Updated: Apr 7, 2021
Racism and hate crimes against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have been rife throughout our nation’s history. These crimes are an ongoing issue rooted in systemic racism. Recently, exposure of anti-Asian hate crimes on social media and news outlets has increased because there has been a sharp uptick in violence against the Asian community amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Why is this happening?
That is both an easy and difficult question to answer because it is nuanced, of course. First of all, there is an increase due to anti-Chinese and anti-Asian feelings that were heightened due to leaders such as former President Donald J. Trump. His rhetoric blamed China and Chinese Americans for the deadly coronavirus and referred to it as the “Chinese virus,” “Wuhan virus,” “Kung-flu” and the “China virus,” and he also used racist language to refer to the coronavirus. There are repercussions from these actions. First and foremost, people begin to blame all Chinese and then all Asians, including Chinese Americans and any other Asian Americans. These shameful and racist tactics have been used to obscure the truth, shift blame and ultimately spur terrible attacks on Asian Americans.
While COVID-19 has led to an increase in racism against Asian Americans, Ricky Leung, Senior Director of Programs at NCAAT (North Carolina Asian Americans Together), says this is something the community has been dealing with for decades and that a lot of times “we are only visible when there are acts of violence.” The organization launched their own statewide bias reporting portal to monitor and document incidents of discrimination in North Carolina. It gives victims a voice to report incidents even if they choose to remain anonymous. To access their portal, click here. There is no need to refer to the COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” just like there is no need to coin the global rise in heart disease due to the standard American diet of processed food and high fat intake as the American heart disease. Something can originate somewhere without us blaming individuals and transferring that blame to others of the same ethnicities or race.
Asian Americans are grappling with anxiety, fear and anger as they now regularly face hate crimes. There are consistent reports of Asian Americans being beaten up and even lit on fire, such as the 89-year-old woman who was attacked and set on fire in Brooklyn last year. Another violent act happened in New York City early last month in the case of Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino whose face was slashed on a subway train. The assailant used a box cutter to slash Quintana’s face from ear to ear for no apparent reason. The alarming frequency of these incidents shows that they are not isolated events, but rather the continuation of anti-Asian sentiments we saw increasing with the spread of COVID-19. One of the latest brutal attacks occurred to Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand who was violently slammed to the ground by a man who charged into him at full speed in San Francisco. Ratanapakdee sadly passed away two days later at the hospital where he was being treated for his injuries. The surveillance video of Ratanapakdee being attacked can be watched here, but note it does contain violent imagery. Because of this blatant brutality, a campaign has been spurred to raise awareness by many prominent Asian Americans, who took to the internet using the hashtag #JusticeForVicha and #StopAsianHate.
Are you of Asian descent? First of all, be proud of your heritage and stay safe. There is nothing to be ashamed of. It is also time to enact change. If you’ve been a victim of anti-Asian violence or hate, then report it. Don’t just let it go. One place to do so is through Stop AAPI Hate. You can also get help through Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Another suggestion is to stick together with fellow Asian Americans and people of color and make your votes, money and words count to help the cause. We need to have solidarity among all disenfranchised people or it will be easier for racism to continue to be condoned and pushed under the rug. Finally, if you are struggling mentally with all of what’s been going on, then consider talking to someone through the Asian Mental Health Collective.
If you are a non-Asian person that enjoys things that originate from Asia such as bubble tea, K-POP, anime and Asian cuisines, please do not ignore the rise in hate crimes towards this group that have been rapidly increasing since the beginning of COVID-19. Racism is a virus. I implore everyone not to enjoy elements of Asian culture while simultaneously choosing to ignore xenophobia and racism. Instead, help Asian communities close to you; there are many ways to help. Regardless of your skin color, if you see anyone experiencing verbal or physical assault, do something. Say something. Love is an act, and love is all about how you continuously behave day after day.
By Hannah Taib, Staff Writer