What exactly does “Asian privilege” mean? That’s what a number of folks have been trying to sort out on Twitter lately, thanks in large part to online dicussions kicked off by Suey Park, the 23-year-old writer and creator of the hashtag #NotYourAsianSidekick. But the hashtag #AsianPrivilege has also popped up, and according to writer Adriel Luis, its implications are even more harmful than the concept of the model minority.
The “Asian” in #AsianPrivilege is meant to refer to Asian Pacific Americans as they stereotypically exist in the American imagination — well-to-do communities who coast through the university system in droves and comfortably find roles as doctors, lawyers and engineers. But in a setting like Twitter — a global forum where context is all but surrendered — this doesn’t quite register.
When one says “Asian,” the baseline meaning is in reference to those originating from the greater continent of Asia. That’s a LOT of people. “Asian” does mean privileged members of Asian Pacific American communities, but also people in the Philippines who live in extreme poverty. It means the rising Chinese middle class which has made the globe its ground for tourism, as well as Tibetans who are legally barred from naming their home. It means South Koreans who enjoy the world’s fastest fiber-optic network, as well as natives of Bikini Atoll who can’t return to their homeland because of deadly levels of radiation left behind from American nuclear testing. To point this out in the conversation of #AsianPrivilege is not splitting hairs. It’s acknowledging the vast portion of the world population which the term marginalizes.