Andrew Yang ’s name is trending on Twitter, but for many Asian Americans, something isn’t adding up.
In a Washington Post op-ed published Wednesday, the former presidential candidate, who suspended his 2020 campaign in February, attempted to address the increasing incidents of harassment and blatant racism against Asians amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In what he described as a “call to action,” the businessman argued that Asian Americans should combat coronavirus-related racism by helping to end the public health crisis, urging them to “help our neighbors, donate gear, vote, wear red white and blue, volunteer, fund aid organizations” and “demonstrate that we are part of the solution.”
“We Asian Americans need to embrace and show our American-ness in ways we never have before,” he added in the article, titled, “We Asian Americans Are Not the Virus, but We Can Be Part of the Cure.”
By late Thursday, more than 6,000 tweets had turned “Andrew Yang” into a trending name, with people criticizing the former presidential hopeful for suggesting that the burden should be on Asian people in the United States to prove that they deserve to be in the country.
The op-ed opens with an anecdote about how Yang felt last week when a man outside a grocery store gave him an “accusatory” look.
“I felt self-conscious — even a bit ashamed — of being Asian,” the entrepreneur wrote, explaining that he had occasionally felt this way growing up and that it was “the first time in years” the feeling had gotten to him.
By and large, Yang said, he has remained unfazed by microaggressions. But because the coronavirus has led to a major spike in “physical and verbal abuse” against Asian Americans, along with an increase in Asians requesting counseling services, Yang said that “things have changed.”
“We all know why. The coronavirus is devastating communities and lives. People’s livelihoods and families are being destroyed. And people are looking for someone to blame,” the former tech executive wrote.
“I obviously think that being racist is not a good thing. But saying ‘Don’t be racist toward Asians’ won’t work,” he continued.
Instead, Yang argued, Asian Americans should be the ones who prove to the rest of the United States that they really are Americans.
“We should show without a shadow of a doubt that we are Americans who will do our part for our country in this time of need,” he wrote.
In other words, as many people on Twitter summarized, Asians should keep their heads down and focus on assimilation, or the idea that immigrants and people of color need to adapt to white America to be accepted.
In the op-ed, Yang seemingly showed sympathy toward people who look at Asians and associate them immediately with the coronavirus, saying, “People are hurting.”
“They look up and see someone who is different from them, whom they wrongly associate with the upheaval of their way of life,” he added.
“It shouldn’t be on Asians to prove we’re American by sacrifice,” one Twitter user pointed out. “We prove we’re American by fighting things that should be un-American, like racism — and not just when it happens to us.”
“Do you think the guy who harasses me on the street cares about community work we’ve done?” another user wrote.
One person criticized Yang for saying Japanese Americans during World War II “volunteered for military duty at the highest possible levels to demonstrate that they were Americans” as part of his argument.
“This rhetoric is extremely dangerous and takes me back to the WWII camps, when Japanese Americans were encouraged to display their patriotism as a response to being treated like prisoners,” the person wrote on Twitter.
Still others said Yang’s op-ed failed to address the role that oppression has had on Asians in the United States.
Throughout his presidential run, Yang was often rebuked for playing up harmful stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans, from adopting “MATH” — or “Make America Think Harder” — as his campaign slogan to implying he knows a lot of doctors because of his race at a cringeworthy presidential debate.
Since the end of his campaign, Yang has transitioned into his new role as a political commentator for CNN and plans to launch a weekly podcast with the Cadence13 network about public policy, technology and social issues, called “Yang Speaks.”
Though it’s all fine and great that Yang has chosen to remain in the spotlight, especially since national media is lacking in people of color, his op-ed for The Washington Post isn’t doing Asian Americans any favors in the acceptance and inclusion department — and it’s certainly not “part of the solution.”
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