Image Credits: “RACISM” by roger g1 is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
Anti-Asian hate crimes, including both verbal and physical attacks, have been on the rise ever since the COVID-19 pandemic first began, but the AAPI community is no stranger to racism. From the Chinese massacre of 1871, to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to the Japanese internment camps, all the way to the model minority myth, Asian Americans have been facing various forms of racism and discrimination but only until recently, have these alarming and despicable attacks begun to gain attention.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans have more than doubled within a year, with almost 4,000 reported incidents during the coronavirus pandemic alone. According to NBC News, “One Chinese American woman reported that a ‘man on the subway slapped my hands, threatened to throw his lighter at me, then called me a ‘c—- b—-.’ He then said to ‘get the f— out of NYC.’’ Another woman, who’s Filipino American, reported that while in a Washington, D.C., [at the] metro station with her boyfriend, a man shouted ‘Chinese b—-‘ at her, coughed at the couple and physically threatened them.”
In February of 2021, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant in San Francisco, California, passed away after being violently pushed into the pavement; in New York, an 89-year-old Chinese woman was physically assaulted and set on fire. A 91-year-old elderly citizen was shoved into a sidewalk in Oakland, California; two Asian American women were stabbed in San Francisco, where the suspects casually left the scene in the middle of the day. The series of mass shootings in Atlanta, Georgia are one of the worst instances of racism and discrimination against the AAPI community, and have been nonchalantly dismissed as an action that occurred because “the suspect had a ‘bad day’”. The examples above are merely a few of the countless incidents that have occurred in the past couple of months, but racism against Asian Americans has been existing and thriving beside all of us for centuries, yet has gone unnoticed–not because no one chose to speak up, but because nobody chose to listen.
According to a study done by the Pew Research Center, some Asian American respondents “directly cited former President Donald Trump and his rhetoric about China as the source of the pandemic, his racist comments or his labeling the coronavirus as the “kung flu” or “Chinese flu” as one of the reasons for the rise in violence.” Sources say that scapegoating and blaming the AAPI community for the COVID-19 pandemic and its impacts have also played a major part in the drastic rise of violence and hate against Asian Americans.
The Pew Research Center continues, “The [survey] also found that Asian adults are more likely to express fear over discrimination than other groups. About a third (32%) say they fear someone might threaten or physically attack them, a greater share than among Black adults (21%), Hispanic adults (16%) or White adults (8%). Asian Americans are about as likely as Black adults to say they have been subject to slurs or jokes since the start of the pandemic (27% and 24%, respectively).”
Numerous members of the AAPI community have stepped forward in sharing their own stories and experiences, and express that the society has made them feel as though they do not belong in America or are not American due to their physical appearances or cultural differences. According to BBC, Amanda Nguyen, an activist and the founder of the Rise civil rights nonprofit organization says, “Although the Asian population [has grown] faster than other major groups in the last US census, the community’s stories are not widely covered in the media and its concerns are not polled by political parties. Some federal agencies do not even include the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in their definitions of racial minorities…They have made us a scapegoat to enact their violence.”
Although the AAPI community has been facing the sharp increase of racism and discrimination following the COVID-19 pandemic, many are optimistic that eventually, equality will be achieved and justice will be served. “We are in a moment of reckoning right now,” Ms. Nguyen adds. “We have been systematically erased on every single level and people can start to combat that by educating themselves about us.” Through more media coverage and awareness surrounding racism that Asian Americans have been and are still resisting, many are confident that in the near future, everyone will ultimately recover from these alarming circumstances and will bounce back stronger than ever before, as a united community.