#STOPASIANHATE How the Fashion Industry is Addressing the Violence Against Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders

#STOPASIANHATE How the Fashion Industry is Addressing the Violence Against Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders

Texas has recently been in the national spotlight in the most unfortunate way. Our beautiful and diverse city of San Antonio has been impacted by the rise in Anti-Asian violence in the U.S. when local restaurant Noodle Tree, owned by Asian American chef Mike Nguyen, was targeted and vandalized with graffiti splayed across the windows with phrases like  “Kung flu,” “Commie,” “Ramen noodle flu” and even the sickening message “Hope u die.” On the heels of this incident, the community came together and helped the restauranteur in cleaning, supporting by putting in thousands of dollars worth of orders and sharing this business all over social media, expanding the reach of support throughout Texas and the nation. The city even came together for a peaceful manifestation held downtown to show support and stand in solidarity with the AAPI community. At Style Lush TV, we want to express that we stand by our Asian American and Pacific Islander community within the Fashion Industry and in all facets, nationwide.


Mike Nguyen at Noodle Tree after racist vandalism. Photo courtesy of Mike Nguyen/Noodle Tree

Anti-Asian sentiments in the United States are unfortunately not new. In fact, the history of violence and racism towards Asians in the U.S. stems back to 1875 with the Page Act, which is the headliner for the Chinese Exclusion Act, in which Asian women were pegged as prostitutes in a racist and sexist immigration act. Since then, there have been multiple instances in history of anti-Asian hostility and legislation, including the Japanese Internment Camps after WWII with President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, and the most recent surge in anti-Asian sentiment after the initial months during the Coronavirus Pandemic. “Law enforcement and society, in general, tends to really not understand how racism and hate and prejudice is directed toward Asian-Americans, and certainly not understand how it’s directed toward Asian-American women,” said Helen Zia to the New York Times, in the wake of the heinous spa shooting in Atlanta just last Tuesday, in which 6 of the 8 victims were of Asian descent. “So the instant reaction is generally to discount and dismiss it.” Zia, an activist, journalist, and author, has been documenting anti-Asian violence which has seen a historic rise of 150% in the last 12 months in the U.S. alone.

Fashion designer Philip Lim, Instagram’s Director of Fashion Partnerships Eva Chen, Fashion Influencer/Beauty Entrepreneur Tina Craig and Editor in Chief of Allure Michelle Lee are just a few among the AAPI leaders in the Fashion & Beauty Industries using their platforms to spread awareness, share stories and resources to end the senseless violence that the AAPI is facing. Using the social media hashtag #STOPASIANHATE,  they have reached millions of people to spread this message to fight racism, support AAPI and raise millions of dollars to AAPI grassroots organizations that do the work for restorative justice.


Fashion Designer, Philip Lim. Photo sourced via CFDA


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We’ve had the opportunity to have important dialogues with AAPI in the Fashion Industry in Texas and today we would like to share their voices. We spoke with Fashion Photographer Semon Tam, Publicist, Influencer and Beauty Entrepreneur Christina Coker, Vintage Curator and Fashion Entrepreneur Natalie Medina, and Fashion Merchandising Student and Style Lush TV intern Emily Vu to learn more about their sentiments towards anti-Asian violence, breaking Asian stereotypes, the #STOPASIANHATE campaign, the feeling of being a perpetual foreigner and their hopes for a brighter tomorrow for AAPI in the Fashion Industry and humanity.

Semon Tam – Fashion Photographer


Semon Tam, Photo sourced via Facebook

“First of all, we must stop racial discrimination against Asians. Stop Asian Hate! In addition, I have seen that the Asian fashion industry has caught up with the trend of the world. the works of Asian fashion designers have taken the lead all over the world. This is in line with the efforts of Asians. It is inseparable from the spirit of learning and hard work. I have confirmed this in participating in world fashion shows. I’m so proud to be an Asian American. We deserve the freedom to live in this country.”

Christina Coker – Publicist, Influencer, and Beauty Entrepreneur


Christina Coker at the San Antonio Fashion Awards. Photo sourced via Instagram

“I’m a 1st generation American on my Mom’s side of the family. She’s a born and raised Korean woman who has lived in the U.S. for about 2/3 of her life. With hate crimes against Asians in San Antonio (and around the country) rising and making national news, we’ve now reached the point where my Dad, sister and I will not let her go out alone.

