Hate crimes and Covid-19: why the Asian community is taking extra steps for safety amidst the pandemic

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Vanesa Nhotharack is a second-generation immigrant. Her family came to the U.S. in the early 80s as war refugees from Laos.

Vicha Ratanapakdee died after being brutally pushed to the ground. Noel Quintana was slashed in the face with a box cutter. Christian Hall was shot by police seven times after having a mental health crisis. Matthew Leung lost part of his finger after an assault at a bus stop. Henry Cheng and his grandparents were violently attacked at a train station, his grandmother laying on the tracks as a train approached. Bawi Cung Nung and his son Robert were stabbed while grocery shopping. 

 Violent incidents and microaggressions against Asians and Asian Americans have risen since the pandemic hit. Now two months into 2021, and the spike in assaults is still prevalent. 

 According to Stop AAPI Hate, a database created at the beginning of the pandemic to track racially charged hate crimes, from March 19, 2020 to December 31, 2020, received 2,808 first hand accounts of anti-Asian hate, that of course does not include the ones that go unreported. Those who are 60 years or older accounted for 126 of those reports. NYPD also reports that there was an 867% increase in Asian American hate crimes. 

 On March 14, 2020, the first day of our “extended spring break,” my dad bought my younger brother a pocket knife and pepper spray for me, my mom, and younger sister in fear of us being the target of a hate crime. Two days later, Bawi Cung Nung and his son were stabbed in the face at a Sam’s club in Midland, TX. Since then, my dad has kept a photo of the little boy’s slashed face in his phone because he said he looks like my little brother when he was younger. 

 For the past year, my grandparents have been terrified to leave their homes. Anytime I see them they’re always warning me to stay home and stay away from people, not in fear of catching the virus, but fear of seeing my name on the news. 

 My grandma recently got her car keyed by someone in her neighborhood, but to this day she does not know it happened. My grandpa was the one to find it, but he and my parents decided not to tell her because they did not want to think she was being targeted. 

 Just before Christmas, my mom, younger siblings, and I went to Walgreens to grab last minute gifts. I stayed in the car while the other three went inside, and as my mom and I were switching seats a white woman in a dark gray compact SUV drove up behind our car, blocked us in, honked at us, and yelled, “Would you stop spying on us!” I had never seen my mom seething with rage and she said that had she been alone, she 100% would’ve followed that woman and confronted her face-to-face. 

 Asian Americans have never been seen as Americans. Despite immigrating to the U.S., coming from war-torn countries, learning English in order to assimilate, working multiple jobs to support their families, and eventually becoming U.S. citizens, we have always been viewed as foreign. 

 Former President Donald J. Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus.” By doing so, he essentially enabled the xenophobic behaviors towards Asian Americans. As the leader and face of the United States, the words that come out of his mouth influence the actions of the American people. Yes, the virus originated from China, but that doesn’t allow you to call it the “Chinese virus”, “Wuhan virus” or the “Kung flu”. Using these term reinforces negative stereotypes and spreads misinformation. Plus, it’s extremely harmful and will only increase the violence towards Asians. 

 Racism and discrimination towards Asians have always been present, whether it be microaggressions or physical confrontations. But then again, how could it not? These behaviors are so normalized in the media, in our entertainment, and in our everyday lives. People worldwide took advantage of COVID-19 and used it as an excuse to openly show hate towards Asians.

 For the past year Asian actors and influencers, such as Gemma Chan, Arden Cho, Daniel Dae Kim, Simu Liu, Olivia Munn, Sandra Oh, Chris Pang, Maggie Q, Daniel Wu, Tim Chantarangsu, Ryan Higa, Kevin Kreider, Chriselle Lim, Steven Lim, Kelly Mi Li, David So, and more have taken to social media to raise awareness of the rise in crimes against Asian people worldwide. Some have also been teaming up with organizations such as #HATEISAVIRUS and #TheyCantBurnUsAll in an attempt to put a stop to xenophobia and anti-Asian hate.  

 HATEISAVIRUS is a non-profit organization that was created last April in order to, “dismantle racism and hate.” Since then, they’ve been able to raise awareness to the issues at hand, educate thousands of people, and raise money to donate to other organizations and save small businesses. 

 Raymond Yu, more commonly known as China Mac, created the movement #TheyCantBurnUsAll late August of last year. The name comes from the elderly Cantonese woman who was set on fire in New York City. As opposed to #HATEISAVIRUS, Mac’s movements] took to the streets of L.A. and San Francisco to voice his frustrations with violence towards Asians.

 This year has been one bad thing after another for all communities. Now more than ever do people of color and white allies need to stand together to help combat racial inequality.  This is not a ‘your community, your fight’ ordeal. In order to see real change, all communities need to stick together. 

 The most important thing you could do to help and show support and solidarity with the Asian community is to educate yourself. Look into the issues that impact Asian Americans. Educate the people around you. There is strength in numbers, so the more people that are aware of what’s going on the better.  

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