Alexander Chee (CRF 2011) and Cathy Park Hong (Incoming Writing Fellow 2022) spoke about the often invisible struggles of Asian Americans in light of recent anti-Asian violence amplified by the pandemic.

Park Hong says: “Anti-Asian racism has always been constant in this country because it’s always been a part of this country from the mid-1800s, when Chinese laborers were brought in to use as cheap laborers to replace slaves. They weren’t meant to stay in this country. White people brought them in to kick them out.

From that point on, we were always treated as guests in this nation or as replacement for Black people. And as guests, we were ostracized, but we were also valorized in relation to Black Americans, and obviously that would build resentment from African Americans against Asians.

We’re used to thinking of race as oppression Olympics. Who is the most oppressed? Who’s the least oppressed? And who’s sort of oppressed in the middle?

Our experience is different than what African Americans have gone through, which is slavery, segregation, and economic dispossession, or what Indigenous people have experienced, which is genocide. But Asians are different because we were actually excluded from immigration. We were driven out. We were unassimilable.

White people still drive the narrative about Asian Americans. We have yet to have control over our own stories. And unfortunately, because of this, the ‘model minority’ myth still sticks. It just keeps coming back. I’m so sick of talking about it, but so far, it’s impossible to knock it down.”

Read the full conversation on GEN here.