Anti-Asian incidents soar amid the pandemic

To+spread+awareness+on+anti-asian+racism%2C+posters+were+put+up+in+New+York+City.+

Photo Credit: Photo by Wikimedia Commons under Creative Common License

To spread awareness on anti-asian racism, posters were put up in New York City.

There has been a rise in anti-Asian incidents. There has been an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. This isn’t something that has happened out of nowhere.

Racism in the Asian community is nothing new

Many Asian-Americans have faced discrimination, this includes being told racist comments and heinous acts of violence, ever since the pandemic. From being called “ching-chong” to being told to go back to their “country,” it is something many American-Asians faced while living in the US. Even before Covid-19, these slurs occurred daily throughout their whole life. 

Racism has hit a whole different level since the pandemic began a year ago. New jokes like “eating bats” appeared, but it started to get out of hand when the jokes turned into blaming Asian people for the virus. Many people just see these comments as “jokes,” but these are the same jokes that have created and normalized implicit biases and stereotypes. People started to associate the virus with Asian people and backlash against the community started to happen. Something verbal started to become physical. 

Racism becomes violent

Throughout social media platforms, numerous videos of these attacks have surfaced. In the videos, you would see an Asian person [most of the time it is an elder person] going about their day when all of a sudden they get attacked out of nowhere. All because of one reason, their race. When asked about how they felt after the videos of violent attacks on Asian-Americans that surfaced, this is what some people responded:

“I was scrolling through my Instagram feed when a video of an elderly Asian being attacked appeared. My heart dropped and fear and anger filled my heart since I started to think of my own family. This could have been them in the video and that scared me,“ feared Praise Emor, junior at Colonia High School.

Deine Saerang, junior at Colonia High school, added, “I feel very worried for these elders and it’s really heartbreaking. It hurts to see, especially, elders within my community in danger due to other people’s ignorance. I feel disappointed in knowing that elders, who are more susceptible to danger, has to worry about talking a walk or can’t go somewhere in peace.”

Math teacher, Ms. Margaret Chen has been working towards her Doctoral degree at Columbia University in New York City. Chen explained, “I recall how Ms. DiNicola [Guidance Counselor at Colonia High] used to ask me about how I kept myself safe on my weekly trips to NYC and I used to reply back that I don’t. I just go straight to class and then come straight home. Now, I’m thinking twice about what protection I have when I leave the house and checking my surroundings. I don’t even allow Grandma Chen to go grocery shopping anymore.”

Statistics

According to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, there was an increase in anti-Asian Americans hate crimes of 146% in 16 of the US populous cities. From March 19, 2020, to December 31, 2020, Stop AAPI received a report of 2,808 anti-Asian incidents.  13.5% were elderly that reported being assault. This is more than the Asian-American population overall, which is 8.7%. However, a lot of the incidents go unreported.

Opinions

This is the result of these “jokes.” Some people start to take it seriously and embed the idea that Asians created this virus in their minds.

“It’s nothing unexpected. America is no stranger to racism and prejudice. Targeting elders is also just a sign of fragility and insecurity. Hate towards people who can’t or won’t defend themselves. It’s sad,” Ryan S. expressed his thoughts.

“I feel outraged. My mind can’t seem to understand why anyone would think this is acceptable,” voiced sophomore Ashley Lembong.

You can’t blame a whole country for a virus

The first cases of Covid-19 were first found in Wuhan, China. You can’t blame a whole country, let alone an entire race, on a virus that was out of their control. Calling the virus “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu” is not only racist but xenophobic. What was the point of calling it the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu” when it already has its name? Is it the need to blame someone for the virus? If so, they fail to realize that Asian people are victims of the virus too and now have to face discrimination on top of it all. 

Asian-Americans must come together

Some people fail to recognize the difference between Asian ethnicities and they group all Asians together. There are over 30 different Asian ethnicities in the US alone, but many seem to assume all Asian people as Chinese. It seems like a silly reminder, but Chinese people are Asian, but not all Asian people are Chinese.

This is not the time to be pointing fingers or trying to put blame on anyone. For example, getting defensive and saying things like “I’m not even Chinese, I’m [insert an ethnicity]” supports the stereotype and divides the Asian-American community. At a time like this, the Asian-American community needs to come together and support one another. 

