Vianca Natividad is the League of Legends social content producer for esports organization Team Liquid. In this piece, she discusses the harm created by “model minority” stereotypes and the need to actively combat racism and hate against AAPI people.
As a child, I was the only Asian in my class all through fifth grade. I was constantly bullied because of my eyes, mocked for doing work above my grade level (of course she’s smart, she’s Asian), and often treated as an afterthought. I learned how to “fit in” by being non-argumentative and following the rules of white society. I didn’t realize that what I was learning to fit was the “model minority” box that society created for all Asians. In this “box,” if I performed according to their expectations, I would be rewarded with their scraps – the privileges of being “white adjacent.” It should be noted that there’s still a very real wage gap between AAPI women and our white counterparts. But at the time, I didn’t understand that I was part of a process established long before me – a process that perpetuates the racial status quo and its widespread myths that all Asians are financially stable, smart, and yet “exotic.”
We are not “exotic,” we are human. Despite whatever perceived proximity to whiteness we may have, we are a minority. And we are still being hurt. As a Filipina, I’ve been profiled, talked down to, yelled at, pushed, spit on, and pulled over for no reason. And I’m one of the “lucky ones.”
Despite the discrimination I and others have faced, when we share our experiences, there is always a voice – either in the back of our heads, or in a Twitter thread – saying it wasn’t “that bad,” or that we shouldn’t complain because other people of color (PoC) are discriminated against more intensely. White society uses this narrative to separate us. The “model minority” myth was originally weaponized against the Black community to dismiss their pleas for better access to safe shelter, jobs, and education and to “prove” that PoC could be successful in America if they just “tried harder,” disregarding the violent systems and policies that have disenfranchised the Black community.
The horrific homicides in Atlanta, which have been minimized by authorities as a “bad day” rather than the racist hate crimes they were, have shown us that enough is enough. We need to take a stand and fight – together – to condemn white supremacy as loudly as we can.
This starts with confronting the casual racism in our own cultures. We cannot truly speak against anti-Asian racism unless we also look inward and address the anti-Black and anti-Latin racism prevalent in many Asian cultures. We need to acknowledge that, although we never asked to be placed where we were in the racial status quo, many of us have been complacent while we benefited and other PoC were hurt. We must stand up for ourselves – absolutely – but the true way to combat racism as a whole is to take down white supremacy – the real root of it all – together.
Like in any battle, we all have a role to play in fighting against racism. Protesting racial injustice, comforting the hurting, confronting racist family and friends, speaking out, and pushing to dismantle systemic racism are all examples of different roles we can take. The same goes for esports, and it all starts with our own spheres of influence. It starts with addressing racism in comms and chat, in the production room, in the teams we build, and in how we run our orgs. It also starts with addressing the over-sexualization of Asian women and how this stereotype has led to the Atlanta murders. This type of racialized misogyny illustrates the way that having intersectional identities, of being an Asian woman, can compound violence. The dangerous fetish of a “perfect Asian girlfriend” is all too common in our character costumes, designs, and even the lack of personalities of Asian women in games, TV shows, and more. We’re simultaneously depicted as simple and exotic, subservient and strict, innocent and hypersexual. These dehumanizing stereotypes encourage violence and perpetuate the notion that Asian women are just objects to serve men’s fantasies.
Lastly, to our allies – erasure of AAPI pain is real. So if you are here and addressing AAPI pain – if you’ve talked about it, if you’ve reached out and comforted an AAPI friend about it – thank you. We need support right now, and not just for us. The sooner we recognize AAPI are also fighting a second battle with our own racism – and are given permission to grieve, to be angry, and to have our pain be seen – the sooner we can jump fully into the battle before it consumes us all. We all have a responsibility to be role models to our players and community, to make esports a safe place, and to stand in solidarity with minority groups. There is a lot of work to be done in the ongoing battle to dismantle systemic racism. It’s not too late to begin and we have to start now.
For more information and resources to help:
- https://actionnetwork.org/fundraising/support-georgias-asian-american-community (Georgia-based AAPI community specifically helping those affected by the violence in ATL on March 16, 2021)
Thank you to all my family and friends who contributed their thoughts and edits.
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