To many, this new wave of violence may be new, but to those who are Asian, this is not a new story. Many Asian American children, myself included, have had to face racism and discrimination growing up. Throughout elementary and middle school, I was made fun of for my eyes, accused of eating dogs, told to go back to where I came from, and I had two physical incidents: one where a classmate spit on me multiple times at recess and another where a kid push me off the porch, both because I was Asian.
While the world has had to face the deadly Covid-19 virus which has taken the lives of over 2.69 million people worldwide, we are also battling a wave of targeted Asian American hate crimes across the United States. Since the start of the Covid-19, last March, there has been over a 150 percent surge and over 4,000 reports of hate crimes against Asain Americans. These incidents include a 52-year-old Asian woman on a bus in the Brox being beaten with an umbrella, an 89-year-old woman who was set on fire, a 75-year-old man who was attacked in an Oakland robbery and died, and just this week shooting of 8 Asian Americans in Georgia (6 of whom were women). The shooter Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old man has had his actions justified by the police with them claiming he was ‘having a bad day’.
These are only a few of the many attacks against the senior population. While many of the Asian Americans targeted are seniors, many young adults and teenagers have also reported increased levels of racism and xenophobia. Many people appear to believe that Asian American racism is not a thing and that Asian Americans ‘have it easy as a minority. Asian Americans are also labeled as perpetual foreigners, even though 18.64 million Asian Americans currently live in the US today. This has been caused by the perpetuation that Covid-19 was intentionally caused by China and many Americans blame Chinese Americans for the start of Covid-19, spewing insults including ‘Bat Eater’, ‘Communist’, and ‘Go back to where you came from. These sayings have been targeted to the whole Asian population, not just those of Chinese origin, including Asians who came from Asian descent but have never personally been to Asia in their lifetime. Racism was only intensified after former president Donald Trump and his Republican allies publicly called Covid-19 the “Kung Flu” or “China Virus”. This has increased discrimination against Asian Americans and has caused many to state that they have never seen racism this bad before. Dr. Zhang Jie, a distinguished professor of sociology at Buffalo State College, immigrated to the United States from China and states that the dramatic increase and frequency of targeted hate crimes is unlike anything he has ever experienced. He says, “I've been here for 35 years, and it's my first time to see so many things like this happening in this country."
While the shooting in Georgia was one of several incidents this past month, the shooting was brought to light through the media with major news sources reporting on how police refused to address it as a hate crime. Instead, they claimed it to be a cause of the shooter releasing his sexual frustrations. This is because 6 out of the 8 killed were women. A common trend in Asian American racism is that women are perceived to be easy targets and are often hyper-sexualized in movies and TV, often demanded as the Dragon Lady. The Dragon Lady is a stereotype given to those of East Asian and occasionally South Asian and/or Southeast Asian women and groups women as strong, deceitful, domineering, mysterious, and often sexually alluring.
There has been some response from the government with lawmakers and experts testifying before a House Judiciary subcommittee hearing on March 19th. Many called for a shift in public rhetoric surrounding Covid-19, foreign policy, and expressed favor in passing new hate crime legislation to address rising discrimination and violence against Asian Americans. Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y has said, “The conversation we are having today is long overdue and it is vital that Congress shine a light on this issue.” Moreover, he stated, “The last congressional hearing held on violence against Asian Americans was in 1987, in this subcommittee.”
It is apparent that there needs to be more work done on stopping Asian hate. While many look for guidance in President Biden and Asian organizations such as the Stop AAPI Hate and AAPI Women Lead to do this, everyone must speak up and spread awareness of Asian American hate. Until it is truly addressed, Asian Americans will continue to face racism and xenophobia.
Written by Julia Gale