Stop Asian Hate: Does Anyone Still Care?

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

Back in May 2020 when I wrote an op-ed called “The Other Pandemic: How Xenophobia is Putting Asians at Risk,” I explained the detrimental effects of America’s former president calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus.”

Little did I know, that was only the beginning.

A study from UC San Francisco observed a steep increase in the number of Coronavirus-related tweets that included anti-Asian hashtags. They stated, “About 20 percent of the nearly 500,000 hashtags with #covid19 showed anti-Asian sentiment, but anti-Asian bias was apparent in half of the more than 775,000 hashtags with #chinesevirus.”

On March 16, 2021, a 21-year-old white man fatally shot eight people at three spas in Atlanta. Six of the victims were Asian. According to the police, the shooter said he had a “sexual addiction” and carried out the shootings to eliminate his “temptation.” I was disgusted and grieved.

After that horrific event, I felt anxiety and dread every time I left my New York City apartment. I would actively avoid eye contact with strangers and clutch my keys between my fingers in a fist.

I was terrified.

As the number of reported anti-Asian hate crimes rose and media attention increased for the Stop Asian Hate Movement, I experienced for the very first time the sense of belonging within the AAPI community that I lacked as a transracial Chinese adoptee growing up in a white, rural town. It was a strange sentiment: feeling proud to be Asian while simultaneously fearing for my safety for the same reason.

But I embraced it.

On April 10, I joined a protest in Chinatown in Manhattan led by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF). The turnout was tremendous. I felt hopeful as we chanted and held up our myriad of cardboard signs.

And here I am, almost two years since my first op-ed, writing on the same issue, and hindsight is 20/20.

From 2020 to 2021, anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 339% nationwide according to the data collected by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. New York City experienced a 343% increase, from 30 to 133 anti-Asian hate crimes, and San Francisco experienced a 567% increase, from nine to 60 crimes.

While I could not find statistics on anti-Asian hate crimes in recent months, anecdotal evidence suggests that Asians across the nation are still fearful and still too often the targets of violence and hate speech.

On NPR’s Morning Edition, Victoria Chang said she thought twice before attending a Lunar New Year street fair in San Francisco’s Chinatown.

“I guess that was something I was considering. Like, is it still safe to come out here where it’s, like, a big group of Asians? Would we be targeted?” Chang said.

Amanda Nguyễn, the founder of sexual assault survivor advocacy organization Rise, told USA TODAY, “We’re going through such a difficult moment for our community, and the violence is really scarring.”

In light of this information, I have been asking myself the question: Does anyone still care?

Sadly, I don’t think that many people do.

The Stop Asian Hate Movement gained great momentum from the general public, specifically white allies, after the Atlanta Spa Shootings, but it lost that momentum just as quickly. #StopAsianHate dominated the Internet for a couple of months and then virtually disappeared.

Paytra Gessler, 24, is a musician living in New York City with a significant following on Instagram.

“It goes beyond online activism, though that’s important to correct language. I think most of the activism happens in real life because I think it’s easy to post some random memes online but it’s different to have a hard conversation and correct people who are racist, even if they don’t know they are being racist,” Gessler said. “As someone with an Instagram following, I think it’s more my job to implement it into my life than it is to put it online.”

Even before the pandemic, a majority of Asian Americans personally experienced discrimination according to a 2021 Pew Research study, but it went overlooked. The model minority myth working in tandem with the fetishization and appropriation of Asian culture perpetuates the violence against Asians because they are all rooted in ignorance.

Something needs to change at the core of how our society views race because Asian Americans cannot return to the “norm” where they were bullied as children by their friends for having “squinty eyes” or told to “go back to your country” by strangers on the street. Change needs to be sought after with perseverance.

Gessler noted that a way to do this is by amplifying Asian voices. She said, “It’s a people-like-me-job to find Asian artists, find Asian creatives and showcase their work because they have a voice too.”

So yes, two years later, hindsight is 20/20, and I am profoundly disappointed.

This article is republished from the Empire State Tribune. Read the original article here.

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Summer 2022 Intern at American Banker via the Dow Jones News Fund; Former Editor-in-Chief at the Empire State Tribune, Journalism Student at The King’s College

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Paige Hagy

Paige Hagy

Summer 2022 Intern at American Banker via the Dow Jones News Fund; Former Editor-in-Chief at the Empire State Tribune, Journalism Student at The King’s College

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