The film touches on the pattern of U.S. racism against Asians throughout the country’s history and how the COVID-19 pandemic served as the spark for the wave of violence and discrimination against Asians.
A “Viral” History
In “The Race Epidemic,” Immigration Research Center Director Dr. Erika Lee explains how U.S. history has often painted Asians, particularly Chinese migrant workers as “parasites, an invasive population, a plague, an invisible threat like pathogens.”
“Immigrants have been stigmatized for being carriers of dangerous diseases and contagion that are dangerous to Americans,” she said.
One of the most popular 19th-century ads was a “Rough on Rats” poster of a stereotypically drawn Chinese man with his mouth open, ready to swallow a rat whole. The slogan read, “They must go,” a play on the 1886 “The Magic Washer” political cartoon which read, “The Chinese must go.”
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Input From An Assault Survivor
“You don’t belong here,” were the words spoken by one anti-Asian hate crime survivor’s attacker.
On March 29 last year, Vilma Kari
, a then-65-year-old Filipina American was subjected to anti-Asian remarks, knocked to the ground and stomped on outside a New York City apartment building
as she was on her way to church. Her attack made national headlines and spread outrage across social media when the released surveillance footage showed the security men inside who watched and closed the door on her. Vilma suffered harsh injuries to her body and head and a fractured pelvis.
After the attack, Vilma’s daughter, Liz, became even more driven to speak out against anti-Asian crimes. When they watched the documentary, they agreed that Americans in general would learn from it.
“It is important to note that the #StopAsianHate movement was highlighted during the pandemic [and] that AAPI have experienced discrimination and hate crimes for decades prior,” Liz told NextShark. “As documented attacks on AAPI increased substantially during the pandemic, the call for activism to address this issue and provide education is needed more now than ever before.”
The film creates empathy to triumph over feelings of perpetual foreignness and offers solidarity among other people of color, the Karis said. “The more people know about each other, the less they will fear what is different and can hopefully see beyond physical traits and accept each person for who they are as an individual American.”
Liz also believes that the documentary can be used as an educational tool “to help teach the next generation,” following the historical bills recently passed in Illinois and New Jersey
, requiring schools to teach AAPI history.
“One message that the video touches on is the idea that AAPI community does not have a clear leader to look up to for encouragement or unity,” she added. “AAPIs don’t always have strong encouragement to speak up, so it is important for films like this to bring about education and the opportunity for self-reflection.”
Learn more about how you can help spread awareness on anti-Asian hate and fight racism by supporting “The Race Epidemic.”
The Asian Pacific American Leadership Foundation (APALF), is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization, asking readers to help them reach their fundraising goal by donating to their GoFundMe campaign. Funds will support the completion and subsequent national tour of the film, as well as go towards developing anti-bias training for community leaders throughout America. All donations are tax-deductible.