COVID-19 Riled up AAPI Hate – What Can We Do?

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Why AAPI Hate?

I think that it would be accurate to say that this is an extremely personal topic for me. As someone of the AAPI community as well as someone with friends and family in this group, I have heard the many concerns that have arisen at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Should we go outside? What if I need to clear my throat in public? My friends don’t look at me the same anymore. An old teacher and good friend of mine said one day that she feared even to stay on the same side of the street like anyone else, worried that they may look weirdly at her… A year later and the signs only get worse. From name-calling to fists to guns, each incident seems to overshadow the rest. What can we do?

From March to May 2020 alone, the United Nations has cited over 1800 racist occurrences towards the AAPI community. Including but not limited to “Physical assaults, vandalism, verbal harassment, denial of access to services and public spaces” had been recorded in the study (Achiume). Another study found that 47 percent of participants pointed towards Asian Americans as “the one most responsible for the pandemic” if exposed to the words “China virus” (Porumbescu). The evidence further emphasizes connections between the pandemic and Asian American violence, pushed forward by the former president.

The History

These historical documentations expose the many parallels between the historic Pearl Harbor and the Pandemic of today. With the pressure of being an immigrant, a scapegoat for fearful Americans to blame the actions of other countries on, Asian Americans have felt these forces collide throughout our nation’s history. The immigrant culture of America is being forcefully suppressed in place of the “white” America. What should be done? How should we stop the hate today?

In order to better understand my question, I decided that the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War was a good place to begin my investigation. We all know the story, but little has the psychological toll that burdened the Nisei come up through our recollections. Through my research, one thing became extremely clear: Asian Americans were not being accepted as true Americans. Effects of the internment camps could be found in many of the second and third generations of Japanese Americans and brought particularly complex feelings towards people of multiracial descent (Suyemoto). Pressure to be more “American”, inferred to the state of being more white, was a serious issue to many Japanese Americans who had experienced discrimination and the internment camps due to the color of their skin, regardless of citizenship. One example comes from the perspective of a Japanese-American son whose father had lived through the camps. He described his father as one who married a white woman out due to his “desire to have American children, with American values, American traditions, American language, American features, and American [white] skin” (Suyemoto). To the father, a Japanese partner would only increase the amount of Japanese culture passed on to his son, making it more difficult for him to thrive in American society. 

What Is Being Done? What Needs To Be Done?

Amid the increase of violence and hatred against Asian Americans, government institutions began to take a stance against these heinous acts. Though neglected during the previous presidential cabinet, President Biden has laid out plans to address violence targeting Asian Americans. Proposed reforms include increased accessibility to hate crime data and almost 50 million dollars towards “survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault who face language barriers” (Kanno-youngs). The Justice Department has also taken a lead, planning on how to better handle and crackdown on hate crimes (Kanno-youngs). In New York, a special Asian Hate Crime Task Force has formed, with 25 volunteer detectives with a comprehension of 10 languages, to reach out to those who aren’t willing to contact the police. As Deputy Inspector Stewart Loo describes it, “The sentiment within the Asian-American community is that the police either don’t care or are not doing enough”, feelings that can be felt beyond the lines of race (Petri).

To help ourselves understand the problem, there is much we need to educate ourselves and change society. If I were to signal out one key factor in our fight for justice, I would say it is our ability to empathize. Empathy, the ability to understand each other as human beings, takes a vital role in combating fear and hatred against those you may not understand. In order to better understand the AAPI experience and to help combat the rising hate crimes, I recommend the following below. The proposed solutions are effective and viable because for one important reason: not many people can or have empathized with the Asian American experience. To this day, Asian Americans are treated as outsiders, but at the same time, they possess many of the traits that others who have came to America have. The struggle to leave their homeland in search of something better, the daily grind to make ends meet: none of it is new in the American experience other than the color of their skin. As for new proposals, it will always be an uphill climb, and always will there be challenges we cannot face alone. Together, however, it seems like something we could do. Thanks for reading my page!

  • PBS Asian Americans is an excellent source of historical information for those of us whose ancestors came to America many generations ago
  • Eugene Lang’s We Need To Talk About Anti-Asian Hate provides an impactful and summative 1-hour video essay about the primary causes of Asian American hate, where it stemmed from, and how it contributes to the greater minority experience
  • Government institutions should provide classes on hate crimes alongside or in replacement for prison time (as permitted by the victim)

Audience Feedback

Hey Everyone! If you could, please let me know the following in the comments:

  1.  What did you think of these proposals? Is there anything you would add/take out?
  2. Was the page too text dense? If so, where do you feel needs more space/removal of material?

Please respond and discuss in the comments below!

Works Cited and Consulted

Link To Original Essays

2 Comments

2 comments

  1. Hi Alexander!
    So I know that you mentioned increased empathy being an important part of the solution and I know you had some linked information but I was wondering, do you have any recommendation for how society or even a single person could increase their empathy?

  2. Hey Alexander!
    I think this is a great project, and that the topic is an extremely important one to address. Your idea of establishing empathy for immigrants and other people of color is a good one, as I think it would certainly help others put themselves in these positions. Is there anything you think individuals could do to help fight against this issue?

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