“Asian Women are White-Boy Worshipping Sluts.”
That was posted in a bathroom at the University of California, Los Angeles last week. Pretty disturbing stuff. After this, and last year’s “Asians in the library” YouTube rant by Alexandra Wallace, it’s easy to write off UCLA as a sad, dark place festering with racism. Except we can’t.
As always, an incident like this can only be a reflection of a much larger problem. The hate crime was racist, but it was also an attack on the sexuality of Asian women. And if you consider how it’s portrayed in pop culture and how many people think about it, Asian women’s sexuality is under assault every day.
Speaking of UCLA, I’m sure those of you who saw Childish Gambino last month recall his performance of “You See Me.” With lines like “Forget these white girls/I need some variation/Especially if she very Asian,” it’s apparent that Gambino has a serious case of yellow fever—that is, a sexual attraction to women of Asian descent. As an Asian woman, I’m not really offended by the song itself. In fact, it’s pretty catchy. Yet, the reality is that its lyrics objectify a certain group. In clever, sexually explicit rap lyrics, the song portrays Asian women as sexual objects simply because of their ethnicity. As Gambino raps so eloquently, combining both racial stereotype and sexual objectification, “She’s an overachiever cause all she do is succeed” (Hint: That’s a sexual innuendo). That’s the really disturbing part about the social phenomenon we call yellow fever: Those “afflicted” are interested in a person purely because of that person’s race.
Yup, it’s a subtle form of racism. Worse, it’s degrading. It boils a person down to just skin color. It robs a person of personality, character, interests, experiences and opinions. When you view people only in terms of their race, you do them the great disservice of objectifying them.
That’s not all. This particular form of objectification, or fetishization, places stereotypical sexual expectations on Asian women. To see an example of this, go look up some pornography (that’s what incognito browsers are for, am I right?). You’ll notice that some porn is categorized by the ethnicities of the actors, like how some is categorized by the sexual acts involved. Being turned on by someone’s race, or your expectations of their race, is a sexual fetish. And yeah, it’s sick. It’s sick to degrade someone like that.
There’s also the complementary phenomenon. I’ve heard plenty of Asian girls say they like white boys. The same is true here: If an Asian girl dates a guy just because he’s Caucasian, she’s objectifying him. I’d hardly say she’s worshipping him, but that’s what many people would assume. Whether or not an Asian girl is dating a white boy for his European ancestry, a lot of observers simply assume the worst. This assumption leads to misplaced aggression and hurtful accusations.
Maybe there’s more obvious racial tension at UCLA because of the demographics (in the words of Gambino, “Asian girls everywhere, UCLA”), but this attitude toward Asian female sexuality manifests even here. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt targeted, being an Asian woman. I’d be lying if I said I haven’t felt like someone has screamed, “Asian women are white-boy worshipping sluts!” at me, even though they haven’t said those words.
That implication has laced some comments and remarks, and it echoes in my head every time I even think, “That boy is cute,” and realize that he’s white. In short, I don’t feel comfortable expressing my sexuality here because of the prejudice linked to my ethnicity.
Despite the facts that the Claremont Colleges are generally accepting and open-minded, that we haven’t had anyone scribbling racist and sexist slurs on bathroom walls and that no one has told me outright that they will judge me for expressing my sexuality because of my race, I have experienced the same sort of aggression. I’m incredibly conscious of the fact that I am Asian, and I am all too aware of the assumptions people may carry about me because of that.
Needless to say, this problem only exists because, as much as we like to believe it has progressed, our society has a long way to go. Prejudice still happens. Hate crimes occur. Minority groups feel and are oppressed.
Honestly, the Claremont Colleges aren’t doing enough. Yeah, there are the “diversity matters” talks they give us and the smiling pictures of students of color on the brochures to lure in more students of color, but that barely skims the surface. That doesn’t address how I feel, or how other minority students feel. We have cultural support groups that provide safe spaces for these dialogues, but that’s about it.
So, why don’t we address this? Why don’t we have “diversity matters, and here’s what we’re going to do about it” talks? Why don’t our colleges allow for more student interaction and input in coordinating these attempts to increase diversity and awareness? Finally, why don’t we recognize the prejudice on campus—why do we glaze over it, as if it doesn’t really exist?