After New York Times writer Bari Weiss stirred up controversy on social media with a tweet about figure skater Mirai Nagasu’s historic performance at the Olympics, supermodel Chrissy Teigen weighed in and set the record straight.
Teigen, who’s Asian-American herself, politely responded to Weiss following a tweet in which the Times writer shared a video of Nagasu landing a triple axel with the words: “Immigrants: They get the job done.”
Nagasu, however, is not an immigrant.
Weiss deleted her original tweet after immense backlash, but later on defended her words, labeling the criticism as a “sign of civilization’s end.” She mentioned that she used the lyrics from the musical “Hamilton” to celebrate both Nagasu and her immigrant parents, claiming she tweeted “Immigrants: we get the job done.” But that didn’t sit right with Teigen.
Teigen also clarified what Weiss’ original tweet really said.
Though Weiss shared articles from various outlets ― including HuffPost ― to defend her initial tweet, those sources emphasized the journey of Nagasu’s family, rather than characterizing Nagasu herself as an immigrant.
As Teigen points out, Asian-Americans are indeed stereotyped as perpetual foreigners, often portrayed as such in media regardless of whether they were born in the U.S. or how long they’ve lived in the country. The pervasive stereotype leads many people of color to feel their American identity is constantly being questioned, or even erased.
The trope isn’t innocuous, either, as it can have serious effects on Americans of color. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans in Los Angeles County tripled in 2015, with the majority targeting Chinese-Americans, and experts suspect the increase was connected with President Donald Trump’s labeling of China as a foreign enemy during his campaign.
Asians are also more likely than other groups to be charged with espionage in the U.S., according to a study published by nonpartisan Chinese-American organization Committee of 100, and experts feel the perpetual foreigner stereotype has something to do with it.
“I have seen from case after case after case ... that people continue to mistake [Asian-Americans] for foreigners no matter how hard we assimilate and show our loyalty,” the group’s chairman, Frank Wu, told HuffPost.