Author: Sarah White, Truman State University, '22
Following the pandemic, a surge of anti-Asian American hate has spread across the United States. Stop AAPI Hate, an organization that tracks incidents of hate crimes against Asians and Pacific Islanders in the US, reported that there were 6,603 reported incidents between March 2020 and March 2021. 64.8% of these reports were from women (Jeung, Yellow Horse, and Cayanan, 2021). According to another study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino, Asian American hate crimes have increased 145% from 2019-2020 in 16 of America’s largest cities (2021). Keep in mind: these are just the reported cases. The actual number of committed hate crimes is unknown.
Asian American hate crimes are not new to the US: The California Supreme Court ruled that people of Asian descent were not permitted to testify against a white person in court in People v. Hall in 1854. This particular case dealt with the murdering of Ling Sing by George Hall. The witness’s testimony was rejected simply because they were Asian. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned Chinese immigration for ten years (Brockell 2021). In 1900, an outbreak of the bubonic plague occurred in San Francisco. This led to unnecessary blame on Asian Americans: the police barricaded San Francisco’s Chinatown and “prevent[ed] anyone but White residents from going in or out” (Ibid). However, it was thought that the outbreak actually arrived on a ship from Australia. These are just a few instances of racism against Asian Americans. See a pattern?
As an Asian American, I am frustrated that these hate crimes have risen as a result of the pandemic. Seeing the media coverage of any hate crime is devastating, but when watching footage of crimes committed against people similar to me, it is sickening. How does our physical appearance translate to hatred? As a woman, I already have to worry about my safety and security when I am out in public. But as an Asian American woman, I sometimes feel as if the world is against me. I have never been a victim of a hate crime, but I know there have been thousands of Asian Americans who have not been as lucky as I am. How long will my luck last?
In May 2021, President Joe Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, an act that makes hate crime reporting more accessible to local and state communities (Sprunt 2021). This act also “authorizes grants to state and local governments to conduct crime-reduction programs to prevent and respond to hate crimes” (Ibid). The House of Representatives passed this act in a 364-62 vote. The 62 who voted against the bill were all Republican. The Senate passed the bill with Senator Josh Hawley, Republican, being the only one who voted against the act (Ibid). Senator Hawley defended his reasoning, saying that it “turns the federal government into the speech police -gives government sweeping authority to decide what counts as offensive speech and then monitor it. Raises big free speech questions” (Huerto 2021). People should know that the freedom of speech does not mean they can blatantly discriminate against others. What harm comes with reviewing hate crimes? The fact that the USA needs an act advocating for this change says something: racism is ever-so-present despite being such a diverse country. What also disgusts me is that there were people who voted against this legislation created to protect fellow Americans. What’s the reason for this unnecessary indifference? Protection against hate crimes should not be a question.
As a reader, you have already done something to help combat these Anti-Asian hate crimes: you started educating yourself. Learning about the history of racism against Asian Americans allows people to understand why this is a major issue. Racism has no place in America, a country of immigrants. You can follow social media that empowers and educates people on Asian American rights. Some examples include:
You can also sign petitions and donate to charities that support and advocate for Asian American creators and voices:
A more personal approach would be to check in on your Asian American friends. A quick check-in could mean the whole world to them because it shows that you care about their well-being and mental health. If you don’t know what to say to them, just let them know that you’re there to listen.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans will only continue if we don’t push for change. We must continue our fight against hate crimes in general, not just for Asian Americans. No one deserves to be hurt or even killed just because of their skin color or the way they look. We have come a long way, but still have a lot of work to do.