Discussing Anti-Asian History and its Societal Effects Today

Educating yourself on anti-Asian imperialism by Sanjna Mizar, Keya Raval, and Ishani Solanki 

While there has been a significant rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s important to acknowledge that these horrific acts aren’t individual acts of violence, but a result of the extensive history of anti-Asian Imperialism and Asian Americans being viewed as “perpetual foreigners”. To fully understand the acts of violence against the Asian community, education on the history of anti-Asian sentiments is necessary. 

Resources to help educate yourself on anti-Asian imperialism:

  • Vestiges of War: The Phillipine-American War and the Aftermath of the Imperial Dream 1899-1999 edited by Angel Velasco and Luis H. Francia 
  • Orientalism by Edward Said 


The rising onslaught of hatred against AAPI has forced many to recognize the impending crisis looming over this community; there are over 150,000 posts under Instagram’s #stopasianhate. However, in order to effectively address the plight of the AAPI community, it is critical to recognize that this anti-Asian sentiment is nothing new; America’s racist, xenophobic behaivour towards AAPI dates back centuries and is directly attributed to the country’s imperialism. The effects of America’s efforts of imperial and capitalist expansion in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries continue to permeate society, as it has spawned much of the racist and xenophobic rhetoric surrounding the AAPI community. 

  • Chinese migrant workers were a major part of building the first Transcontinental Railroad in 1863. Many of them worked on the Central Pacific line from the West Coast, where terrains were rougher and more dangerous. Chinese workers were paid less than their white counterparts, often Irish workers from the East Coast who also suffered discrimination in urban areas.
  • The 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act prohibited all Chinese working class immigrants, as Anti-Asian sentiment had been growing throughout the late 1800s.  It was only repealed in 1943. 

In addition, during World War II, Japanese people were put into internment camps, and their property was taken under Executive Order 9066.  This continues to show anti-Asian sentiments during times of crisis in the United States.


  1. https://pesquisa.bvsalud.org/global-literature-on-novel-coronavirus-2019-ncov/resource/en/covidwho-736312
  2. https://www.laprogressive.com/anti-asian-racism-outgrowth-of-u-s-imperialism/
  3. https://www.history.com/news/transcontinental-railroad-chinese-immigrants 
  4. https://www.pbs.org/newshour/nation/the-long-history-of-racism-against-asian-americans-in-the-u-s 
  5. https://news.berkeley.edu/2021/03/17/berkeley-expert-in-times-of-crisis-anti-asian-violence-is-an-american-tradition/ 

In addition, US foreign involvements such as the Open Door Policy and the Philippine-American War show how American influence did not often take Asian perspective into account, and how imperialism harmed Asians.  The Open Door Policy was signed into effect by the United States as a letter to other western powers such as Britain, France, Germany, and Russia. It signified keeping a sphere of influence open in China, but there was no Chinese involvement in the signing of the Open Door Policy.  The Philippine-American wars were part of the aftermath of the Philippine Revolution (also known as the Spanish-American War).  American involvement promised freedom to the Philippines, while instead it overtook the country.  This led to insurgencies by the native population, as they did not want US protection, which the US harmfully assumed it did.  

Stereotypes of Asian Women Throughout History by Jeslyn Goh and Keya Raval

Racism and fetishization of Asian women are inextricably linked and has been systematically written into our history.

The Page Act of 1875 was the first restrictive federal immigration law in the United States, which effectively prohibited the entry of Chinese women. This was done because to “end the danger of cheap Chinese labour and immoral Chinese women”, as Chinese women were deemed as sexually immoral and promiscuous. They were often associated with prostitutes, with some white Americans believing that germs and diseases could be easily transmitted to white men through labour of Chinese prostitutes.

Japanese schoolgirl fashion became linked with hypersexuality in the 1990s, schoolgirls being seen as prostitutes.  This was due to a trend in enjo kosai, compensated dating.  Even today, schoolgirl fashion is seen as sexual due to books such as Lolita perpetuating harmful ideas.

The War Brides Acts of 1945 & 1946 allowed for the immigration of military brides, who faced discrimination upon coming to the US.  These women were often Asians married to US soldiers who had fought imperialistic wars in the Philippines, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.  Soldiers would marry women from the countries they were fighting in because they were “easy” and seen as docile.  However, these women continued to face racism and sexism in the United States, and they were not accepted back in their native countries either.  These marriages were also seen as “impure” as many states had not yet even legalized interracial marriages.  War brides from Asia suffered much pain and discrimination due to this. 

  1. https://www.theguardian.com/world/1999/jul/08/gender.uk 
  2. https://immigrationhistory.org/item/war-brides-acts-1945-1947/ 
  3. https://www.japantimes.co.jp/community/2014/10/05/how-tos/daughters-tell-stories-war-brides-despised-back-home-u-s/ 

Combatting sexual violence and sexual stereotypes by Esther Ng & Claudia Gomez

Asian women have been fetishized and hypersexualised which can be seen through media depictions in films like Full Metal Jacket, the perceptions of Asian and Asian American women as submissive and ‘exotic’ are deeply rooted in US history. In addition, the musical Miss Saigon had repeatedly depicted Asian women as merely vying for the attention of white men in order to gain visas, perpetuating the ‘dragon lady’ stereotype that women are deceitful and often sexually motivated.

