Lily Doton specializes in media and communications at Castleton University. She was born in Korea and adopted by a family in Barnard’s Vermonters when she was a baby. The 22-year-old just started writing in earnest last semester and finds solace in sharing her stories. She is passionate about social justice and equality, and she sees Asian people on screen, whether in movies, shows or through music.
Q. What was your first reaction to the Atlanta shooting?
A. “I don’t really know how to explain it, because it wasn’t a shock, I just froze a bit for a second. I found out on Twitter, and I was having a great day, then all of a sudden I couldn’t do anything for a while. “
Q. What do you think now?
A. “Honestly, I sort of stayed like that for a few days where I was just running at a really low level, doing everything I had to do but not doing anything else. Now I am a little, honestly, I do not know. After writing this song, it was really cathartic for me so I feel like I let go of a lot of those feelings that I had. Now I’m just looking for things I can do to prevent this from happening, to protect myself, to help keep others safe in any way I can, looking for organizations and people who speak out on these. things. “
Q. How has Asian hatred increased in recent years?
A. “Growing up in Vermont, I felt like I didn’t really know what was going on before, until I started to be more politically involved or politically aware, which wasn’t really until my senior year. of high school. I think for a lot of Asia before it was mostly microaggressions and little comments and things like that, and I think it got worse, and now with the addition of violence as well. I think this is something that hasn’t been widely seen for a long time. Honestly, we didn’t learn much about what it was for Asians in America, as I took AP US History and we didn’t talk about it. I think Donald Trump’s comments definitely infuriated all of these things, I mean he was calling (coronavirus) the Kung flu, the Chinese virus, I mean there’s no way these things can’t had no impact, coming from a president. Not that this was the cause, but it certainly didn’t help.
Q. If you don’t mind sharing, and you’ve talked about it a bit, but what was your experience as an Asian American in Vermont?
A. Mainly comments, as I said, a little worse than others. For the most part, these are little jokes I used to participate in in high school. Because I didn’t know how to be Asian without making a joke of it back then. As I got older I started noticing comments from men, mostly. I have worked in a restaurant and there have been a few instances where I have received comments from older men. “
Q. What kind of comments, if you don’t mind sharing them?
A. “This guy, he, his friends and their wives came in, and I was their waiter. And they asked me, of course, “where are you from?” and I said ‘Woodstock, Vermont’, and they were like asking me about my heritage, so I told them I was Korean, and then every time I came back to the table he would talk to me in Korean really slaughtered, even though I told him I don’t speak Korean, I could only say “hi”, basically. He told me he had lived in Korea for a little while, him and his wife, and I kinda agreed, that explains why he was doing that, whatever. Then he thought, “Our biggest regret is that we didn’t bring Lily home.” I think I must have told her I was adopted, but I was like… it’s so weird. And then one of the other ladies, I can’t remember if it was his wife, said, “It’s not too late, what are you doing tonight?”
Q. What do you think of the public reaction not only to the shooting, but also to Asian hatred, with the rise of the hashtag #stopasianhate?
A. “I am happy to see that this is gaining ground, because I have the impression that for so long, Asians have been kind of invisible. So I’m really happy that people are talking about this now, and sharing places to donate, and just to be more active than I think they would have been in the past. One thing that really frustrates me, though, is that I see a lot of it targeting black people, basically saying that they have to be the ones stepping in to help Asians. I just think that’s part of it all loving, supporting white supremacy, pinning groups of colored people against each other, saying this other group is the cause of your problems, not white people. Since you should be focusing on this other group, and when you both fix it, you’ll be fine, which is sort of taking White people out of that equation. And I saw a good part of it. I think there should be support between communities, but it shouldn’t all be with people of color helping and supporting each other.
Q. What do you think white people need to achieve with regard to Asian hatred?
A. “With regard to Asian hatred specifically, I think one problem is that we are still seen as the model minority. Other stories of Asian people not doing well financially which puts Asians against other colored groups, supposedly, but of course there are Asians who are not doing well financially. I remember learning briefly about this, part of what separates a lot of Asian households making more money because there are more adults in the household, like more family members. I just feel like when white people see all Asians as a monolith, seeing Asians, first of all, as just East Asians, only fair-skinned Asians, seeing all of them Asians as smart and wealthy and doing well. When you see these things, it kind of erases all the struggles that Asians have had. I think it’s important to recognize that there is this disparity between Asians and other people of color as a whole, I just think there is a real problem with seeing all Asians as the same.
Asian culture has become such a big part of American culture – there is a discourse between people who think you should speak because it’s the right thing to do, and other people who think if you take share in Asian culture, you need to speak. What do you think of this conversation?
A. “I really think it’s true. If you’re having fun or your favorite artists are Asian, why wouldn’t you want to talk about this problem? It just doesn’t make sense to me because if you love these people, and they are Asian, wouldn’t you want to support other people who are like them? I feel like the same conversations were going on with BLM, like listening to rap music, then you should be involved in that conversation. I think taking little things from Asian cultures is so common even among western artists. Don’t get me wrong, I love Ariana Grande and Nicki Minaj, but there were issues with both with Nicki and Chun Li, as her stage decoration was a mix of Chinese, Japanese and Korean costume and architecture. It just shows that you don’t respect that culture.
Q. Do you remember Gwen Stefani and her Harajuku Girl era?
A. When there are so few images of Asians in the media, and the ones you get are Harajuku Girls or quiet little Geisha, then those are your only representations… (walks away without finishing think).
Q. Microaggressions and stereotypes have become something that we don’t recognize but that has become so normalized in Western media, how do you think we can prevent this from happening more and more?
A. “That’s a big question. To get off the topic a bit, I’m taking Black American Cinema with Professor Michael Talbott this semester, and what he always insists is that portrayal matters, moving images matter. The things we see in all forms of media then really form what we think, even if we don’t realize it. So I think one of the important aspects of that is seeing Asian stories onscreen, in an authentic way, like we don’t always have to be the character on the nerdy side or the guy who works in it. IT, or the person who speaks broken English and works in a convenience store, that’s not true for all Asian-American experiences, and it’s kind of seen as if it does. I think it’s important to show Asian people in different roles, in different types of media.
Q. What do you think of [the suspect] shoot an asian woman because they are the cause of her sex addiction?
A. “I think it goes back to the fetishization of Asian women, how they are seen as docile, like sex objects. I doubt there is an Asian woman who has not received a comment on something like this, just because she is Asian. I think the assumption is that Asian women are all submissive and just inherently sexual. I sure think this is just for women in general, but I think there is one really specific thing about Asian women, especially Asian women working in spas and the like. They are the most vulnerable and are seen in this way. “
Q. Do you have anything else to say?
A. “I just guess I want people to listen to Asians when they talk about it. I mean it sounds so simple because it is. Rather than talking to someone, just try to listen. I think it’s really easy to pass him off as sex addict, but if you peel off the diapers and watch him, why is it that six Asian women are the first thing you think of when you’re like ‘this is the fuel for my sex addiction. What systems do we have in place to make him think that? “