“This is LA. The western capital of the US. The northern capital of Latin America. And the eastern capital of the Pacific rim. A city made of more than 100 nations. Thousands of startups. And 18 million hard-dreaming people. Working to reinvent the city. Sunrise after sunrise. Athletes, storytellers, innovators. Working to achieve their dreams. Welcome to the new LA. – LA24”.
Such is the warm and inviting message accompanying the series of sequential video clips in a joint effort to give off an impression of a vibrant, colorful, and multicultural Los Angeles that welcomes everyone…unless you are Asian, South Asian, or Pacific Islander descent (AAPI). Much to the dismay of AAPI of Los Angeles as well as the rest of the country, the complete absence of any portrayal of one single AAPI serves as a harsh reminder that the “perpetual foreigner” status that has haunted the Asian community for the last 200 years is still alive and kicking since the first wave of Chinese immigrants set foot on the shores of this nation in 1815.
An attempt was made to spotlight Los Angeles as an open-minded cosmopolitan city in full support of equal opportunity and progressive change to the world, but in an ironic twist this advertisement has only succeeded in testifying to the existence and continuation of the age old tradition of ignorance and intolerance towards mainstream America’s favorite eternal immigrants. For two centuries AAPI have been cast as outsiders despite having arrived earlier than the subsequent waves of many European ethnic groups in pursuit of realizing the American dream. To this day the general interpretation of their presence has been that of being either invisible or threatening. It appears mainstream America aims to keep it that way.
Yellow Peril is a term used to dehumanize people of East Asian descent into a threatening, monolithic horde.
Historically, as with many other nationalities of immigrants seeking a better life here, the humble forefathers of AAPI had to start from rock bottom. Although initially comprised of merchants and sailors, the eventual labor shortage in the midst of developing the First Transcontinental Railroad in the mid-19th century opened doors to waves of Cantonese laborers representing the early communities of Asian-Americans. These newly recruited workers were only tolerated as “coolie” laborers, a class of people barely higher than slaves, and thereby treated as such. This was only to be the beginning of a string of abuses to befall upon future AAPI generations to come. Historical transgressions against AAPIs began with laws affecting their immigration, marriage, and incarceration rights, such as the Page Act of 1875, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to state and federal Anti-miscegenation laws, and finally culminating with FDR (Franklin DeLano Roosevelt)’s internment of Japanese Americans in 1942. Of course, these are some softer examples of transgressions that occurred in tandem with lesser-known, more brutal expressions of animosity in the form of bloodshed that erupted every now and then. However, contemporary transgressions against AAPIs continue to this day with no signs of relenting — with glass ceiling in the workplace, affirmative action in education which affirmatively discriminates heaviy against AAPI enrollment but far less detrimental against whites, dehumanization and marginalization in mainstream media, and finally to racially charged targeted acts of violence, otherwise known as hate crimes (i.e. Vincent Chin murder) — all drive home the point that Asian Americans are undesirable foreigners regardless of birthplace or history. To put it bluntly, many non-Asian ethnicities, whose ancestors shared similar struggles akin to those of the first wave of AAPI immigrants, are now recognized as American, while AAPI are not in spite of their deeply rooted history here.
The Chinese Massacre of 1871 was a racially motivated mob attack that left 18 Chinese-Americans dead via mass lynching. It is known as one of the biggest mass lynching in American history and took place in, surprise, Los Angeles.
So history aside, let us now shift back to the commercial in question.
The world has changed drastically since the arrival of the first Asians in America, and currently people all over the world are more interconnected than ever before due to faster and improved methods of communication and trade. As global business transactions continue to flourish, ideological and cultural exchanges also form and grow between the U.S. and many foreign nations, especially Asian countries. As such a phenomenon takes place, is it safe to assume that things have gotten better for AAPIs under these circumstances?
The short answer: No, it isn’t?
Now it appears that the perpetual foreigner label on AAPI has gotten so acceptable to the point where a supposedly pro-equality advertisement about the most diverse city in the nation with the biggest Asian-American population of 1,884,669, according to the 2010 census, casually leaves us out without any fear of looking like a sham. Because sadly that is what it looks like. To boast of being a city made of more than 100 nations yet failing to portray a single Asian-American is quite the telling contradiction. I guess we have to hand it to them for being honest to the whole world about how America’s white supremacist hegemony has historically perceived and continues to perceive Asian-Americans.