A scholar on race and co-leader of Asian American Feminist Collective, Rachel Kuo, observedd political measures through the country’s history that have shaped these harmful ideas, one of the earliest examples comes from the Page Act of 1875 (1). The fetishization of Asian beauty has reduced the community to a single ‘exotic’ image. Women already suffer disproportionate sexual harms ie. objectification, sadly this issue intertwines with race and increases the severity of the impact on the Asian community (2). The current media should do better to depict Asians as their own individual self, instead of reducing them to stereotypes of the ‘model minority’.es

Donation Links:

(AAPI Women Lead) https://www.imreadymovement.org/ 

(Asian American Feminist Collective) https://www.asianamfeminism.org/ 

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/2056305120978364 
  2. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/journal-of-the-american-philosophical-association/article/why-yellow-fever-isnt-flattering-a-case-against-racial-fetishes/96D2F19F052E8A2625968037BE756FEA 

Decriminalization of sex work – Adriana Layton

TW: r*pe, m*rder, a*sault 

  • What is decriminalization? 
    • Decriminalization is the lessening or termination of legal punishment related to “criminal” activity, although fines could still be applied. In this case, it is the hope that all sex work would be decriminalized, offering those in jail for sex work an opportunity for release. 
    • This is different than legalization, which means some activities related to sex work become legal while others remain illegal. 
  • Criminalization of sex work is a human rights issue
    • Consensual, adult, and voluntary sex should not be anyone’s business. For the government to be involved is an invasion of bodily autonomy and privacy. 
    • When sex work is criminalized, it opens up doors for sex works to be harassed, exploited, or abused by law enforcement officials simply for the choices they make with their own bodies. 
    • This also creates a situation in which sex workers are more vulnerable to violence, including rape, murder, assault, etc. because they are unable to recieve any assistance from law enforcement when crimes are committed against them. 
  • Decriminalizing sex work protects sex workers
    • When crimes are committed against sex workers, they often have to fear that they will be prosecuted under the law since their work is technically illegal. However, if their work is decriminalized, they can report crimes without fear of being arrested. 
    • The ability to report crimes can offer sex workers legal protection regarding their work, but also open up opportunities for healthcare. Recognition and protection of sex work under the law brings equality, dignity, and protection. Legal recognition of sex work including protections under the law is also a step towards destigmatizing sex work. 
  • Women in sex work
    • Specifically with women, society has consistently tied sexual experiences to identity. Men are seen as ‘powerful’ or ‘stronger’ for having multiple sexual experiences, whereas women are seen socially as ‘less than’ if they don’t follow society’s norms. Women constantly face stereotypes when discussing sex, whereas men are applauded. Applying this idea to society leads to sex work becoming a ‘degrading’ experience rather than a positive one. 

How to decrease over policing in chinatowns / massage parlors / asian-populated communities by Jacob Chastain and edited by Bill Chen

In beginning to stop over policing, it is paramount to defund/abolish police. Through defunding/abolishment, money can be allocated to supporting Asian communities and chinatowns. Funds will make life in these communities easier and stop any crimes (given that over reporting counts for disproportionate crime rates in poorer areas) that happen to occur. 

Reimaging what it means to train a police officer is the next step. Police must stop being trained by private companies that emphasize “the warrior mentality.” This inevitably translated to violence and over policing against Asian people. 

Mostly white police officers police Asian communities. These officers cannot understand what it means to be Asian. With this comes significant implicit biases that are carried against the Asian communities. Again, this leads to violence and over policing. To fix this, increasing diversity in police forces is key. This will help prevent fellow officers from seeing Asian people as a threat. However, this alone will not solve this issue; extensive training is required to break down the implicit bias that so often leads to violence and over policing.

Enhanced accountability for officers will show that violence against chinatowns and Asian communities for instance will not stand. By increasing pressure on police institutions, they will be forced to hold their fellow officers accountable. Methods for doing this include defunding, protests, through election progressive and anti-racist goverment offcials, signing petition, and donating to organizations that specifically work to help the Asian community. 

Source: The End of Policing by Alex Vitale (book)  link: https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=Iv2mDAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT4&dq=how+to+stop+over+policing&ots=KvjZsCwt9D&sig=76w5gBJ8pP04Kq5TEuNhUdIaTdk#v=onepage&q&f=false            

The escalation of anti-Asian hate crimes in recent months has resulted in over-policing in targeted areas such as Chinatowns and Asian residential centers. With the rise in policing in these areas, people have mixed opinions on how law enforcement should be dealing with these issues. The response in the Califonia Bay Area, a place where many of the xenophobic attacks took place, varied as some people want more police presence and even privately hired security, while others pushed for changes in public safety measures.

Since mostly white police officers police Asian communities, there can be significant implicit biases that are carried against these communities as a result of cultural differences which could lead to violence and conflict.  Reimagining what it means to train a police officer is the next step. Police must be trained to stop portraying “the warrior mentality.” This type of mindset can be eventually translated to violence and conflict against Asian communities.

Increasing diversity in police departments and incorporating diversity training are fundamental steps to help de-escalate racial tensions among police forces and Asian Americans. By increasing pressure on police institutions, they will be forced to hold their officers accountable. Some action steps you can are protesting for the defunding and reallocation of police department funds, supporting election progressive and anti-racist legislation, signing petitions, and donating to organizations that specifically work to help the Asian community.

While people on both sides on this issue have goals on stopping these racially-motivated hate crimes, local activists believe that relying on the police for support is not the best solution but are rather looking for reform within the community.    Source: The End of Policing by Alex Vitale (book), Asian American communities grapple with whether police are the right answer to recent attacks (vox.com) 

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