Author: Aakash Anandjiwala
Hate crimes are a public health crisis.
Considering the tragedy that took place in Atlanta this month, I felt it was necessary to highlight the history of hate and abuse driven upon Asian Americans in America. Asian Americans have faced countless acts of hate crimes such as verbal abuse, getting lit on fire, and getting acid thrown on them. Almost 3,000 hate crimes were reported in America during 2020 compared to the average of 100 hate crimes in previous years. In New York City alone, hate crimes against Asian Americans surged by 1900% in 2020. But these are only the reported cases; others are left unreported due to lack of support from the community, and overall fear.
In the past year, the stigma brought onto Asian Americans can be linked to how public officials and the media used racist rhetoric to refer to COVID-19 with phrases such as “kung flu” and “Chinese virus”.
Overall misinformation of the origin of the virus has also led to this stigma with myths circulating about how the virus was a man made bioterrorism weapon made in China and how Asians are more likely to carry the virus. This generation of misinformation and conspiracy theories have created the perfect environment for scapegoating.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a long-standing history of anti-Asian sentiments in America. Beginning in the 1800s, there was a fear that Asians would threaten the American dream and democracy called “Yellow Peril." In 1871, a community of Chinese Americans were murdered due to anti-Asian sentiments and false rumors, being labelled as the “Chinese Massacre of 1871.” Lastly, during World War II, thousands of innocent Asian Americans were sent to internment caps because of fear that they were collaborating with war enemies.
So how can we move forward to raise awareness about Asian Americans and the betterment of their community? Things we can do in the long run would be to include Asian American history in school curriculums, charging and arresting people who commit hate crimes, and establishing better policies to create ways for people to report hate crimes without instilling the same fear mentioned in the first paragraph. At the moment, you can educate yourself on the history of the Asian American hate, support local Asian businesses, and volunteer with/promote services that help the Asian community and especially elderly Asian Americans.