“It’s sad that we have to have this to bring us together,” Angela Lim, deputy general counsel at Viz.ai, Inc. says, referring to a gunman murdering eight people, including six Asian women, in Atlanta in mid-March, during a recent webcast hosted by the ACC Foundation. Lim likens the current emotional turmoil surrounding Asian hate to the AAPI community’s reaction to the murder of Vincent Chin in 1982.
In the early 1980s, Japan’s successful auto industry was blamed for the decline of Michigan’s economy, and Chin, a Chinese man mistaken as someone of Japanese descent, was killed in Michigan by two white men who resented Japan because it contributed to the state’s rising unemployment. Chin’s attackers were charged with manslaughter, paid a US$3,000 fine, and served three years' probation — no jail time. The incident sparked an outcry for Asian American civil liberties, something Lim finds history repeating today. “This outraged the community then,” Lim says, “and I feel we are outraged now.”
“When you hear of violence like this, every rock that has been thrown at you,” she continues, “it all comes back.”
Lim’s panelists echoed agreement, remembering stereotypes and microaggressions from across their lives. Thomas Kim, chief legal officer at Thomson Reuters, says he spent years fighting stereotypes because he didn’t want to be known as “the Asian lawyer.” Where people expected him to be quiet and shy, he became aggressive. Now he wonders how he would be different had people stereotyped his ethnicity differently.
Yoon Ettinger, chief counsel, litigation, and claims at Southern Gas Co, expressed her frustration with not only Asian stereotypes but with Asian woman stereotypes. There’s a “belief that Asian women are docile and submissive, and they’ll just keep their head down and get their work done,” Ettinger says, “and then on the other hand, if you do speak up... then you’re the dragon lady.”