Written by: Karina Jones
With the start of Asian American and Pacific Islander heritage month, it is important to discuss the recent struggles faced by the Asian and Pacific Islander communities in America and the reasons behind them.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, there have been spikes in anti-Asian hate crimes, many against elders. Even though awareness about anti-Asian violence has begun spreading on social media and activists and legislators have attempted to take action to prevent these crimes, they continue to rise. According to a report compiled by CSU San Bernardino, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes in the first three months of 2021 is about 169% higher than those in the first three months of 2020. It is especially alarming that many of these attacks have occurred in broad daylight, suggesting that attackers doubt they will be punished by targeting members of the Asian and Pacific Islander communities. During many of these attacks, bystanders offered little to no aid for the person or people affected. A significant portion of the attacks since the beginning of the pandemic have occurred in March of 2021. While it is likely that this increase has occurred because anti-Asian hate crimes were previously underreported, the reasons for these crimes are no less important.
Many of the hate crimes perpetrated against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have been due to stigma surrounding COVID-19, as many blame Asians for causing the spread of the virus. However, there are many other harmful ideas concerning people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent within America. This includes the model minority myth, in which people claim that the success of Asians in America proves that other minorities in America can overcome oppression, or use it to suggest that the oppression of minorities doesn’t exist at all. Another harmful idea weaponized against Asians is the fetishization against Asian women, who are often viewed as submissive, ideal sexual partners. This fetishization was the cause of one of the most highly reported anti-Asian hate crimes this year, in which a white man in Atlanta fired into three separate spas that are all known to be run primarily by Asian women, who made up 6 of the 8 people killed in the rampage.
The history of the treatment of Asian and Pacific Islander communities in America, including the exploitation of Chinese immigrants during the building of the transcontinental railroad and internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, is only loosely addressed in schools, if at all. The contributions many Asian Americans have made to the United States and to the world are also under taught in schools, such as the work of Dr, David Ho, a Taiwanese physician and virologist who has been on the frontlines of AIDS research since its discovery.
There are many resources being utilized in attempts to slow and stop the rise in hate crimes against the AAPI community on the national and local levels. President Biden has publicly addressed the attacks through executive orders, and legislation targeting hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has been passed through the Senate with strong bipartisan support, indicating that the bills are likely to be passed through the House as well. There have been task forces and hotlines assembled specifically for anti-Asian crimes, and communities have set up neighborhood watches to protect their AAPI neighbors.