A rally against anti-Asian hate crimes at Los Angeles State Historic Park on Feb. 20. (Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)
Downtown Magnets High School

Opinion: COVID-19 and its impact on Asian Americans

Let say that one of your family members is at the risk of being a victim of a hate crime. Reasons being is just because of their ethnicity. Wherever they go, they are not in a place where you can protect them, where they are not safe.

What if you were all alone outside and your chances of you returning home are tremendously low?

These are the feelings of many Asian Americans who live in fear today. Unfortunately, Asian Americans have faced these racist remarks towards their community for hundreds of years.

Dating back to 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed to prohibit “Chinese labor immigration” to the United States and were to define them as “skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed for mining.” This law smacked a label on Chinese immigrants as only traveling to the U.S. aiming to “steal” people’s jobs.

Of course, this made it harder for the few Chinese non-laborers who have gotten a certification of qualification from the Chinese Government to immigrate, by making it especially difficult to prove that they were not laborers. For those who were already in the U.S. before the act was passed, if they were to leave the country and travel back, they must obtain a certificate of re-entering but are still at risk for deportation.

It is clear that this law was not made for any beneficial reasons for the country of the U.S. itself or to its citizens, but to spread racism and prejudice among its diverse people. This law did not give any Chinese immigrants a fair chance of entering a country, even if it was through legal action.

Even to this day, as the previous president Trump, referred to COVID-19 as the “Kung-flu” or the “Chinese virus,” it has now “automatically associated the virus with Chinese people”, which caused the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes to increase significantly today.

This inflation mostly took place in areas where the residents are mostly from Asian descent, who are also a part of the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders community; innocent lives are always in danger of being a victim to these heinous crimes.

It is urgent that anyone who sees an attack against the AAPI community report the incident through the website https://stopaapihate.org/. By reporting incidents to this organization you will break the bystander effect, help combat the rising violence, and help the organization document the true size of the problem in our country.  

By reporting these hate crimes, it would further prove how the majority of these incidents are connected to COVID-19. The current president Biden has recognized the issue of the Anti-Asian violence and passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to further collect reports from locals and states who were a witness or a victim of these attacks, according to the L.A. Times.

This shows how the voices of the people can be heard if enough of us point it out instead of turning our heads and pretending as nothing happened. Now that the president has taken notice of this big issue, look at what happened. An act has been passed in support of stopping anti-Asian hate, just imagine, the president now taking action in support of the families of victims and the victims themselves to gain justice.

The act itself has COVID-19 in the name, which points out how the hate crimes are connected to COVID-19. The bill also requires the Department of Justice to create an online reporting system, according to the L.A. Times.

From this bill alone, its aid has made it a bit easier to report any hate crimes for many people. Its added feature of being available for multiple languages is one of them. In that online reporting system, about 3,795 hate-crime reports have been gathered from this year alone. Within those reports, “68.1% [involved] verbal harassment and 11.1% [involved] physical assault,” according to the L.A. Times.

Although many may argue that some were not racially based crimes, the data presented is large just by itself. That substantial data is enough to raise fear among the AAPI community for their safety. Another organization called Stop AAPI Hate also gathered data of similar incidents from Biden’s bill and from their data, they have also received 3,000 and more accounts that included verbal assault and physical assault, according to High Country News.

From this organization, they have concluded that in just California, 46% were those reported accounts. Adding on, more people can be encouraged to come up and report any hate crimes they witnessed or experienced to give the AAPI community more security and possibly encourage those who see someone getting assaulted to step up and help. 

Perpetrators of the recent anti-Asian hate crimes weaponize Covid-19 to justify their actions. These flames of hate towards Asians were fueled by former president Trump. He referred to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus” and even the “Kung-flu.” It was a direct attack toward Chinese people from any place and now has impacted almost every person that is Asian.

Trump’s words of hate have created anti-Chinese sentiments and created a fear among the people and directed their anger towards “Asian-appearing persons.” Innocent people who are a part of the AAPI community are racially targeted and blamed for the cause of the virus and are now fearing for their lives because of the racism sparked by a figure and now has fueled a hateful fear towards any Asian person.

According to the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, Russell Jeung has reported about the abundant accounts of people spitting and, or coughing on Asians that it has become its own category, which made up 7% of the collected data. This statistic shows how perpetrators would attack Asian appearing people, which ranges from coughing and spitting, as shown above, to outright violence. 

Unfortunately, perpetrators are most likely to attack Asian senior citizens. By reporting these occurring hate crimes towards the AAPI community, it will further ensure the safety of the defenseless Asian American elderly. Just like in San Francisco’s Bay Area, reports of attacks against older Asian Americans were reported and are on the rise during the pandemic.

Due to this rise of anti-Asian hate crimes, families within the Bay Area are now living in fear and the elderly are more likely to get attacked. According to the executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, Manju Kulkarni, their group has gathered more than 3,000 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes across 47 districts, and within those data, 7-8% came from the elderly who were victims of these hate crimes.

It seems as if the perpetrators aim for defenseless victims, such as older Asian Americans. In Oakland’s Chinatown, members of that community started to assist their older residents with groceries, protect Asian businesses and even patrol around the community.

It is evident that if we started to stand up and report these attacks, it can provide a safer place for older residents. It is also more likely to encourage others to do the same and help out and protect their community from these anti-Asian hate crimes, just like what Kulkarni and their group did. 

Some might say that the victims of these incidents are just coincidentally Asian Americans and that there was no racial intent behind them. Some might even respond with “I don’t see race” in response to the rise of hate crimes towards the AAPI community and generally towards communities of people of color including their effort to “not” be racist.

Carmelyn Malalis, a commissioner of the New York City Commission on Human Rights, told ABC News an abundance of people doubt there is such a thing as anti-Asian racism. 

This quote was said by Malalis after a deadly rampage in Georgia, caused by a white man, and resulted in 6 Asian women dead. This tragedy has sparked fear among the AAPI community. According to the local police in Georgia, they said that this violence was not “racially motivated.” 

This shocking response exposed how law enforcement reacts to hate crimes. Of course, Malalis responded by saying there needs to be an acknowledgment that Asian and Pacific Islander communities are feeling acts of hate that are very deep and personal to them. 

Her response meant that despite what the perpetrator’s intent was, their actions still affect the related community and depending on what law enforcements say, it can also affect the public’s view on racially-based crimes. In other words, saying that you don’t see race not only denies the fact that anti-Asian hate crimes and racism exist toward the AAPI community or to any POC community but also makes racism worse by ignoring the reality of inequalities and consequences caused by people embracing color blindness.

Also saying “I don’t see race” makes you a person in denial of racism’s existence, along with it feeding a white-dominant narrative. This denial mindset does not do any good to any community whatsoever and it does not make any progress towards racial equality.

If a white person were to dismiss racism when it happens in front of them, they deny the existence of racism in our world. If a person of color were to address racism, white people’s reactions can range from confusion to violence.

Violence toward people of color in terms of racism is called white fragility. Not only is being violent and denying the fact that racism exists and saying “I don’t see race” harms POC communities, but it adds to racism itself.

Our world is suffering from the coronavirus, but the AAPI community is suffering from the response toward it. Asian people are now fearing for their lives because of the racist intent behind most of the recent hate crimes today.

Report what you see; report what you have experienced, do not let this major problem get swept under the rug. You can help provide a safe place for our communities just by reporting and recognizing the issue that is present at hand.

If we do not, more of our people from the AAPI community will suffer, people will doubt and deny the existence of anti-Asian racism and hate crimes will still be on the rise. Report what you see to stopaapihate.org and it is certain to help save a life.