HomeAsian AmericansSeattle artist fights coronavirus racism with posters encouraging resilience

Seattle artist fights coronavirus racism with posters encouraging resilience

Monyee Chau displays posters with messages of resilience.

By AmyXiaoshi DePaola, AsAmNews Intern

When Monyee Chau saw white supremacist stickers around her hometown, she decided to fight back.

Three men in masks were reportedly putting up stickers on several Asian American-owned businesses in the city’s Chinatown International District in mid-April. Many residents were upset, scraping off the propaganda, which included slogans such as “America First” and “Better Dead Than Red.” Local law enforcement from the Bias Crime Unit said the work is likely from a known white supremacist hate group, the Patriot Front.

But Chau wanted to counteract the messages of hate with a rallying cry of her own.

“I was in the International District and noticed that our community was being disproportionately affected, even before the virus got to our state,” she said in a phone call. “Because I’m an artist… I thought it was something I really needed to talk about.”

Chau then made a comic as part of a fundraiser for the Wing Luke Museum, but decided to take more action. She teamed up with community leaders, including organizations such as the Parisol, or Pacific Rim Solidarity Network, and the CID Public Safety Council to create a message of unity and resilience.

The poster is yellow, declaring: “Chinatown, Filipinotown, Japantown, Little Saigon were all built on resilience. We will survive this too” in red letters and designs of lion dancer heads sprouting from leaves.

Already, her message is reaching many. Chau says she’s seen the posters around the area and that people from around the country are reaching out with support, including one anonymous donor sending her a package of 250 copies of the poster last week.

“A lot of folks have sent me money and printing resources,” Chau said. “And I know a lot of folks, nationally, have been posting in their Chinatowns.”

Chau’s poster has been distributed and posted by volunteers around Seattle, including in Chinatown, Little Saigon, Koreatown, and Filipino Town. The PDF version is free to download and distribute on her website.

As a second-generation Taiwanese and Chinese American artist, Chau’s work centers around decolonization and the Asian America diaspora.

“This virus has been a chance to talk about the intersectionalities of my experience and what my neighborhood and communities have been experiencing,” Chau said.

For instance, the Asian American museum she’s been affiliated with for over three years, the Wing Luke Museum, has experienced employee harassment. People have also been telling community members to “go back to China,” including those who are not Chinese, and recently, a friend of hers was mugged in what she said was a “racially-charged” incident.

While Chau has received “offhand comments,” she notes that the racism is nothing new.

The backlash is a resurgence of “yellow peril,” or scapegoating Asian Americans for problems such as the inability to find work, Chau said. This movement was especially prominent in the 19th century, which culminated in the lynching of Chinese Americans and the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act. It was the first immigration law that explicitly discriminated against an entire ethnic group and excluded Chinese laborers from immigrating to the U.S., as well as eligibility for U.S. citizenship.

But like the message she’s trying to convey, Chau remains “resilient.”

“I want to share my gratitude for the support that I’m receiving to be able to do this work to support the community,” Chau said.

Chau has shown and curated her work at multiple exhibitions throughout Seattle, as well as been a recipient of many art scholarships. Her work celebrates her roots, defining a new culture as a Chinese American — not separating the two.

Currently, Chau plans to translate the poster in different languages, such as Chinese, Korean, Tagalog, and Vietnamese. She is active on Instagram and her website, chinesebornamerican.com.

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