There has been a steady rise of crimes targeting Asian Americans and data shows there is a spike in hate crimes, especially against elderly Asian Americans in the United States. Community leaders are gathering to counter these racial and ethnic divisions.
John C. Yang, president and CEO of Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAJC) explains: “I’ve talked about this issue before and unfortunately not much has changed. This issue is very real, and it continues to be a threat to our community. Asian Americans, like everyone else, has been fighting the COVID-19 virus, but they also have been fighting a second virus. The virus of racism, a virus of stereotypes. A recent Harris poll shows we have over 75% of Asian Americans living in fear of discrimination. Last year, over 40 % of Asian Americans experienced discrimination in one form or another. We know words matter. We cannot discount the words that have been used for over a year by the leaders of this country. Hate is not new for the Asian Community. We have been seen as carriers of disease in the past. We have been seen as foreigners and the rhetoric from this past year has not helped. One of the root causes of this behavior comes from fear of COVID-19 that people have. When people are fearful, they look for someone to blame, and in this case, it is Asian Americans. An aspect that I want to emphasize is there is no room for anti-Blackness. There is no role for more racism in trying to over criminalize this. This virus of racism affects all of our communities and we all need to fight this virus together. It is all our responsibility to uplift up this issue. To report these incidents. Stand against hatred. Take bystander initiative and set up community dialogue on a community level. Speak to others and take action.”
Marc Morial, president and CEO of The National Urban League adds: “Hate anywhere is hate everywhere. I stand strongly and squarely with the Asian Community. There’s always been a line between free speech and hate speech. When we hear hate speech, we must call it out for what it is, and we must condemn it. Confront it. When hatred leads to violence then free speech protections go away. We must spread messages of tolerance and understanding and love for humankind.”
Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), additionally says: “What we’ve seen over the past year is really an emergence of COVID-19 related racism in the US. It’s something that our community has experienced in really increasing numbers in the past couple of weeks. We’ve seen trends and patterns like refusal of service, verbal and physical attacks. The Stop AAPI Hate Reporting center (www.stopaapihate.org) launched on March 19, 2020 in order to document experiences from those affected. We have 2,808 incidents reported over 41 weeks. They were reported from 47 states and the District of Columbia. To clarify, these were incidents not crimes and 56% of incidents took place in either California or New York. The main form we have seen is verbal harassment and name calling. We collect this data to better understand what people in our communities are facing.”
Cynthia Choi, co-director Chinese for Affirmative Action and co-creator of the Stop AAPI Hate Center adds: “We have observed a 155% increase in depression among Asian communities, who are also experiencing the second highest rate of unemployment and small business closures behind African Americans. We have to recognize the real effects of political rhetoric. If you look at any period in our history, politicians have always used divisive tactics to scapegoat and create fear especially during times of crisis. Emboldened individuals use this same racist rhetoric that they hear by leaders of this country. We want to encourage people to continue to share and report and to encourage friends, neighbors, business partners, and employees to report civil rights violations and incidents of hate.”
Jose Roberto Hernandez, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance (KIWA) further explains: “The US was not founded based on equality. We know racism is a moving target. What we are actually experiencing now is the ‘America first’ virus that was embedded into society. By the year 2030, the US demographic will be about 50% non-white. In 2019, it was 60% white and that is a concern for some, who want current systems that serve them to continue on. We have to dismantle these historically oppressive systems.”
Ultimately, the issue of racism affects us all and we each must do our part to combat this profound issue in our communities.