By Anna Nguyen,
Racism is a phenomenon that is quite common, regardless of where it occurs or by whom it comes from. Usually, racism peaks when there are crises, such as the current pandemic of COVID-19. This time, the target are merely Asian people because of the first country that SARS-CoV-2 ever appeared. Although China does not represent the whole Asian continent, there are many people from various countries of the East that have experienced such kind of treatment. Of course, the first people to be targeted were Chinese, regardless of where they lived i.e., the USA and European countries. These sparked the Stop Asian Hate Movement in the USA that protests for the rights of Asian people.
Racism towards Asian people has not been as recognized as racism against black people, for example. It existed long before the pandemic but was never an important issue to discuss. The Stop Asian Hate Movement peaked after the shootings in Atlanta in March that killed eight people, where six of them were Asian women. The shooter went to two massage spas and shot the employees dead and left one man injured. Although, he claimed that his intentions were not racially driven but a way for him to fight his sex addiction, this act alerted the authorities in light of the anti-Asian violence that had been rising since the start of the pandemic. The fact that Asian women were linked to the sex industry should not be tolerated in any means. Is it logical to marginalize a specific minority in order to tackle one’s issues? After the shootings in Atlanta, more hate crimes took place and were mainly against elder people, an easier target. For instance, an immigrant from Thailand who lived in San Francisco, died because he was aggressively pushed down to the pavement while he was enjoying a morning stroll and an elderly Chinese woman in New York was hit and set in fire. These kinds of events must not go unnoticed but make us think and re-evaluate our values as human beings.
But how did the Stop Asian Hate movement start? Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, some people were certain that this would lead to a crucial rise of the violence against the Asian community. Hence, the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, the Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University introduced the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, where incidents of anti-Asian racism incidents can be reported and make Asian American victims feel safe. Since the commence of its operation in 2020, there have been more than 2.800 reports, whilst the number is still increasing. The #StopAsianHate has recently become a trending hashtag in social media and more and more people are becoming aware of the hate incidents that have been taking place in the world. Shootings, assaults and verbal attacks against the Asian Americans have seen the light and have gained global support.
The movement is supported by public figures of Asian descent, who are taking advantage of their fame to inform about the anti-Asian acts that occur and are ignored or not projected as much as they have to. Actresses Sandrah Oh and Ashley Park are among these public figures who as Asian Americans strongly support this initiative. Along with the aforementioned hashtag, there are others as well that accompany it, such as #HateIsAVirus and #ProtectOurElders which people use to raise awareness towards the matter. Thanks to the evolution of mass media and the popularity of social media, the movement’s influence has “travelled” everywhere in the world in the blink of an eye. Protests and rallies in various cities took place like New York, Washington and Los Angeles, and in Montreal as well. Signs with slogans like “Stop Killing Asians” and “Keep my Grandma Safe” filled the US streets showing the solidarity to the Asian community.
Last year, when the pandemic commenced, the related statements made by the former US President, Donald Trump, did not go unnoticed. There were quite a few times that in his official statements, he referred to the SARS-CoV-2 as the “Chinese virus”, which automatically linked Chinese people to the virus. Although the former President’s intentions were probably political, they resulted in blaming all Chinese people and therefore, Asians in general, for the ongoing pandemic. But is it fair though? Generalization never had a positive impact on any matter. Nonetheless, what is important at the moment is what are the next steps towards the prevention of such events to happen again. President Biden urged the Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which will facilitate the information of Asian Americans about hate crimes and the reporting of violent incidents. However, that itself is not enough; education demonstrates a significant role in tackling phenomena like racism. Thus, education reforms are essential, especially in a continent where Asians account for a significant part of the American population.
The Stop Asian Hate Movement is an initiative that shed light to the racism that Asian Americans have been experiencing. It is high time that their rights to be recognized in order for them to be treated equally to American citizens. It must not be forgotten, that those people fled to the USA for a brighter future and a better life. Many were born there as the children of first-generation immigrants and refugees and are considered more Americans rather than Asians. So, is it right to treat these people with disrespect and hatred when all they do is trying to make a living in American soil? Being an Asian outside the Asian continent is challenging because one will always be treated as “a different person” whether that is directly or indirectly and in a friendly or a hostile manner. All people must embrace and be proud of their origins and not be afraid because of them; that is what the #StopAsianHate fights for.
- Cabral, S., Covid “hate crimes” against Asian American on rise, BBC News, Available here
- Juarez, L. & Powell, A., “Stop Asian Hate” rallies held across SoCal and nationwide; demonstrators decry rise in violence, abc7, Available here
- Stop AAPI Hate, Stop AAPI Hate: About, Available here
- Wagner, M., Macaya, M. & Hayes, M., 8 killed in shootings at Atlanta-area spas, CNN, Available here