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  • Writer's pictureFiona

The Recent Surge of Hate Crimes Against Asian-Americans in the U.S

Since the start of the pandemic, Asian Americans have faced racial violence at a much higher rate compared to previous years. Attacks on Asians have soared by 164% during the first quarter of 2021, in sixteen of America's largest cities. COVID-19 has caused this dramatic increase in racism against Asian Americans, and although this is in no way a new phenomenon, the struggles of this community are finally coming to light.

Many people have correlated these recent attacks to comments that were made by former President Trump regarding the pandemic. By repeatedly referring to COVID-19 as “the China virus” or “Kung Flu”, Trump fell into a surge of using diseases to justify xenophobia, conditioning some of his supporters to think of Asian Americans as inferior foreigners and engage in this discriminatory behavior. Although he is now out of office, the effects of his racist remarks are still being felt.

In March 2020, the coronavirus began to spread to the U.S and due to this, there were numerous attacks directed towards Asians. An Asian man was kicked from behind while walking on the street and fell to the ground, with the attacker adding, “F--king Chinese coronavirus” and telling the man to go back to his country. A 64-year-old Vietnamese grandmother was assaulted and robbed of $1,000 in San Jose. A 61-year-old Filipino man was attacked with a box cutter on the subway in New York City. In Baltimore, two Asian American women were beat with a cinder block. Asian Americans have also reported violations of their civil rights, such as being denied service by businesses or rideshares. These are just a few examples of a much more significant and underlying problem. Everyday, a new article appears on my feed of yet another vicious attack against the Asian community.

In March this year, there was a mass shooting in Atlanta across several spas, killing eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The victims were Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Delaina Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Yong Ae Yue, and Suncha Kim. The police charged Robert Aaron Long with eight counts of murder and one count of aggravated assault in connection with the shootings. Long had told the police that he had a “sexual addiction” and the shootings were a means to eliminate his “temptation”. Was his temptation specifically Asian women? Was he another person who inappropriately fetishes people of color? Though the racial bias behind the crime is still being investigated, hate crimes are an evident problem in society today and advocates are calling for more to be done to address violence against Asian Americans.

Being an Asian-American myself, it is heartbreaking to see all these attacks on our community. Being scared for my grandparents, or my brother, or my mom to leave the home is now a reality I have to deal with. Unfortunately, this fear goes all the way back to my childhood, and based on discussions with my Asian friends, I have realized that most of us have internalized racism towards our own ethnicity from a young age. Perhaps we all saw the advantages that came with being white in this country, and envied those privileges. But, I believe the reason we grew out of this “wanting to be white” phase is because as we get older, we get to truly realize how normalized racism is. As a child, it is easy to be influenced, so when your friends make jokes, you laugh along with them. Racism against Asian Americans has been normalized in the forms of microaggressions passed off as comedy. This includes mocking the stereotypical small eyes to friends, making jokes about eating dogs, or even yelling “ni hao” at a random Asian stranger passing by. Regardless of if the stranger was Chinese, this situation in itself is still disrespectful and uncomfortable; this is primarily because of the “comedic” intention behind it. Racism is not funny. However, racism against Asian Americans often goes overlooked due to common stereotypes about the community, especially the model-minority myth. Bianca Mabute-Louie, a racial justice educator, defines this as the assumption that because some Asian Americans have class privilege, high socioeconomic status, and access to quality education, discrimination is not a problem for them. By believing in this, it creates the impression that the struggles faced by the Asian community are illegitimate, which is evidently not the case. Asian Americans are seen as easy targets for crime, perhaps because of language and cultural barriers that might prevent them from reporting incidents. Many are not aware of resources available to them, and there may be a sense of shame around being perceived as a victim in Asian culture.

President Joe Biden has addressed the rise of Anti-Asian American xenophobia, calling it “un-American”. He issued a statement in late March that “too many Asian Americans have been walking up and down the streets and worrying, waking up each morning the past year feeling their safety and the safety of their loved ones are at stake...our silence is complicity. We cannot be complicit. We have to speak out.” He has announced new actions as a response to the increase in acts of anti-Asian violence, which includes providing funding for AAPI survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, establishing a COVID-19 Equity Task Force committee for addressing and ending xenophobia against Asian Americans, training law enforcement on how to deal with hate crimes, and establishing a Department of Justice cross-agency initiative to address anti-Asian violence.

Amanda Nguyen, a civil rights activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize for her work in advocating for sexual assault survivors, has created a viral Instagram video about the attacks, in which she expressed her anger for the violence as well the lack of media attention the cases received. High-profile Asian Americans, like Sandra Oh, BTS, Jamie Chung, Daniel Dae Kim and Jeremy Lin, have helped draw attention to the recent surge in hate crimes. Other celebrities who have openly condemned xenophobia include Megan Thee Stallion, Rihanna, Mark Ruffalo, and Cardi B. Additionally, groups like Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice have formed to address the problem of hate against Asian Americans.

Even if you are not a member of the Asian American community yourself, there is no shortage of actions that you can take to be an ally and support them. In fact, the community will not be able to achieve their goals without the aid of outside supporters.


Further Reading

Header Credits: The Washington Post

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