This Awful WSJ Headline Is Anti-Asian Racism at the Worst Time Possible
Really, now, of all times?!
Anti-Asian racism has been on the rise in recent years, partially due to COVID-19 but also due to racist media and news reporting blaming all Asians for the actions of the Chinese government. Some publications have sought to combat this by being aware of their own contributions to anti-Asian racism. Others, of course, are slow to self-reflect and correct, as evidenced by an opinion article recently published in the Wall Street Journal titled “Are there too many Asians?”
First, there are a few things I want to say, before diving deeper:
One: This article’s title would be terrible at the best of times, but it’s especially vile because it was published days after the tragic Lunar New Year shooting in Monterey Park that killed 11 people and injured 9. The shooting targeted a local Ballroom Dance Studio that was also a community center for Asian immigrants. (Note: The shooter was Asian but not someone who frequented the studio and was reportedly looking for his wife.)
Two: Asia is literally one of the largest and most populated continents, but Americans also group East Asians, South Asians, Pacific Islanders, and people from the Middle East into the nebulous category of “Asian.” If you’re going to critique us, do it properly.
Three: The article is about China’s FALLING birth rate, so the headline’s not even accurate to the content of the article.
The writer of the article, William McGurn, is a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush and is now The Wall Street Journal‘s Chief Editorial Writer—which I guess explains how this article got past the editor: He is the editor. (Seriously, don’t do your own editing, kids.) He has also written multiple anti-Asian articles previously; even his articles about anti-Asian racism seem to be sprinkled with anti-Asian sentiment. Despite this, McGurn continues to sell himself as an authority on China, having written a book about Hong Kong.
Personally, I find the most disconcerting fact in all of this to be that McGurn and his wife adopted three Chinese girls. Some may argue that gives him the right to talk about China, especially when critiquing their one-child policy that has led to infant girls being abandoned. But I think that should also make him more cautious about what he says.
Some parents on social media have noted how white families of POC kids (whether through adoption or interracial families) can frequently use their family members as “passes” for their behavior. You know the tired assertion: “I can’t be racist, I have a black/Asian/Latinx child.”
I can’t testify as to whether that is the case with McGurn and his family, but I will say that his continued anti-Asian racism seems to have gone largely unchallenged until now.
Thankfully, the outcry was swift and forceful. Asian Americans like epidemiologist & health economist Eric Feigl-Ding, and TikToker @etchaskej all critiqued the article for both timing and content. Although, many noted that this is just one drop in a long overflowing bucket of anti-Asian sentiment that many have been forced to swallow.
The headline has since been changed to the slightly less racist “China and the Population Bomb That Wasn’t,” though some activists see this as more an attempt to bury their wrongdoing than own up to it. I doubt McGurn or the Wall Street Journal will do better in the future. But we certainly can.
If you’re interested in learning more about the victims of the Monterey Park shooting and/or anti-Asian racism, I would suggest following @etchaskej on TikTok. He’s been doing videos on every single one of the community members who lost their lives and has been sharing resources to help victims and their families.
(featured image: Eze Amos/Getty Images)
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