US actor and producer James Hong's acceptance speech during the Screen Actors Guild Awards on Sunday has shocked the country. "The producer said Asians were not good enough, and they are not box office; but look at us now," Hong said. Gif files of him imitating the early days when Asian actors had to tape their eyes and emojis of his "look at us now" were flooding social networking sites.
Over the past 94 years, Hong has seen racism against Asians from close quarters. Racism was sweeping through the Western world in the 1930s and 40s. Even the Chinese, despite having been allies of the United States in World War II, were treated badly because of their yellow-colored skin.
It was not until the 1960s, when the Civil Rights Movement gathered momentum, that the US started abolishing racist laws and regulations. But in the 21st century, as social disparities have grown, the monster of hatred against Asians has again reared its head, its effect multiplied through social networking sites.
This cycle of hatred usually has a bearing on the economy. When racism was rampant in the 1930s, the US was struggling with the Great Depression; when the Civil Rights Movement started in the 1960s, the US was seeing prosperity.
With their hardworking spirit, Asians have helped turn many desolate places into prosperous cities, which is why the West Coast of the US flourished. Had there not been Asians, the West Coast would still be all sand from which silicon, and its benefits, would have never been extracted.
As the US is again facing social divides, now is the time for it to take action. Whether it can root out racism will decide whether it can continue prospering in the 2020s. The choice is theirs.