by Rachel Fei
Eight were shot dead in Atlanta on March 16, six of whom were Asian American women. While it remains ambiguous whether the killing was motivated by racism, the rise of anti-Asian violence in the US is certain.
In San Francisco, an 84-year-old man was dead after being “violently shoved to the ground.” In New York, a wave of xenophopbia against Asian Americans has swept through the city — A man was stabbed near the federal courthouse. A 52-year-old woman was shoved to the ground violently and was consequently hospitalized after assault. A 65-year-old woman was beaten up and assulted verbally by a passerby. A man was severely hurt and choked on subway until he was tossed to the floor, out of consciousness. In the last two cases, no bystander interfered at the sight of injustice in public places.
Since the COVID-19 outbreak last year, the Stop AAPI (Asian Amerians and Pacific Islanders) Hate reporting center alone has received 3795 complaints, with 68% categorized as verbal harassment and 11% involving physical assaults. The situation is even more severe if we take gender into consideration of intersectionality. Asian women report hate incidents 2.3 times more often than Asian men, and further examination of the reports reflected “the very intersection of racism and sexism.”
Despite overwhelming tragedies, anti-Asian hate crimes are rarely charged compared to other hate crimes. Technically, there is hardly any clear-cut, widely recognized symbol of anti-Asian prototype. In addition, the systemic prejudices might still be playing a role: Regarding the suspect of the Atlanta shooting, the police excused that “yesterday was a really bad day for him and this is what he did,” and further defending that “[the suspect] apparently has an issue, what he considers a sex addiction” as an explanation for his actions,ignoring possible racial elements. Meanwhile, mainstream media often fails to effectively and ethically cover the full picture, reporting with frivolous or misleading headlines and skews the overall discussion focuses. Regarding the Atlanta shooting, for instance, New York Daily News framed its headline as “suspect in Atlanta shooting blames sex addiction: cops”, while Reuters framed one as “Georgia shooting suspect attended church, was from Atlanta area”. With emphasis on the suspect’s claimed sex addiction, the headlines shift the public attention away from the potential racist motivation, strengthening the invisibility of racial equality for Asian Americans.
Anti-Asian violence has long been witnessed throughout the US history. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 exclusively banned Chinese immigrants entering the US and the Johnson-Reed Act of 1924 further completely banned immigrants from Asia. During WWII, the inhumane systematic internment of Japanese Americans has relocated countless Japanese Americans to isolation camps and assembly centers. During the McCarthyism era in the Cold War, similarly, because of their race, many Chinese Americans were specifically targeted and doubted for possible connections with the Soviet Union. Under the history of systemic inequalities based on the arbitrary factor of race, Asian Americans have long been denied of equality. The inherently law-abiding “model minority” stereotypes of Asians have further pushed the Asian American communities to remain as the invisible other. In pop cultures, they are often depicted as keeping quiet instead of speaking up; they are also depicted as staying shy and humble instead of socializing and being confident.
Besides the prejudices throughout history, the latest rise in anti-Asian violence has likely been exacerbated by former president Trump’s rhetorics. Through his consistent slurs such as “Chinese virus” and “kong flu” referring to COVID-19 , he has directly reinforced the binary dichotomy to depict Asian descendants as the social outsiders. His inflammatory comments have wider social consequences, as they further “spark[ed] anti-Asian Twitter content and likely perpetuated racist attitudes.”
Since the Atlanta shooting, thousands of Americans have awakened to participate in various protests across the US. Through slogans advocating “Stop Asian hate” and “Asians are not a virus,” protestors have marched on streets to raise awareness to the invisibility, inequalities, and lack of government actions in response to the recent wave of violence. In March, a congressional commitee held the first congressional hearing on anti-Asian hate since 1987, as Asian Americans lawmakers and advocates testified on the issue. President Biden has announced new steps to combat the ongoing crises, including increasing fundings for AAPI survivors and related researches. In addition to legislative and political efforts, the involvement of the general public is crucial for offering tangible support and creating social solidarity for equal rights. Whether it’s direct support for victims or indirect promotion and advocacy, everyone should be a part of the movement.
Hate is contagious, but so can peace and understanding spread as we acknowledge each other’s rights on equal grounds. The past can not be erased, yet the future waits ahead. It is now time to raise awareness of the prejudice embedded in our history, to shed light on the once invisible dark corners.
About the author
Rachel Fei is a journalist in SRP’s Writing and Interviewing Program. She is a high school senior with interests in social equality and social policies.