“OVER THE NEXT TWO YEARS, WE HAVE THE CHANCE TO SHOW THE WORLD THE NEW LOS ANGELES AND THE OPPORTUNITY OUR GREAT CITY REPRESENTS TO THE INTERNATIONAL OLYMPIC COMMITTEE AND THE OLYMPIC MOVEMENT”.
This is one phrase among a series of tropes presented on the main page at http://www.la24.org/. Unfortunately, when 60 percent of the world population is comprised of Asians (4.3 billion), what they are showing to the world will only end up disappointing more than half of it. They most definitely will not be winning the popularity contest with this one.
This ad being a part of a campaign to get Los Angeles to host the 2024 Olympics, is this a message to viewers that Asian Americans have done nothing to contribute to the games? The following is a list of Asian Americans who have won the gold:
|Name||Year and Location||Sport||# of Medals|
|Sammy Lee||1948 London||diving||1|
|Victoria Manalo Draves||1948 London||diving||2|
|Amy Chow||1996 Atlanta||Gymnastics||1|
|Bryan Ezra Tsumoru Clay||2008 Beijing||Decathlon||1|
|Natalie Coughlin Hall (1/4 filipino)||2004 Athens||Swimming||2|
|Natalie Coughlin Hall (1/4 filipino)||2008 Beijing||Swimming||1|
|Alexi Singh Grewal||1984 Los Angeles||Road cycling||1|
|Natasha Kanani Janine Kai||2008 Beijing||Soccer||1|
|Ford Konno||1952 Helsinki||Swimming||2|
|Tommy Kono||1952 Helsinki||Weight lifting||1|
|Apolo Anton Ohno||2002 Salt Lake City||Speed skating||1|
|Apolo Anton Ohno||2006 Turin||Speed skating||1|
|Yoshinobu Oyakawa||1952 Helsinki||Swimming||1|
|Eric Anthony Sato||1988 Seoul||Volleyball||1|
|Kristine Tsuya Yamaguchi||1992 Albertville||Figure skating||1|
There are certainly countless others if we include silver and bronze medalists to the list. Are these the contributions of dedicated Americans or yellow peril? attacks by foreign invaders?
Well at least LA24.org’s campaign creators were kind enough to add this segment, so we should be thankful for some representation, albeit in the form of this paltry facade. Apparently, to the advertisement’s creators, there are no AAPIs among the group of 18 million hard-dreaming athletes, storytellers, and innovators who work to achieve their dreams. But anytime they want to decorate a corner of their city with a gate of fancy looking dragons or experience a night out for exotic food, they know that there will always be those less athletic, dreamless, uncreative and permanently alien bunch that can be counted on to faithfully serve at their beck and call.
Asians reject these trifling portrayals of our rich culture and history.
Asian-Americans want to be seen and treated as (regular) Americans. AAPI have made their fair share of contributions, sacrifices, and accomplishments for this country. Here are a few more fun facts: While the AAPI population is 4.8 percent of America, the percentage of AAPI welfare recipients are 2.4 percent, which is lower than any other socially constructed racial group (http://www.statisticbrain.com/welfare-statistics/). Also, AAPI contribute more tax than white Americans percentage wise; the percentage of people who pay no income tax is 35.5 percent for AAPI and 37.6 percent for white Americans (http://www.occidentaldissent.com/2011/04/20/black-run-america-the-myth-of-racial-disparities-in-public-school-funding/). In addition, Asian-American entrepreneurs have recently been acknowledged as job creators, the single group most likely to hire other American workers (http://fortune.com/2015/10/22/asian-american-job-hiring-workers/). These are just a few statistics that leave out a myriad of other forms of contributions that cannot be put in numbers. AAPI deserve recognition, especially from a city where they are the fastest growing minority group (http://asianjournal.com/news/report-reveals-asian-americans-fastest-growing-group-in-la/), and having a little representation with a face of an AAPI in a campaign commercial is not too much to ask for.