The Violence Against AAPI Communities Must Stop

The first fact that everyone should be aware of that has fueled much of the recent hate and violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is that there is absolutely no connection between COVID-19 and a person’s race or ethnic group.

The AAPI community is no less or greater responsible for the spreading of the virus in the US than the rest of the US population.

The incendiary rhetoric by former President Donald Trump using the term “Chinese virus” and “Wuhan virus” is hate speech, designed to win political points from xenophobic radicals in our society. That’s it. Today’s health crisis is not racial; and no person of sense and fairness should jump to wild conclusions by placing blame on any one group.

The recent scapegoating of Asians is yet another reminder how we as a country have a long way to defeat racism and end white supremacy.

Every American, not just AAPI communities across the nation, should be condemning the crimes and hate leveled at AAPI as a matter of moral obligation and out of patriotism for our country. This ugly manifestation is “un-American” as President Joe Biden called it.

Americans should also know that the AAPI community has not been immune to racial discrimination, contrary to the “model minority” stereotype that gives a false impression that Asians are all professionals, doctors, lawyers and high-income earners who do not suffer inequities as Black and Latino Americans.

The “model minority” label itself is racist and pits other minorities against Asians.

As we’ve seen in the recent spate of anti-Asian violence, the victimizers are not solely White, but a few are other minorities as well.

Discrimination against Asian is a long, old story – since the arrival of Chinese immigrants in the late 1800s who faced labor exploitation; to the placement of over 100,000 Japanese Americans in prison camps during WWII; up to the current dangerous scapegoating.

And all along in between these historic events, Asians have experienced systemic discrimination in immigration, policing abuse, and demeaning portrayals by Hollywood similar to other minorities in this country.

But what’s unique to Asian discrimination is a long grievance within the AAPI community that we are not being heard and are ignored, relative to other minorities who comprise a larger population.

The media is part to blame. Politicians who do not see AAPIs as a large voting block (cynical but true) are part to blame. And to an extent the Asian community is part to blame for not being assertive enough to demand rights as other groups; and some even buying into the “model minority” myth.

Asians are Pushing Back
But something has changed in this latest anti-Asian crisis — a high degree of activism and anger over the violence unseen before within our community. AAPI have launched street protests, vigils and virtual townhalls. We’re lobbying our state and federal lawmakers, running public relations campaigns, establishing safety patrol groups and speaking out on social media. AAPI of late has also established solidarity with other groups during the latest BLM movement that have worked to bring along non-Asians to help with our latest struggle.

But perhaps the most marked change we see in this crisis is the number of Asians in politics and media have grown exponentially. This has helped as Asian lawmakers are now part of the discussion to forge legislation on this crisis; and are in the halls of power at both the federal and state levels to convince their colleagues to actually do something.

As for the media, we’ve seen Asian Americans reporting on this issue at CNN and other large media enterprises. AAPI’s presence at these mainstream media outlets helps to influence TV and newspaper editorial content such as giving this crisis widespread national and continued exposure. We also have established and professional ethnic media in most large US cities covering this news and reaching out to more recent Asian immigrant population.

We even have more Asian American celebrities raising awareness. Daniel Dae Kim, former Hawaii 5-0 cast member, has been a leading advocate against Asian hate crimes. He is using his high visibility to suggest possible solutions.

“Awareness is really just the first step. Now it’s about volunteering, it’s about contacting community organizers who are working in communities like Oakland, the Bay Area, and New York City, where so many of these attacks are happening, and donating to these causes. And it’s about speaking up — it’s about not being silent,” said Kim.

His suggestion of working with community organizations is key. Numerous AAPI grassroots organizations have stepped up during this crisis, including Stop AAPI Hate which was founded last year as a reporting database at the beginning of the pandemic to raise awareness of the increase Asian racial violence. Old established organizations like Asian Americans Advancing Justice have done critical work.

Anti-Asian resolutions must pass
A big mahalo to AAPI US Sens. Mazie Hirono and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill), and US Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) for introducing anti-Asian resolutions in Congress. There are important, substantive features on these resolutions that could go a long way toward ending racial violence and discrimination. A big mahalo also to Hawaii Sen. Bennette E. Misalucha for introducing SCR66 and SR48 that condemn and denounce all forms of anti-Asian sentiment and all acts of racism. These congressional and state resolutions must pass.

Keep pushing back and stay safe AAPI. We’ll get through this together.    

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