Six Asian women were among the eight people killed in a shooting in Atlanta earlier this month. The man who killed them targeted three Asian businesses, yet his actions were blamed on a “sex addiction” or “having a bad day.” Meanwhile, a report from Stop AAPI Hate shows that there have been at least 3,795 reported hate incidents since March 19, 2020, with Asian Americans as the targets. (AAPI stands for Asian American and Pacific Islander.)
According to California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes in the United States increased 149% in 2020, particularly in March and April when COVID-19 started to affect the country. The report also shows a spike in Google searches for terms such as “China virus” and “kung flu” in March of 2020.
Both reports showed that the primary forms of discrimination were verbal harassment, shunning, and physical assault, and that Chinese Americans and Asian women as a whole were the most likely to experience a hate incident.
The AAPI report contains stories of discrimination against Asian Americans. Respondents were confronted by people, some specifically mentioned to be white, who yelled slurs and swear words at them or performed physically violent acts such as pushing or spitting.
On Monday, a 65-year-old Asian woman who was walking to church in Manhattan was kicked to the ground and was stomped on by a man who “made anti-Asian statements toward her.” Inside the building where the attack took place, security staff ignored the woman, instead closing the door on her and leaving her in the street. The woman is in stable condition, but her attacker has not yet been identified.
The Atlanta killings have sparked a social justice movement online, with #StopAAPIHate, #StandWithAsians, and #StopAsianHate trending. Korean pop band BTS has come forward with a statement which sends their condolences to the families of the victims in Atlanta and shares their own experiences with discrimination. Even President Biden has announced a series of initiatives which aim to track reports of anti-Asian violence, address xenophobia in regards to COVID-19 and allocate $50 million for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
At A-State, Chancellor Dr. Kelly Damphousse sent out an email on March 18 titled “Standing with our Asian Students, Faculty and Staff.” The A-State Young Democrats held an event on March 19 titled “Hate Has No Place At A-State,” where they created and hung up posters “to support AAPI communities and condemn xenophobia and white supremacy” in the Student Union.
When violence happens that doesn’t affect you personally, it is easy to ignore it. When microaggressions are committed in your presence that aren’t directed at you, it may seem awkward to speak up. Even in times like this, where there are hashtags to use and organizations to donate to, it is too easy to share a hashtag, partake in performative activism, and then do nothing more. But I beg you not to.
In the case of the woman in Manhattan, there were witnesses to the violence who allowed it to happen. Do not be one of those cases. Do not be someone who sees anti-Asian violence and does nothing.
Don’t assume all Asian people are from the same place. Don’t assume Asian students have good grades or harsh parents. Don’t comment on an Asian person’s ability to speak English, or their physical appearance, or their food or their names. If you are interacting with an Asian person and can’t immediately figure out how to pronounce their name, don’t suggest they start going by a Western name or purposefully mispronounce their name. Make an effort to get it right.
If you see anti-Asian harassment taking place, speak up. Do something. Talk to your friends and family about harmful stereotypes you may have internalized and work to make you and your sphere of influence more tolerant. In your own time, read about hurtful Asian stereotypes and self-reflect on your own prejudices and actions. You don’t have to be mean to yourself, but if you realize there’s something you’ve been doing that’s been contributing to the anti-Asian culture in America, work to stop that behavior.
So long as violence and prejudice against Asian-Americans continues to be normalized, as long as we continue to do nothing, nothing will change. Take whatever steps you can to limit anti-Asian hate around you. Everyone deserves basic respect.
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