A few months into the Trump presidency, a video was uploaded to YouTube of a group of anti-Trump protestors at the University of Washington library. The mostly white group, led by a woman with a megaphone, was chanting the usual left-wing protest chants, “Who’s got the power? We’ve got the power! What kind of power? People power!”
Likely aggravated by the noise, an East Asian student is seen suddenly stepping in and interrupting the protests, yelling: “Hey, hey, hey. Hey, hey!” The chants fall silent. “This is library!” he proclaims.
As he left the scene, one of the protestors could be heard yelling, “Go back to Beijing!”
The scene was recorded on video and uploaded to YouTube, gaining over two million views. As “This is Library!” became a viral internet meme, many noted the irony of the situation. Why are these liberals telling the Asian guy to go back to Beijing? Why are they spewing out the same kind of anti-immigration rhetoric that Trump does? Does the tolerance not apply to Asian people?
The “This is Library” meme video is just one of many mysterious cases of liberals, especially white liberals, showing racism towards Asians. It’s fascinating how someone can go from smug, politically correct Democrat voter to Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan the second Asians come into play.
One large-scale example of white liberal racism towards Asians is white flight. In 2015, the American Sociological Review published findings that in the great, progressive, city of Los Angeles, when large numbers of middle-class Chinese immigrants moved to middle-class suburban white neighborhoods, white residents would begin moving out, eventually creating suburban Chinatowns like Monterey Park, according to the ASR article “Toward a New Macro-segregation? Decomposing Segregation within and between Metropolitan Cities and Suburbs.”
But isn’t Los Angeles supposed to be a liberal city? Over 70% of Los Angeles residents voted Democrat in 2016, according to the California Secretary of State’s website. So why are white liberals moving away from Chinese people? Did they, in shock of seeing their neighborhood’s skin colors change, suddenly forget everything they learned at their workplace diversity training program about racial tolerance? Is Chinese food really that bad?
One possible explanation is that since Asian-Americans make up so little of the voting populations, Democratic politicians don’t have much incentive to reach out to them, leading to ignorance about Asian-American issues amongst liberals. The 2010 Census says that the United States of America is only 5.6% Asian. It seems fair enough that liberals won’t pay much attention to such a small demographic.
But Native Americans only make 1.6% of the population.. Liberals seem to care about these groups a lot. There was a huge liberal response to the Lincoln Memorial incident in which Native Americans faced off against Trump supporters. Liberals get mad at football teams that have racist Native American caricature mascots. Liberals set their profile pictures to the pride flag to show support for the LGBT community, when American adults who identify as LGBTQ are 0.6% of the population.
But when SZA and Kendrick Lamar made a music video for their song “Doves In the Wind” featuring mockeries of Asian culture, liberals were silent. There was no Twitter warfare, no cancelling, no finger-wagging BuzzFeed articles about cultural insensitivity. Nothing. The same people who throw fits over “problematic” behavior ignored a clear-cut example of racism and cultural appropriation in popular culture.
So if it’s not about Asians being a small population, why then are liberals so racist towards Asians? One reason is that liberals see Asians as fair game for racist attacks. While blacks are stereotyped as violent, thuggish, and strong, Asians are stereotyped as unassertive and physically weak. A 2019 Pew Research Center study found that 61% of Asian-Americans have been subject to racial slurs, compared to 52% of blacks, 46% of Latinos, and 37% of whites. This suggests that liberals may be more openly racist towards Asians because they think they can get away with it, while being scared to do the same to black people.
Liberals also do not tend to see Asians to be as oppressed as other minorities. Known as the “model minority” myth, this idea dates back to the post-Japanese internment era that frames Asian Americans as hardworking people who don’t complain about racism and follow the rules of society in order to succeed. Therefore, liberals may think that being racist to Asians is okay because they are not as oppressed.
Liberals are not immune to racial bias. As an Asian myself, I have experienced negative racial encounters with people who were otherwise progressives. If race relations in America are going to make any progress, liberals need to be consistent with their beliefs and seriously address their hypocrisy towards Asian people.