Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Warrant Attention

While Lunar New Year is traditionally a time of celebration for Asian communities around the world, this year’s jubilance has been largely overshadowed by a dramatic uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes and fears of racism among Asian Americans.

Last April, I wrote an article called “Pandemic Highlights History of Racism towards Asian Americans.” As this title suggests, I discussed the long and tumultuous history of Asian American discrimination, from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the segregated “Oriental” schools in San Francisco. I discussed the Japanese American internment during World War II and later how the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated racism as former President Trump and other politicians repeatedly referred to the virus as the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.” During this time, many companies, like Lululemon, fell into hot water as their employees posted racist images linking bats with Chinese culture.

Unfortunately, in the year since the pandemic began and this article was published, anti-Asian attacks have only worsened. According to Stop AAPI Hate, an organization founded last year to track COVID-19 related discrimination, there were 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate from March 2020 to December 2020. 708 of these attacks occurred in the Bay Area alone.

In San Francisco, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was senselessly knocked to the ground and died from his injuries, as reported by CBS. ABC7News reported that a racial slur was graffitied near the Chinese American International School in San Francisco; additionally, a man was pushed to the ground in Oakland Chinatown.

In New York City, ABC7News published a story about 61-year-old Noel Quintana, whose face was slashed with a box cutter in a Manhattan subway station. Slashed with a box cutter.

According to The Queens Chronicle, a New York City-based newspaper, the New York Police Department found a 1900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes last year.

The pandemic has increased anxiety and fear for many Asian-Americans, but scapegoating is not new—for example, it happened in 1900, when San Francisco Chinatown experienced an epidemic of the bubonic plague that led people to call for the neighborhood to be burned down and officials seized Chinese residents on the streets.

Due to stereotypes and the model minority myth, many people leave out Asian Americans when addressing instances of racism. Last fall, North Thurston Public Schools in Washington state even excluded Asian-Americans from their list of students of color, as reported by Northwest Asian Weekly, and though the district has since apologized, this sets a dangerous precedent: it denies the racism and microaggressions that Asian Americans face, ignores the diverse experiences of the Asian American community (income inequality in the country became greatest among Asians in 2018, according to the Pew Research Center), and minimizes the need to mobilize and fight discrimination.

The mainstream media has largely been silent on this issue. For example, I subscribe to The New York Times’ daily briefing, and last week, I read headlines about opera singers in England helping COVID-19 patients recover and Naomi Osaka defeating Serena Williams in the Australian Open semifinal—but did not see a single one about anti-Asian hate crimes. On TikTok, some creators have tried to spread awareness, and their comment section is inundated with responses like, “Wow, I had no idea this was happening.”

I believe that it is important for the media to cover these stories and publicize them so that people realize the extent and severity of Asian American racism. I also believe that it is important for us to acknowledge that racism is alive—and raging—even in the Bay Area. We cannot use our often-progressive politics as a facade or pretense to deny or overlook instances of hate.

The perpetrators of some of these incidents may be members of the BIPOC community, but it’s one thing to hold people accountable and an entirely different thing to be racist as you do so. Unfortunately, anti-Blackness is rampant in Asian communities, and it is something that needs to be addressed. I believe that we must use this opportunity to build solidarity and alliances across all social cleavages—race, class, religion, gender, sexual orientation, etc. However, we absolutely cannot fight ignorance with more ignorance.

It is only through confronting racism that we will truly be able to fight it. And, it is only through standing in solidarity with other minority groups that this will be able to happen.

Please include Asian Americans in your activism.