“Asians have weird traditions.”
“Asians are nerds.”
“Asians should go back to China.”
These are a few of the harmful words and phrases members of the Asian community know all too well. They’re the things we’ve been hearing on a regular basis since we were kids, the stereotypes that we’ve been subjected for the majority of our lives.
And now, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we can add two more phrases to that list: “Asians made America sick” and “Asians spread coronavirus.”
Anti-Asian racism isn’t anything new, but since the start of the pandemic, there has been a significant rise in anti-Asian hate crimes. A recent report from the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto Chapter shows there were over 1,000 total cases of racist attacks and incidents reported on the platforms CovidRacism.ca and Elimin8Hate.org between March 10, 2020 and February 28, 2021 in Canada, and in the United States, there were nearly 3,800 incidents reported over the course of a year during the pandemic, according to a report by Stop AAPI Hate. Then, there was the tragic mass shooting that took place at three Atlanta spas last week, killing eight people, including six Asian women.
For Lionel Wong, a Chinese Canadian creative director in the ad industry, the uptick in Asian hate crimes was too big to ignore. So he decided to take a bold stance against Asian hate in the best way he knew how: a series of powerful and blunt visuals that clap back at the slurs and stereotypes directed towards the Asian community.
“I had a lot of feelings inside — I was angry, sad, disgusted and felt helpless,” Wong tells The RepresentASIAN Project. “The violence against our community has gotten so serious that there’s no letting that shit go anymore…and you start thinking, ‘What if that was my family?”
“I knew that flying out to New York, Oakland or Vancouver to patrol the streets wasn’t really an option, so I sat down and started brainstorming what I could do to help…if anything,” he continues. “After seeing what else was out there on social with #StopAsianHate, I noticed a lot of it was just those three words…which by themselves don’t really do anything. What does it mean? What’s happening? Where can I learn more?”
“And that became my brief…create something that expresses what I’m feeling, starts conversations and gives people a few resources where they can educate themselves.”
Wong then began thinking about why people hate Asians and all the stereotypes he heard when he was growing up.
“The scary part about it, is that I had become [desensitized] to most of them. That’s just the way it was growing up in the ’80s and ’90s—you don’t get a voice, there’s no representation, and no one cares,” he recalls.
Once he had the list of “Asian hate headlines,” he began to critique them in a way that would convey the anger and emotion that he was feeling inside.
“I wanted people to question why they were seeing the stereotype or hate message, and hopefully be a little disgusted by it,” he explains.
The result was nine visual assets, each with a common slur and Wong’s own retorts: “Asians all looks the same” reads one, followed by “Yet somehow you still manage to target the defenceless ones.” Another says, “Asians have small dicks,” followed by “But we’ve got bigger balls than you’ll ever have, cowards.”
Though Wong says the creative side in him was nervous to share this headline campaign, the Asian in him was “proud, passionate and just needed an outlet to express what [he] was feeling.”
And as it turns out, Wong wasn’t the only one who felt that way. Since posting these images on social media, he says he’s received a ton of great feedback.
“If I can do even the littlest thing to give the community a voice and educate those outside our community, then it was worth it,” he says.
And though Wong himself says he is on alert and on watch every time he leaves home now, he’s “always ready to defend [himself], [his] family and anyone else being victimized by a hate crime.
“It’s exhausting, but right now it’s necessary,” he says. “Asian people are resilient. We’ve proven this throughout history. So you better believe we’re gonna defend ourselves until this is over.”
Supports and Resources:
To Report Anti-Asian Hate Crimes in Canada:
Mental Health Resources
- Asian Canadian Therapist Directory
- APISAA Therapist Directory
- Asian Mental Health Collective
- The Colour Project — anonymous text-based peer support for mental health with trained volunteers
- Subtle Asian Mental Health — private online community for peer support
- #StopAsianHate GoFundMe
- Red Canary Song — grassroots collective of Asian and migrant sex workers, organizing transnationally
- Butterfly Asian and Migrant Sex Workers Network (Toronto-based)
- SWAN Vancouver — culturally-specialized supports and advocacy for im/migrant women engaged in indoor sex work
- Hyun Jun Kim GoFundMe to support the victim of the Atlanta shooting’s sons
Additional Tools and Resources
- Alternatives to Calling Police
- Amplify Asian Voices | Readings + Resources created by Jezz Chung
- Anti-Asian Violence Resources
- Bystander Intervention Training
- Project 1907 — Vancouver-based grassroots organization helmed by Asian women and dedicated to elevating marginalized voices.
- Responding to Hate Toolkit (Ryerson)