If you think you’re safe under the Trump administration, think again.
Financial Times reported on Tuesday that earlier this year, immigration adviser Stephen Miller suggested to U.S. President Donald Trump that the government stop issuing visas to students with Chinese citizenship.
Trump may not have followed through with Miller’s proposal, but that he considered it at all to begin with should make us uneasy. After all, this is hardly the first time this country has made us feel unwelcome. Just over a century ago the Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers, and the Immigration Act of 1924 banned Asians and other “non-whites” from entering the country.
Franklin D. Roosevelt imprisoned nearly 120,000 people of Japanese ancestry in concentration camps. When Southeast Asian refugees turned to the U.S. for safety after the Vietnam War, xenophobes wasted no time in harassing them. They destroyed Vietnamese boats and workhouses. The Ku Klux Klan (KKK) burned crosses on Vietnamese families’ lawns and a white supremacist opened fire on Southeast Asian students in an elementary school.
We’ve been humiliated. Shot. Lynched. Ignored. There’s no end to the injustices we’ve suffered. And while it’s true that we might have had it easier as minorities, we should be outraged.
If we’ve learned anything from the past two years, it’s that hate crimes are not a thing of the past. The orange baby in the Oval Office has normalized white supremacy, and white people now have the nerve to rally and call themselves “oppressed.”
But it’s easy to forget that as Asians, we have to fight. For one, it’s not just movies and TV where we lack visibility. It’s also activism. And when we’ve dared to be vocal, we’ve often been forgotten or ignored.
Take a look at our campuses. At Hopkins, we may have Asian student activists but not enough. We don’t have an Asian or Asian-American student activist group, either. Maybe it’s time we have one.
It’s even easier to forget when you’re not a citizen here or have homes abroad. The stakes seem much lower. Why, you might ask, should you put blood, sweat and tears into bettering a country where you’re constantly reminded that you don’t quite belong? Why fight, when you have a faraway place where you do belong and feel safe?
And it gets even harder to take part when we buy into myths that non-Asians and Asians alike perpetuate about us. That we’re passive. That we don’t know how to do anything but study. That we come from backward societies and that we therefore can’t help but be ignorant and bigoted. That we with our privileges and prejudices should steer clear from activism.
We may buy into these myths because the countries we come from do have undeniable problems. What we forget, however, is that these problems are not exclusive to these countries. That America, for all its talk about freedom and equality, has a long a way to go.
Even if we are shaped and inhibited by the intolerant environments we grow up in, we can always learn. Let your “woke” non-Asian peers — especially the whites — know that if they judge you for your ignorance. And perhaps they too can do a better job of coming from a place of understanding, rather than judgment.
Whether we are U.S. citizens or not, if we are here, we Asians are part of this community. That means that it’s not only our right to speak up for ourselves and for those around us, but it’s also our duty. Forget to do so, and we will be forgotten.
Sarah Y. Kim is a junior majoring in Writing Seminars and International Studies from Walnut Creek, Calif. She is the Opinions Editor.