Written by Ibrahim Itani and Serina Kaochari
Over the previous year, fueled by the ongoing pandemic-there has been a spark in the number of Asian American hate crimes. With a 150% increase in 2020, there have been a recorded over 2,800 incidents of violent acts committed against Asian Americans since the start of the pandemic. These incidents fuel a mass wave of anti-Asian hate, and create a sense of fear between many.
During late January, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant, named Vicha Ratanapakdee was a victim of the violent attacks against Asian Americans. He was on his usual morning walk, just after having said goodbye to his wife, he was violently slammed to the ground by a 19-year-old man. Ratanapakdee's family say the attack was more than an example of someone preying on the vulnerable and elderly. They called it a hate crime. This fatal attack caused a brain hemorrhage, leading to his death a mere two days later. Not only this incident, but many others have occurred and have been brought to light after the initial violent attack. Days later, a 91-year-old Asian man was violently shoved to the ground in Oakland's Chinatown. A month after, a 64-year-old woman was robbed outside a Vietnamese market in San Jose, California. And just recently, a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed in the face on the New York City subway.
Examining normalized Asian racism in American society is vital in truly understanding the Asian American experience and the reason why so many hate crimes have occurred lately. The model minority stereotype is the idea that all Asians are polite and educated which would mean Asian Americans are better off economically and socially. This dangerous and ignorant narrative is used to dismiss the problems Asian Americans face, while consequently setting unhealthy, high standards for Asian Americans to conform to. Though studies show that Asian Americans experience similar rates of depression and anxiety as other racial groups, they’re three times less likely to seek mental health services because of the pressure society puts on Asian Americans to always maintain a ‘perfect’ and ‘humble’ demeanor. Even so, a far more blatant and apparent form of normalized racism is that brought about by the societal glorification of Eurocentric beauty standards. More often than not Asian Americans are mocked and insulted for their skin tone or facial features, so much so that many people dismiss these hurtful comments as jokes. In a recent event a Sacramento teacher was caught on recording doing ‘slant eye’ in which she described her gestures as ways to identify Chinese, Japanese, and other Asian ethnicities. That video may seem shocking to people who aren’t familiar with the Asian American experience but to many Asian Americans across the country it’s an issue faced everyday.
Asians have been the scapegoat for the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences, this very villainization has highlighted the discrimination and racism Asian Americans have had to endure even prior to the pandemic. In many instances Asian culture and the Asian American experience isn’t taken seriously and the contributions Asian Americans make to society are taken for granted. To educate and to advocate is the greatest way to make a difference in the fight against anti-Asian rhetoric. Sharing the Asian American experience with others and outlining the hardships that go hidden in the lives of Asian Americans can make an impactful contribution in helping others realize the severity of this conflict. Change comes from the bottom up, and as more people continue to come together in the fight against racism real strides are being made for a better future. As this process goes on the rest of society must start by doing the obvious, acknowledging the rampant racism that goes on in the lives of Asian Americans.
For the 2020-21 season, REACH will be releasing a new blog post written by our officers during the first and third Wednesdays of each month about different aspects of Asian culture, such as pop culture, conflicts faced, representation in media, history, celebration and holidays, and stereotypes. We hope you enjoy reading them!