Speak Now: Violence against Asian Americans is still on the rise

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Lanterns are hung in celebration of Lunar New Year celebrations in the Chinatown district of London. Anti-Asian sentiment has fueled a rising number of attacks against Asian Americans, including several in Chinatowns across the US. Photo by Matt Dunham/AP

When COVID-19 cases began rising last year, something else that rose  was racism against those of Asian descent, especially people of East and Southeast Asian descent. This racism came in the form of xenophobic comments, vandalism and violence. Unfortunately, violence against the Asian community is on the rise once again. 

During the past couple months in California, there have been multiple attacks on Asian Americans, including a 64-year-old woman assaulted and robbed in San Jose, a 91-year-old man pushed to the ground, an 84-year-old man shoved into the pavement and later succumbing to his injuries in the hospital and a 52-year-old women shot in the head with a flare gun. And this violence is not specific to California — in New York, a 61-year-old man was slashed from cheek to cheek with a knife during his morning commute. 

This violence is unacceptable and despicable. It has been increasing  since last year, but  many are still largely unaware that this is happening. 

The coalition “Stop AAPI Hate,” a group created in March of last year after the initial rise in xenophobia, reported that between March 19 and Dec. 31, 2020, the coalition had received over 2,808 firsthand accounts of racism and xenophobia toward those of Asian descent. These accounts were from 47 states and Washington D.C. 

Stop AAPI Hate reported the states where these attacks were most frequent were those with high Asian American populations, such as California and New York. Of those populations, those of Chinese descent are the most targeted ethnic group, followed by those of Korean, Vietnamese and Filipino descent. Stop AAPI Hate also reported that out of the 2,808 incidents, approximately 126 of them involved the elderly

Much of this violence is comes from the fact that the first case of the coronavirus was discovered in Wuhan, China. Since then, incendiary comments from citizens and politicians alike have incited this xenophobia. 

Especially with the comments from former President Donald Trump during the pandemic, calling coronavirus “China Virus,” this racism was reinforced and enabled. In a nation clearly plagued with systemic racism, having a president who allowed and encouraged this xenophobia added gasoline to an already flaming fire. Although he is not in office and has no social media presence anymore, the damage has already been done. The idea that Asian Americans should be targeted simply because people want a scapegoat has been burned into the minds of many, resulting in  horrible attacks against the community. 

In order to bring these issues to light, actors Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Wu and Amanda Nguyen appeared on MSNBC’s program “Shining Voices.” After the 84-year-old Thai-American man was killed in San Francisco, both Kim and Wu set up a $25,000 reward to help with arresting the suspect. On the program, Wu said they did this after seeing there was not enough action from authorities to ensure these crimes did not occur. Nguyen also pointed out this violence is not widely covered. 

“How many more people need to be killed in order for the media to think we are worthy of a story?” asked Nguyen during the MSNBC program

On Jan. 26, President Joe Biden signed a memorandum meant to combat “racism, xenophobia and intolerance” against the Asian American community. The memorandum essentially ensures that the government’s COVID-19 response is respectful and that there are no racist and xenophobic comments in official government documents and statements.  

This is a great start, but it is just that — a start. Much, much more must be done in order to heal the racism and xenophobia — in this case, against Asian Americans — that has been prevalent in this nation for years.  

The violence against the Asian American community must have a lot more coverage; people should be aware these attacks are happening, and many more people should be speaking out against these attacks. This appalling pattern of violence against the Asian American community that has been increasing for the past year cannot continue.  

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