One of the most in-your-face, blatant, stereotypical experiences of racism that happened to me was when I first moved to San Antonio about a dozen years ago and was bartending on the Riverwalk. An older White woman came in to ask for directions to the Alamo; I gave them to her and she stood there for few seconds in confused silence. I asked her if she would like me to write them down for her. She said, “no, I got it, I just wasn’t expecting someone that looks like you to speak such good English”. Then she thanked me and walked away. I was so stunned, I just stood there with my jaw dropped. It took me a minute to recover. What the hell just happened?! I’ll never forget it. I can only imagine what my Mom has experienced. Hate crimes against Asians are up 150% in a single year. I’m pissed. I’m worried. I’ve been given pepper spray to carry.
I could write for days on the subject and still not feel like I have the adequate words. But it boils down to #StopAsianHate”

Natalie Medina – Fashion Entrepreneur & Vintage Curator, Grey Moon Vintage


Natalie Medina. Photo sourced via Facebook

“While I appreciate the support that the #stopAsianhate campaign has shown, I also feel that using words like “stop hate” makes it easy for people to distance themselves from their own responsibility and participation in anti-Asian hate. Very rarely does anyone outwardly say they hate Asian people—they just say they should “go back to where they came from” and they should “speak English” and that calling it the “Chinese virus isn’t racist or harmful”. They don’t see the hatred embedded in those ideas and phrases. They don’t see how brutal violence is intertwined with ideas like these. Even those who are committing violent hate crimes won’t say they hate anyone—they say they were “having a bad day”.
I think it’s important to acknowledge that just because someone isn’t outright assaulting Asian people or vandalizing their property, does not mean they are not upholding and participating in hateful ideas and acts. The dehumanization of Asian women and femmes through stereotypes and fetishization is rooted in hate. While it may look like “love and appreciation” on the surface, the feelings behind these stereotypes come from a need to possess and control. Some questions for those who are interested in doing some reflection: Do you assign the Asian women and femmes in your life the role or expectation of caregiver, sexual object, or anime character? And then feel hostile resentment when they don’t coddle & care for you, fulfill a sexual fantasy, or cheer you up with their cartoon-like personality?
Do you hold Asian women (and other women of color) to a different, dehumanizing expectation than you do others and even yourself? Do you hold space for them and their mistakes, multitudes, humanness, and individuality? Do they hold less value or credibility if they don’t speak English or speak with an accent?
In regards to what I would hope to see in the fashion/beauty community would be that those who uphold and benefit from white supremacy do the work. Call out friends and family that say hateful things like “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu”. Stop bullying, plagiarizing, and taking from BIPOC women and femmes in fashion/beauty. Be intentional in making space for and amplifying without tokenizing. Have the hard conversations and confrontations so we don’t have to. “

Emily Vu – Fashion Merchandising Student and Style Lush TV Intern


Emily Vu. Photo sourced via Instagram
“In regards to the increase in anti-Asian violence in the U.S., I find it so devastating. I am a second-generation Asian-American, meaning my parents were born in the United States as well. Growing up, I always thought I was the same as everyone else. It wasn’t until class-mates of mine would point out my features or stereotype me because of how I looked. Racism was always brushed under the rug for the Asian-American Community, however, it is time we find our voices and our strength to stop the hate and racism. This also goes for the BLM movement that is still ongoing, we as Americans need to fight against racism because it is unacceptable.
My hope for the future of the AAPI community in the fashion/beauty industry is that we can all come together in peace and express our culture through clothing, beauty, and aesthetics. Families and individuals willingly came here to fulfill their American Dream, just like Columbus did centuries ago when he had discovered North America, he had the vision to start something new. I hope we can all come to the realization that this country is going to be diverse whether people like it or not, and our differences in features, cultures, and backgrounds are what makes us so unique and beautiful. If I could describe the beauty, it’d be a painting full of every color.”

Breaking through an era when we are waking up to the damage that stereotypes like the myth of the model minority, among many others, cause we need to realize that Asians are not a monolithic community. There are 48 countries in Asia and over 2,000 languages. These narratives drive divisiveness between the Asian community and other minorities in the U.S. like the Black and Latinx communities. This is especially dangerous because it reinforces the stereotype that they are not vulnerable and that they are different from other Americans when it couldn’t be farther from the truth.

We are sharing some resources to support AAPI and spread awareness to stop the violence. The Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) organization has a vast list of resources so please take a moment to visit aapip.org for more ways to help and get involved at the national and local levels.

Resources

Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP) – AAPIP.org

STOP AAPI HATE – stopaapihate.org

Southeast Asian Freedom Network (SEAFN) – prysm.us/movementbuilding/national/

Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund – aaldef.org

Asian American Psychological Association – ​Anti-Bullying Campaign – aapaonline.org


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Jeanelly Concepcion
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Originally from New York City, Jeanelly is of Dominican roots. Having lived in Puerto Rico for over 22 years, she now enjoys a highly successful fashion blogging career at TheFashionLotus.com. She is a Texas influencer and has been a freelance fashion contributor for Style Lush TV for several years. She believes in empowering women through fashion and helping them feel beautiful no matter what their financial situation, body shape, age or where they live or work.