Considering Crazy Rich Asians is “old” in the world of news at this point, some of you may be wondering why anyone would write about it four months after its release. Even so, in light of recent racism and horrific anti-blackness on campus, now is as good a time as any for non-Black POC to reflect on their own histories of racism, and their place in the fight against anti-Blackness.
To my fellow Asians, I want to ask, how did you all feel yesterday when you heard about the anti-Black vandalism in Welch? I hope the answer is infuriated and disgusted, and I want to believe that we and other non-Black POC peers are in active solidarity with our Black brothers, sisters, and siblings. However, I fear that many of us are in a state of indifference and are opting not to acknowledge the terribleness of these events, and this ignorance can likely be traced back to one thing. And that one thing is Crazy Rich Asians. Or, more specifically, its success.
Up until the release of Crazy Rich Asians, Asians have been starved for media representation. Most of us have grown up without a single Asian-American role model in our lives, besides the occasional Jeremy Lin or Lucy Liu. I know firsthand how seen I felt when I saw a movie with an all-Asian cast become the highest-grossing rom-com in a decade.
Unfortunately, with representation comes a price, and for Asians, it is that we’ve gotten too comfortable with ourselves. I think many of us convince ourselves that Crazy Rich Asians ended racism as we know it. But let’s not fool ourselves. We still only make up 1% of the leading roles in Hollywood, and that statistic isn’t going to change anytime soon. Just a few months ago, Detroit Rep. Bettie Cook Scott called her opponent in the primaries, Stephanie Chang, a “ching-chong.” Targeting Asians for “taking over the libraries and study rooms” on social media or through outright vandalism is still an endemic problem in higher institutions such as UCLA, UC Berkeley, and Washington University in St. Louis. I think we all know that these issues still exist, so why are we trying to convince ourselves they don’t? Just because Constance Wu was nominated for a Golden Globe?
Moreover, what concerns me greatly about Crazy Rich Asians is that Asians have not only become complacent in fighting against their own oppression, but also in their support of others'. The fact that not every single Boston College Asian cultural organization has yet made a well-thought-out statement in support of their black peers is upsetting. And let’s not contain ourselves to BC anti-blackness. Remember the Harvard affirmative action case from earlier this fall? Yes, the lack of support among Asians for their black and brown peers was alarming. Sure, a little over 50% of Asian-Americans support affirmative action (so technically, the majority), but we can and need to do better than that.
And if we consider the entirety of Asian-American history and our contributions to this country, Crazy Rich Asians plays a very small role. Think about Bhagat Singh Thind, a Sikh American who fought for Indian independence and rightful citizenship of Indian Americans. Or Yuri Kochiyama, an activist who fought for reparations following Japanese internment. Or the historic court case Lau v. Nichols, which decided that a lack of “English as a Second Language” (ESL) Programs in public schools violated the Civil Rights Act of 1964. All of these monumental figures and events didn’t stop anti-Asian racism, or any form of racism for that matter. In light of that, is Crazy Rich Asians really the hill we’re willing to lay down and die on?
Finally, for everyone who thinks Crazy Rich Asians was the end-all-be-all to anti-Asian racism, it wasn’t. There were almost no South Asians portrayed on screen, which, considering Singapore’s diversity, is basically the equivalent of the hit sitcom Friends having no characters of color. It didn’t touch upon many of the issues Asian-Americans go through. And let's be clear: it wasn’t about Asian-American empowerment. While all this doesn’t take away from the significance of Crazy Rich Asians, it also doesn't give us an excuse to be silent about our oppression or that of Black students on campus. Now more than ever is the time to stand in solidarity with all those students affected by racism on-campus.
For those who suffered from the recent events on CoRo, please know that The Gavel is a safe space for all BC students. Should anyone need a place to process their feelings in the wake of these disturbing incidents, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Black Lives Matter. They always have, and they always will.