It took a very polite and well-thought out tweet from model and host Chrissy Teigen to explain to New York Times writer Bari Weiss why it wasn’t appropriate to brand US Olympic ice skater Mirai Nagasu an immigrant.
Weiss earlier in the week stirred up a bit of a controversy on social media with a now-deleted tweet about Nagasu’s historic performance at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, where she became the first US female figure skater to nail a triple axel (where one casually spins thrice in the air in less than a second), tweeting:
“Immigrants: They get the job done.” Along with a video of Nagasu’s performance.
The accomplished figure skater however, is not an immigrant.
According to this report, Weiss initially tried to defend her tweet, and mentioned she used the lyrics from the musical Hamilton to ‘celebrate’ Nagasu and her immigrant parents.
But Teigen, who is half Thai, gave Weiss a bit of schooling on why calling the figure skater an immigrant wasn’t appropriate:
It’s called perpetual otherism or perpetual foreigner syndrome. No one is ashamed of the word immigrant but it’s tiring being treated as foreigners all the time. You made a mistake. It’s okay. But people are really giving you calm, great insight. Just learn and breathe. All good. https://t.co/DmvdvBpG9Z
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) February 13, 2018
This is surprising really, as Teigen usually tweets with her trademark sarcasm and sass but it seems this time, she really just wanted to broaden one white woman’s non-experience.
Teigen correctly points out that Asian-Americans are stereotyped as perpetual foreigners, regardless if they were born in the USA.
The stereotype can often lead US-born children of immigrant parents to feel their American identity is constantly being questioned, made invalid, or even erased.
It also isn’t just about offending their feelings: a report details that hate crimes against Asian-Americans tripled, specifically against Chinese-Americans, with experts adding it was connected with President Donald Trump’s rhetoric against China and his labeling them as a ‘foreign enemy.’
The trope isn’t innocuous, either, as it can have serious effects on Americans of color. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans in Los Angeles County tripled in 2015, with the majority targeting Chinese-Americans, and experts suspect the increase was connected with President Donald Trump’s labeling of China as a foreign enemy during his campaign.
“I have seen from case after case after case … that people continue to mistake [Asian-Americans] for foreigners no matter how hard we assimilate and show our loyalty,” said Frank Wu, the chairman for the Chinese-American group Committee of 100, Frank Wu, in an interview with HuffPost.