Since March 2019, there has been a rise of racist attacks, xenophobia, hate crimes, harassment, and scapegoating of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community due to blame for the emergence of coronavirus, and no major civil rights groups outside of the AAPI community have worked to stop these things from happening.
As of December of 2020, the civil rights organization Stop AAPI Hate has reported 2,808 cases of discrimination across the U.S. against people in the AAPI community. A most recent attack, the pushing of an elderly man to the ground, sparked outrage among Asian American actors and Anti Asian hate organizations. Even before the pandemic, racial discrimination of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, and Asians of diaspora has always been an issue and not much has changed in the way of eliminating it.
On Tuesday, The white house’s press secretary Jen Pskai addressed the racist incidents, which follows President Joe Biden’s signing of a memorandum that condemns and outlines a plan to combat xenophobia and racism towards Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders. During a speech the president called the hate crimes, “Unacceptable and Un-American”. Concerning the elder man incident, prominent Asian American actors, Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu offered a $25,000 reward for the man’s attacker, who is now in custody, and hosted an online conversation addressing AAPI hate. And even with the recent rise of the knowledge of the importance of representation for Asians and Pacific Islanders, there is still a lack of response by the country to this mass discrimination.
As a black American, seeing people put their lives at risk by going outside to protest during a pandemic, and spend time on social media raising awareness about the brutality black Americans have faced, but have not done the same for Asian Americans is frustrating.
To see people consistently attempt to educate others about inequality, celebrities, politicians, and activists call for unity, and a majority of Americans denounce racism in many moments during this pandemic while ignoring the plight of people of Asian descent, reinforces my belief that real change is further out of reach. It saddens me to have people not show any, if not similar energy for the AAPI community as they did for African Americans a few months earlier.
Over the past ten months, while staying alert to the news, and seeing the difference in interest and support for Black lives and Asian American suffering, it makes it seem that the recent show of support for black people was about change, but for many, it was performative activism. People over the summer supported BLM because they felt that it was our “time”. But with the quarantine routines, people have had the time to protest for equality for all but the country remains silent.
Historically, simultaneous movements for equal rights have existed. Whether it be the protests of the 1960s and ’70s that included productive, intersectional movements, to the year before the turn of this new decade, where BLM existed at the same time as #Metoo, #Timesup, and calls for more understanding of the LGBTQ+ community and fellow marginalized groups. These different eras have seen change for those not belonging to power, and these movements have intersected and helped one another.
The argument for the urgency of equal rights for Black Americans is understandable but I see the urgency as counterproductive. The reaction to, and not taking time to sit with feelings and understand how racism operates against black Americans, has led to near costly missteps by black leadership, empty solutions for eliminating racism, and disappearance of online support for black victims of continued police brutality. From the plan to defund or abolish the police to an artist like Ice Cube’s trust of former president Donald Trump’s equality plans to black tastemakers participating in hate speech in an attempt to uplift the black community, to the radio silence of online awareness of a recent black death. Simply reacting to the injustice has placed black people’s focus solely on our hurt and has created a rush towards allyship, without taking time to see that our fellow Americans are hurting as well.
For the fact that our society has held space for simultaneous movements, then it is only sensible that justice is sought for everyone. Especially when Asian and Pacific Islander suffering and its visibility have been heightened due to the same pandemic that heightened the visibility of black death, we as a country should be out in the streets and online, fighting to stop the racism and violence against our fellow citizens.
This new year, there’s no reason why one out of every four Asian Americans should have to experience racial discrimination because of the pandemic. There’s no reason why Asian Americans should be attacked in subway stations, in stores, at colleges, their attackers claiming they’re spreading Covid – or Asian-owned restaurants closing because people associate them with the virus. There’s no reason why Asian women and men and children are being verbally assaulted — no reason why young Asian Americans have to be made fun of at school, no reason that a person of Asian descent dies because of their ethnicity.
The recent protests brought back memories of when I was in the streets protesting over the verdicts of Eric Garner and Trayvon Martin, for the fellow black women and men who passed from police brutality. And for my own experience with racism. I was reminded also of the way that racist whites and those believers in a post-racist society, supported the killings of these people by arguing that it was the right thing to do. Like back then, and even more so now, it’s taking black men and women to have to die, for our country to see that racism does exist, and to see that black people do suffer because we allow racism to exist. I am afraid that it will take for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders to suffer death before this country begins to demand justice for them.
The longer that we make racism towards Asian Americans a part of how we operate as a country, and the more we take away what happens to Asian Americans in this country out of the American reality, the further we will be from truly being a people of equality and justice.