At the beginning of 2021, Asian households celebrated the Lunar New Year in solitude, with an underlying current of tragedy and fear triggered by the alarming rise in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans.
Xenophobic attacks targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased exponentially since Trump made racist remarks, referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus,” capitalizing on the underlying, often quiet anti-Asian sentiment many Americans harbor.
Anti-Asian Hate Crimes Target Businesses and the Elderly
A report published by the Asian American Bar Association of New York found that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased eight-fold from January 1 to November 1, 2020. This places the Asian American demographic as the third most targeted group for hate crimes after African Americans and Jewish Americans.
Many of these attacks are concentrated in California and New York, two areas with high Asian American and Asian populations. In San Jose, a 64-year-old woman was attacked and robbed at an ATM while withdrawing money for Lunar New Year gifts. A 91-year-old man died after being pushed violently to the ground and a 52-year-old woman was shot in the head with a flare gun—both attacks took place in Oakland’s Chinatown. In New York, a Filipino elder was attacked with a box cutter on the subway.
An increase in verbal harassment and robbery of Asian-owned businesses, have prompted businesses in New York City’s Chinatown to shut down early for Lunar New Year weekend, despite suffering the impacts of the economic recession and racial stigmatization. Three Asian-owned businesses, Urban Hot Pot, Kung Fu Tea, and Bonchon, were vandalized on Lunar New Year. Store owner Zong Chen said, “We came to America trying to find a better opportunity and get a better life.” Yet, these communities are now struggling against bigoted attacks fueled by ignorance and hate.
Addressing Hate Crimes Against the Asian Community
This violent targeting of Asian Americans and Asians, especially the elderly, reflects the dehumanization of Asians in the eyes of white racists in America. John C. Yang, executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice says that he believes that the targeting of older Asian citizens may be because of “language and cultural barriers that might prevent them from reporting incidents.”
Groups like Stop Asian-American/Pacific Islander Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice are working to bring awareness to the racism and violence that the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in America face. These communities face dire circumstances; times of celebration are no exception.
“There’s something going on across the nation that really sadly reminds us of some of our past experiences as a community, like yellow peril” said Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council and a co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate.
Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, notes that acts of racist violence lead to increased anxiety and fear in a population that is already disproportionately impacted by COVID-19-related anxiety and depression. He also calls for the Asian American community to refrain from advocating for more police intervention, stating that, “We recognize that policing has led to the criminalization of communities of color, and mass incarceration. Why perpetuate a system that doesn’t work?”
Community programs are a better alternative to increased policing. In Oakland’s Chinatown, youths have taken matters into their own hands, creating “community strollers” to accompany and pick up groceries for elders. President Biden has pledged to address racism against Asians and Pacific Islanders, but awareness and acknowledgement of anti-Asian sentiments is crucial to addressing the problem.
Report any Anti-Asian hate incidents here: https://stopaapihate.org/