Opinion: We need to end the scapegoating of Asian Americans

Vichar Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant, was horrifically attacked in San Francisco and died of his injuries. A Filipino American, Noel Quintana, was slashed in the face with a box cutter by a random man on the train in Brooklyn, New York.

These incidents are only two of the many recent instances of the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Asian Americans have been victims of racist attacks and hateful language due to the constant scapegoating for COVID-19. We need to end these hate crimes and protect our Asian American elders.

As defined by the FBI, a hate crime is a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”

Although violent crimes overall have been on the decline, those directed toward Asian Americans have rapidly increased, much in part by individuals placing blame on Asian Americans for the pandemic and its impact on the U.S. economy.

According to Voice of America News, many major US cities have shown a 150% increase in hate crimes targeted towards Asian Americans. In Los Angeles, there was a 114% increase from seven reported cases in 2019 to 15 reported cases in 2020.

Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate, an organization dedicated to tracking hate crimes against Asian Americans, reported that more than 2,800 hate crimes occurred from March 2020 to December 2020, with California having more than 43% of these. A majority of these incidents involved verbal harassment, public shunning and physical assault.

This recent string of hateful events has proved to be a dangerous and concerning trend for Asian Americans across the nation. Many blamed former president Donald Trump for his racist rhetoric that included calling COVID-19 the “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu,” reminding Asian Americans of the history of discriminatory policies imposed against them in the U.S.

From anti-Chinese sentiment in the 1800s to forced Japanese internment camps during WWII to the recent uprise in hate crimes against Asian Americans during the pandemic, the constant scapegoating of Asian Americans for national crises outside of their control is wrong and needs to stop.

The pandemic has hurt us all but placing blame on Asian Americans — and outright attacking them for it — needs to end. Communities need to work together to combat this racist mindset that Asian Americans are to blame for the virus and protect each other in the process. Some communities have taken a stand against the rise in AAPI hate crimes including neighbors in Orange County, supporters in Oakland and rallies in New York City.

When an Asian American family was repeatedly being harassed in OC, neighbors gathered to protect their house. In Oakland, Black and Asian members of the community rallied for support and solidarity due to the recent attacks. New Yorkers held rallies against the violence upon Asian Americans in their city.

These inspiring community efforts to support Asian Americans raise awareness and protect Asian families and the elderly from violence are ways we can combat this rise in hateful incidents. Until further action from local or national governments is taken to protect hateful incidents against Asian Americans, community efforts like these are absolutely necessary.

Especially when these incidents don’t receive enough attention or media coverage, communities need to work together to raise awareness and learn the complex history of Asian Americans who have faced discrimination. The parallels of past historical events where Asian Americans were prejudiced against are terrifying to see today, but through constant awareness and education, we can protect our Asian American communities from these hateful incidents.

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