On Last Week Tonight With John Oliver Sunday, Oliver took a deep dive into the history of racism in the United States against Asian Americans, during which he spoke about a little-known story about Chinese survivors of the Titanic and how they were treated when they got to this country following the disaster.
“Here is something you might not know: There were actually six Chinese men who survived the sinking of the Titanic, but upon reaching U.S. shores, were not permitted to enter the United States to recover. Instead, they were forced onto another boat and sent away the very next day,” Oliver said. “Which isn't just racist, it's insensitive. Did it really have to be another boat? They had just been on the best boat and it f***ing sucked. Could you not put them on a zeppelin or something? At the very least, let's try and mix up the doomed turn of the century transportation methods here.”
Oliver went on to dispel the model minority myth, a persistent stereotype that views Asian Americans as inherently successful and problem-free. Oliver pointed out that not only is that not true, but Asian Americans have long been the victims of racist attacks when fear and ignorance turn to violence and discrimination, like the Japanese internment camps during WWII, violence against South Asian Americans following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, and the continued violence against Asian Americans since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There is no nice racism, there is no silver lining to it, and there is no working your way out of it,” Oliver said. “You're still perpetually treated as a foreigner, still asked where you're ‘really from,’ and Asian Americans always seem to be just one geopolitical crisis away from becoming the targets of violence yet again, whether it's those internment camps for Japanese Americans, or the spate of attacks on South Asians after 9/11, or all the recent racial violence during the pandemic. So the model minority myth is both a tool of white supremacy and a trap.”
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