What Caused the Lack of Media Coverage?
Asian Americans have always been underrepresented in the media. This lack of media coverage can be attributed to their history of being perceived as “foreigners” in the U.S., even if they were born and raised in the country. Large-scale immigration from China occurred in the mid-1800s, when the Gold Rush demanded labor that locals were not willing to take up. They were immediately racist towards Chinese immigrants who became subject to harsh treatment and discrimination. In response, the United States government passed the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, banning all labor immigration from China. By 1924, immigration from almost every Asian country was banned, and Asians already living in the U.S. were viewed as threats and violent beings.
The Model Minority Myth
Following the repeal of The Chinese Exclusion Act in 1943, The National Immigration Act was passed in 1965. This act allowed the U.S. to accept any immigrant based on how much they could contribute to the country. Shortly after, Asian success stories were highlighted in the media, leading to the emergence and development of the model minority myth. Although it sounds like a compliment, this myth is harmful towards the AAPI community. By portraying Asians as successful and hardworking while they pursued the “American dream,” a racial wedge was created due to the comparison to other minority groups. As a result, the media became less interested in reporting on the struggles of the AAPI community, as covering their struggles would ultimately undermine the idea of the model minority myth and perceived Asian privilege.
Misrepresentations in Popular Media
In popular media such as TV shows and movies, the AAPI community is often misrepresented, if they even appear at all. Most of the time, Asian characters are largely Americanized and do not accurately represent the AAPI community as a whole. For example, although ‘Crazy Rich Asians’ was applauded for having an all-Asian cast, the ideas of wealth and fortune in the community were perpetuated, contributing to the stereotype that all Asians are successful and wealthy. Hollywood and other popular media platforms rarely highlight the everyday struggle of Asian Americans, limiting the voices that are portrayed in entertainment and throughout the media industry.
Misrepresentation in the News
When the AAPI community is represented in the news, it is rarely covered accurately. During the aftermath of the recent Atlanta shooting, Captain Jay Baker from the Cherokee County sheriff’s office claimed that the perpetrator, Robert Aaron Long, committed the crime because he “had a really bad day.” People defended Long and made excuses for his behavior that resulted in the deaths of eight innocent people, including six Asian women. In addition, news reports did not frame the shooting as a hate crime against Asians, even though it blatantly was. Instead, they focused on how Long suffered from a “sex addiction.” Meanwhile, Asian hate crimes are still seen in society. The most prominent example being how white supremacists continue to attack Asian Americans, both physically and verbally, blaming them for the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic. Rather than holding these groups accountable for their actions, the media continuously excuses their behavior and pins Asian Americans against other racial groups. Better representation in the media would not only positively influence how Asian Americans are perceived, but allow for more voices in the AAPI community to be heard as well.