Calling Out Racist Jokes, Slurs, and Accents
Although some people only acknowledge the existence of racism when a major racial attack occurs, it is important to address how racism negatively impacts people daily as well. Racist jokes, slurs, and accents have been overlooked and ignored for too long, even though they are just as harmful as physical acts of racism.
Since January 2020, there has been a surge in the number of racist incidents against Asians and Asian Americans. Pew Research Center has revealed that 31% of Asian Americans have faced racist jokes or slurs since Covid-19 began and four out of ten USA adults expressed that it is now more common for someone to express racist or racially insensitive views towards Asian Americans. This problem only worsened after public officials referred to COVID-19 as "Chinese Virus", "Kung Flu", and "Wu Flu." The week the name-calling began, the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council stated that more than 650 incidents of Asian American discrimination were reported to their website. Unfortunately, this type of racism against Asian Americans was already occuring even before the pandemic-- the pandemic has only exacerbated it.
Countless Asians and Asian Americans have encountered racist jokes, slurs, and accents. Some of these jokes include ones about Asian Americans being cheap, getting good grades, or being a math nerd. Asian Americans have been called various slurs as well, including: "Chink," "Chinki," "Chinaman," "Flip," "Gook," "Haji," "Jap," and "Paki," among others. Many times, people have also mocked Asian accents and then tried to brush it aside, protesting that it is harmless when it is not. These accents they make "for fun" are the accents of many Asians who get harassed every day because they are struggling to learn and speak English.
Due to culture of silence in which many Asian Americans were raised in, they tend to not fight against this racism. The "model minority" myth ingrained in countless Asian Americans promises that if they are compliant, stay silent about their struggles, refrain from drawing attention to themselves, and work hard enough, then they will be able to overcome racial inequality and reach success. As a result of this dangerous mentality, a lot of Asian Americans do not speak out against discrimination. Another reason why they might not report instances of racism is that they feel uncomfortable or are afriad of losing their jobs. Moreover, many Asians themselves might minimize or ignore their own feelings that a joke, slur, or accent is wrong because of how normalized anti-Asian racism is.
Racial slurs, jokes, and accents are unfortunately considered culturally acceptable and because it is usually not overt, people do not think it is serious and dismiss it without understanding that it is perpetuating racism. Even when people do speak up about it, others often claim that they are overreacting or undermine their concerns by saying that there are "more important" issues to focus on. However, minimizing their issues or comparing these struggles makes people think it is okay to use racist joks, slur, and/or accents and silences the voices of Asians. Over time, if people regard these instances of racism as insignificant, people will stop reporting them because they think others do not care, and thus, it enables racism to continue.
During this time, we can no longer stay silent and we need to use our voices to combat racism. When a BIPOC has concerns about somthing because they think it is racist, listen to them, engage in respectful dialogue to understand why they think so, and educate yourself on what you can do to stop it from happening again. If public figures use racist jokes, slurs, and/or accents, call them out! It is okay to make mistakes, but if it happens, it is imperative to inform yourself and apologize. The line is not for the offender to draw. Last but not least, if you see someone being targeted because of their race, stand by them, support them, and help make them feel safe enough to speak up about it.