered.

It is undeniable that Asians face racism in America. Chinese Americans or Chinese are still constantly told to “go back to China and eat dogs.” However, when social justice warriors talk about racism, they rarely mention racism against Asians. They only care about racism against Asians when they are blasting Fox News and O’Reilly Factor. What’s more, social justice warrior liberals themselves very often blatantly express racism against Asians. For example, MTV News writer Ira Madison III, when he saw Jeff Sessions’ Asian granddaughter sitting on his lap, tweeted “Session, sir, kindly return this Asian baby to the Toys ‘R’Us you stole from her.” Another example: Chris Rock, when hosting last year’s Oscar-so-white-blasting Oscar ceremony, paraded three Asian kids on stage and made jokes about them. It is obvious that since Asian Americans have closed the wage gap with whites in America through hard work, social justice warriors believe Asians are of so-called “privilege” and no longer deserve any concern or protection. Just like they argued that there can be no reverse racism against whites (even after Chicago kidnapping happened), they tend to believe, with similar reasoning, that there can be no real racism against Asians.

Another reason why racism against Asians receives so little concern is that Asians are not very outraged at racist actions and don’t usually react fervently to racism. Like my friends at Columbia said, “we don’t want to look angry and uncivil.” It is part of Chinese culture to stay out of trouble and mind one’s own business. When faced with racism, Asians or Chinese don’t try very hard to fight racism, instead most of us try to succeed and live well despite racism, just like when faced with an authoritarian regime in China, most Chinese don’t fight very hard against it but try to succeed and live well despite it.

It has long been debated what is the most efficient way to fight racism. Booker T. Washington believed blacks should accept racism for the time being and concentrate on elevating themselves from poverty through hard work. W.E.B Du Bois, however, advocated strong political actions against racism. Asians mostly adopt Washington’s approach and successfully lift themselves out of poverty, but the problem is racism still exists. I am not arguing that Asians should adopt the radical Black Lives Matter approach to fight racism, but I do urge my fellow Asians to speak out, act out, and adopt a stronger stance against anti-Asian racism.

1 Comment on Where’s the Outrage? Chinese Name Tags being Ripped Off at Columbia University

  1. I also suspect that if it was an insult against any other minority group, the comments section would be rife with myriad viewpoints, cathartic screeds and banjee-like caterwauls for heads to roll. Racism and xenophobic condemnation or non-action appear to be fueled by entrenched cultural norms. If someone stepped on your foot, the reaction would be immediate and unfettered by what others may think about your reaction to pain. Whereas, if someone insults or abuses a person due to their ethnic or cultural identity, then inferred information to initiate the apparent correct response must go through the external cultural filter to even acknowledge the incident as an affront. Apologists often acquit the villainous actions of forebears by suggesting that they were men or women of their times. Thereby suggesting they are innocent of villany due to their proximity to villainous times. This is the sad state of humanity when it comes to human dignity. Offense is protested only when it is an accepted norm to protest. Humanity is generally extended to those who are fully acknowledged as human by the dominant culture, whether those acting inhumanely are part of that dominant culture or not. It is correct to encourage the victimized to speak up and defend themselves as vigorously as they feel comfortable even if their vigor may offend some. React as if someone has stepped on your foot, without regard to any other’s opinion on your expression of your pain.

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