Hate against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders is nothing new

Illustration by Lauren Johnson

Ishaan Nandwani, Contributing Writer

National headlines were made March 16 as mass shootings occurred at three massage parlors in Atlanta, leading to the death of eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.

This shooting was one incident in a string of a myriad of recent hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI, population within the United States. Last month, a Chinese man in Manhattan had a knife plunged in his back while walking home from work. At the start of the pandemic, a female cardiologist was accosted and had her mask nearly ripped off at the grocery store.

Upon hearing about these incidents, I was absolutely horrified. Racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has become extremely normalized in the United States, especially in the last year. If you are a consumer of bubble tea, K-pop, or anime, you have benefitted from Asian culture in some way. It is essential for us as college students to not only stand with our AAPI brothers and sisters against these attacks, but also demand accountability from the government to charge those responsible for these attacks appropriately.

Racism is never born; it’s often taught at a young age. I was touched upon reading this Twitter thread by Rep. Andy Kim of New Jersey, whose 5-year-old son experienced his first encounter of racism without realizing what he had gone through. To solve the root of this issue, it’s going to take more than just accountability. It begins with early education efforts to address the implicit biases and prejudices we have toward others.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by nearly 150% in 2020, according to a study conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

This dramatic increase in AAPI hate can be attributed to the rising sentiment against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since March, we’ve seen the dangerous way political leaders — including former President Donald Trump — have weaponized rhetoric like the “China virus” against an entire community. While our country’s leadership has changed, the manifestation of hate built up against the AAPI community has not. Simply put, we must do better.

While the surge in hate crimes against Asian Americans has been devastating, if we pay close attention to the narrative of history, we find that unfortunately, it is not surprising.

The first notable example of open discrimination against Asian Americans in this country was the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to the U.S. Since then, there has been a long list of racist policies against Asian Americans enforced by the government, including the Immigraton Act of 1924 and Executive Order 9066, the latter of which placed Japanese Americans in concentration camps following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

While there are no longer policies that outright target Asian Americans, our government has not done enough to condemn recent attacks and offer necessary support to the AAPI community.

Incidents demonstrating clear intent to harm Asian Americans must be classified as hate crimes. In the case of the Atlanta shooting and the Manhattan stabbing incident, neither case was prosecuted as a hate crime due to the ambiguous nature of the intent of the attacks. These incidents are not isolated, as they represent a clear pattern. 

We must call them for what they are and send a message that racism against the AAPI community will not be tolerated in this country.

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