Ms. Chen explained, ” Growing up, I was told to keep my head down, try to keep a low profile, and just don’t bring attention to yourself but with the nationwide surge in racist harassment, abuse, and violence, I don’t think being silent is an option. Silence means being complicit. I think everyone needs to be aware of the xenophobic rage and hysteria, stoked by racist rhetoric, that’s occurring…scapegoating Asians and Asian Americans for the spread of the coronavirus. I think learning about the history and the parallels of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Geary Act, the Japanese internment camps, the Black Panther movement, etc. can help us examine America’s sad history of hate, racist discrimination, violence against communities of color, economic upheaval, health disparities, and etc. Finally, I think the “model minority” myth downplays the violence that’s occurring, painting Asian Americans as successful and problem-free, and thus treating this incident as a result of a “bad day” than what it really is: a hate crime.”

Personal stories and feelings

Rachelle Saerang, a student at Colonia High School, describes her take on the anti-Asian motivated incidents. All the racist jokes made towards her are nothing new. Ever since the pandemic and up to now, the racism has become more evident. She fears for her parents and elder relatives when she goes out. Although, this is not her biggest fear.

Saerang explains, “My greatest fear during these times is how these acts aren’t being called what it is. People forget to mention that white domestic terrorism is this country’s greatest issue — regarding the hate crime incident that happened on Tuesday. We are making excuse after excuse and not only have Asian Americans or victims have had enough of this, but our society has seen too much of it. When the police officer did that infamous press conference, he said the gunman was having a ‘bad day’ and ‘this is what he did.’ The victims that died due to this hate crime do not deserve this kind of ill treatment. We must acknowledge Asian Hate Crimes and White Domestic Terrorism for what it is. As a country, we have to stop making excuses or we risk more Asian lives due to racist hate crimes.”

On March 16, Robert Aaron Long, 21, fatally shot six Asian women and two others at an Atlanta massage parlor. Although the shooting is still being investigated, FBI Director Chris Wray said in an interview with NPR that it “does not appear” that race factored into the mass shooting. 

An anonymous source revealed a racist encounter they faced while in school, “One time during lunch, before lockdown, I was getting a fork for my lunch when I saw that some girls were blocking the path back to my table. I said ‘excuse me’ while not making eye contact and as soon as I pass them I hear one of the girls say, ‘Excuse me? She almost gave me Covid,’ and another saying, ‘Careful, she might cough on you.’ This made me feel so angry that people are accusing Asian people of having a virus as if you were born with it, it reminded me of America years ago when they would consider Asian people as virus-carrying rats.” This source preferred to stay anonymous to not escallate the situation.

What can you do to help?

Immediately report all incidents

If you happen to witness any anti-Asian incident, report it to stopaapihate.org. No matter how big or small the incident was. It is important to keep track of this data. If you happen to witness a hate crime, some local cities offer hate crime reporting hotlines.

If you experience a bias incident in school, please report it to your teacher, your counselor or an administrator. This will be investigated as a HIB (harassment intimidation and bullying) incident. The Colonia High Anti-bullying Specialist is Mrs. Ann DiNicola and she can be reached via email at [email protected] Here is the link to report a HIB at Colonia High School.

Furthermore, Chen offers this as a solution, “I think it’s everyone’s responsibility to sound the alarms and to call attention to racism (calling the killing spree in Atlanta for what it is: a hate crime)  promoting diversity, equity, inclusion, and social justice. It needs to be embedded in our work and our daily interactions. I know as an Asian American woman, I have worked hard on this front but I still have much more to learn.”

Donate

If you are able to donate to organizations like:

#EnoughisEnough – Created by Asian-American business owners in New York City, the organization provides meals to the underserved. In the process they bring awareness to what is  happening in the Asian-American community.

Hate is a Virus – The non-profit organization, Hate is a Virus, is raising up money to give back to the local and national community. They provide services and programs related to things like mental health, protection of Asian elders and more.

Educate yourself and spread awareness

Asian-Americans are facing many issues and one of the best ways to help is to educate yourself on them.  It is so important to spread awareness and create conversation about what the Asian-American community is facing. People think staying silent and being neutral has no effect but that is a lie. By staying silent and staying “neutral,” you’re allowing these incidents of verbal harassment and physical assault to continue to happen and become normalized. Speak up and speak out against any injustice you witness to really make a change.

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