Writer: Harry Zhao
Editor: Tonwaan Apiratikiat, Pat Sevikul
Graphic Designer: Hannah Bugeja
TW: mention of violence, racial slurs
Following the numerous assaults on Asian people in the days leading up to the Lunar New Year, the aggression against Asians in America and around the world have come into the foreground. The reason for this increase in anti-Asian hate crimes? It can be said without doubt that it is due to racial stereotyping which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Prior to the pandemic, Asian-Americans have been accepted to be the "model minority" - an overgeneralised racial group thought of to be successful and well-educated. This stereotype has been used to diminish the racism faced by Asian-Americans. However, the community still faced attacks and discrimination, which have been amplified after the eruption of COVID-19. Certain politicians have referred to the virus as the "Chinese virus" or "Wuhan virus" - associating the virus to the Chinese ethnicity and blaming them for the spread of the pandemic. Chinese-Americans were not the only ones who were affected by this harmful association. As "Chinese" generalised into "Asian", other Asians in America faced an onslaught of attacks and discrimination. The COVID-19 pandemic has also led to a resurfacing of the "Yellow Peril" caricature which portrays Asians as disease-carrying barbarians - a stereotype that would facilitate rampant anti-Asian racism and xenophobia.
Since the spread of COVID-19, Asian-Americans have witnessed a rapid rise in discrimination. The impacts range from denial of services to racial slurs and physical attacks. Asians may have lost their sense of security living in America, partially due to the attribution of COVID-19 as the fault of the Chinese, and, by generalisation, Asians as a whole. As a result, Asians fear being attacked based on their race and ethnicity. Statistics show that anti-Asian hate crimes have increased 1900% since the pandemic began. Additionally, there have been 2373 cases of self-reported anti-Asian hate crimes logged in the "Stop AAPI Hate" site in the period from March to July, 2020.
Impact on Asian-American businesses and workers
Asian-run establishments and services have found it increasingly difficult to keep up the business during the pandemic. Several establishments, such as Asian restaurants, have been vandalised. One of such is the Japanese restaurant Minado Buffet, which was vandalised with the message "take back the corona you ch*nk".
Amongst Asian-American workers, unemployment rates have climbed up to 10.7%. Even among the working demographic, Asian-Americans have higher exposure rates to COVID-19 and a higher risk of becoming infected. For example, Filipino-American nurses comprise 30% of all registered nurses infected with COVID-19, despite only making up 4% of US nurses.
Impact of Asian-American students and youth
Asian-American students have already been disadvantaged in the school environment, with a lack of representation and a stereotype of being high-achieving and academic. Although micro-aggressions were already common, they have increased along with cases of bullying and harassment.
A 16-year-old boy was hospitalised in San Fernando after being attacked by bullies who believed he carried the virus. Another 14-year-old student was followed home by high-school boys who coughed on him and told him "Ch!ng ch0ng! You have Chinese virus!"
Even after schools have transitioned to online learning, hate crimes continue to occur: a high-school Chinese Zoom class was bombarded with racial slurs and images by unknown intruders.
Further cases of physical attacks
These recent cases of physical violence against Asian-American folk have captured the public attention. A recent victim, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, was violently thrown to the ground while walking alone. The attacker was 19 years old, and was not provoked by Ratanapakdee. He died in hospital two days following the attack. Another victim is Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino man who was commuting in Harlem when a stranger kicked his bags. When Quintana responded, the stranger slashed his face from cheek to cheek with a box-cutter knife. No one on the commute helped Quintana. Yet another victim is Christian Hall, a 19-year-old who had been going through mental health issues and was confronted by the police. Although he had a gun, he had his hands up when the police shot him.
Noel Quintana Christian Hall Vicha Ratanapakdee
These assaults are only few out of many cases, which have shocked the Asian-American community, especially nearing the Lunar New Year, an important day for many Asians. No one should deserve to spend the festival grieving or in fear of being the next victim.
How should we help?
There is little media coverage on these incidents and the growth of Asian-American hate, so it is crucial to raise awareness on what has been happening to the Asian-American community. Asian-Americans must stand in solidarity with other discriminated groups in the civil rights movement. There needs to be more focus on issues regarding racism and the history of Asian-Americans and other minorities, especially in education, where children need to be educated on these topics to avoid the spread of racism into future generations. For example, in New York City, there have been COVID-19 anti-bias lesson plans during the pandemic issued by the Department of Education.
Donations and support to organisations that aim to aid Asian-Americans will also be valuable: Apex for Youth is an organisation dedicated to helping out Asian and immigrant youths born into disadvantaged circumstances through volunteering and mentoring. Asian American Advancing Justice is an organisation that helps to protect the civil rights of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by creating a multiracial community and by providing training and education.
The Asian-American community has faced a lot of social and economic challenges resulting from COVID-19 and the subsequent racial discrimination. As illustrated by the recent attacks on Asian-Americans, the community of Asians in America has had to put up with all sorts of racism and abuse, and their suffering has been neglected. It's time we did something to help.