Last week, President F. Javier Cevallos sent a campus-wide email addressing the recent increase in bias incidents against the Asian American population in the United States.
Unfortunately, racially motivated hate crimes against the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) community is not a new phenomenon.
However, since the COVID-19 virus began spreading across the globe, the APIDA community has been subject to “a surge in xenophobic discourse, descrimination, and physical violence,” according to Cevallos.
This prejudice didn’t come out of nowhere – it’s just become more visible due to social media and people using their platforms to harm communities they may view as an “easy target.”
President Donald J. Trump, for example, fanned the anti-Asian rhetoric by dubbing COVID-19, which originated in Wuhan, China, the “China Virus.” By making remarks such as these, people such as Trump aided in creating an atmosphere where Asian hate has become more acceptable.
According to a recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health, Trump’s ‘Chinese Virus’ tweets resulted in an increase in anti-Asian tweets and likely encouraged racist attitudes. On the night of the murder of eight individuals in the Atlanta Spa Shooting, six of whom were Asian women, Trump refered to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” on Fox News.
Flagrant racism results in social media becoming dominated by the words of the ignorant and the hateful.
America has a deep history of hatred against Asians and Asian Americans, and it is often taught to us through a whitewashed version of our country’s history.
In 1882, the United States passed the “Chinese Exclusion Act,” which banned Chinese immigrants.
During WWII, President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which “relocated” Japanese Americans to internment camps out of fear they might have connections to the Axis Powers.
During the Cold War, Asian Americans were often falsely labeled Communist sympathizers.
While these events may be in the past, the blatant xenophobia and racism the APIDA community faces is not.
According to The New York Times, Asian Americans were targeted in nearly 3,800 bias incidents in the United States in the last year.
These incidents included being coughed on, being blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic, and being told to “go back to their island.”
Hate crimes against Asian Americans have been escalating so rapidly since the pandemic started that the Chinese community accounts for 42.2% of reported bias incidents, according to The New York Times.
According to the United States Census Bureau, 5.9% of the United State’s population identify as Asian and 0.2% identify as Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander in 2019.
Given these statistics, APIDA citizens are clearly impacted by hate crimes and bias incidents at disproportionate levels.
As a society, we must be doing more to support the APIDA community. This means taking time to educate ourselves on how to no longer be bystanders to hate. Instead, we must teach ourselves how to intervene to stop anti-Asian and xenophobic harrassment.
To be active and better allies, we need to be taking time to do our own research on how we can each support and uplift the APIDA community. Hollaback, a website dedicated to fighting harassment, is partnering with Asian Americans Advancing Justice to launch bystander intervention training that will be free.
As a University, it is imperative that we continue to address these incidents and provide support to our students who belong to the APIDA community while continuing our anti-racist work each and every day.
As President Joseph R. Biden said in his statement on the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, “Every person in our nation deserves to live their lives with safety, dignity, and respect.”