The following story discusses instances of violence against the Asian and Pacific Islander community.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has been on the rise, evident through attacks in Atlanta, the Bay Area of California and New York, among other incidents. I’ve even written about this topic twice in the past, touching upon how violence against the AAPI community has been rising and how such hatred has been perpetuated.
In December 2021, the New York Police Department reported that in New York City, incidences of violence against the AAPI community had risen about 361% from the previous year. The organization Stop AAPI Hate has also estimated that one in five Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have experienced a hate incident in 2021 — which statistically equals about 4.8 million Asian Americans and 320,000 Pacific Islanders. Both in New York as well as nationally, a disproportionate number of hate crimes against the AAPI community has targeted women and girls.
Despite all of these attacks, and the fact that violence against the AAPI community is still a prominent issue, coverage has been waning. It is important to recognize that these attacks are still happening and they may be attributed to systemic problems, further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, it is also vital to look at these attacks from an intersectional perspective in order to recognize that AAPI women are disproportionately targeted. These attacks cannot be ignored or normalized.
In January, Michelle Go was fatally shoved in front of a New York City subway car. Although this attack was not investigated as a hate crime, many in the AAPI community have pointed out that the systemic gender biases and attitudes, especially regarding AAPI women, have emphasized that this should not be treated as a random incident.
Sung Yeon Choimorrow, Executive Director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, emphasized this point in an interview with Don Gonyea from NPR stating that such biases and stereotypes often lead people to believe that Asian American women are “easy targets.”
“There are biases built in people grow up with and stereotypes that are enforced in media that lead people to, whether consciously or subconsciously, assume that Asian American women are easy targets — right? — whether it’s the way we’re portrayed in media as submissive, as easy to get, as people that will do whatever you want or not fight back, we’re docile,” said Choimorrow.
To Choimorrow’s point, regardless of whether or not people want to classify this as a hate crime, it cannot be ignored that yet another Asian American woman was targeted and it is extremely probable that systems of bias and stereotypes contributed to this attack.
“THERE ARE BIASES BUILT IN PEOPLE GROW UP WITH AND STEREOTYPES THAT ARE ENFORCED IN MEDIA THAT LEAD PEOPLE TO, WHETHER CONSCIOUSLY OR SUBCONSCIOUSLY, ASSUME THAT ASIAN AMERICAN WOMEN ARE EASY TARGETS — RIGHT? — WHETHER IT’S THE WAY WE’RE PORTRAYED IN MEDIA AS SUBMISSIVE, AS EASY TO GET, AS PEOPLE THAT WILL DO WHATEVER YOU WANT OR NOT FIGHT BACK, WE’RE DOCILE.”Sung Yeon Choimorrow
In response to the attack against Go, as well as other attacks in New York City subway stations, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority will be installing subway platform doors in three subway stations in order to test them out. Although this is a long overdue safety measure that should have been implemented long ago in order to prevent attacks as well as accidents, this will do nothing to specifically combat and call attention to violence against the AAPI community.
On Feb. 13, Christina Yuna Lee was found dead in her apartment in Manhattan’s Chinatown district after being stabbed over 40 times. Similar to the attack against Go, many surmised that this was not a hate crime. Due to pervasive gender and racial biases and the rising violence against the AAPI community in the past couple years, this once again has spread fear in the AAPI community in New York as well as around the nation.
Violence against the AAPI community has been rising over the past couple years, and we cannot continue to disregard or normalize it. And it is also important to understand that although attacks against the AAPI community have been rising much more due to the COVID-19 pandemic, such violence and racism has been occurring for much longer. This racism and discrimination has been rooted in legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Page Act of 1875, which specifically targeted Chinese women. These issues are systemic and must be treated as such.
From recognizing the historical contexts regarding discrimination and violence to addressing some of the systemic reasons for why these attacks are occurring to supporting the AAPI community, there is clearly much work that must be done in order to prevent more attacks against the AAPI community.