Simply put, there’s been a lot happening in the world lately. In the weekend of May 21, 2021 – May 23, 2021 alone, there were twelve mass shootings across the United States (mass shootings, being defined in this scenario, as an incident killing/wounding four or more people by gunfire). In the wake of so much hate and chaos, discourse and demand for revolutionary change is coming to light, especially relating to marginalized groups. This sort of discussion around race and its impact on American society is long overdue, and there’s a plethora of work to be done for all marginalized groups. In light of May being designated as Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, and the recent surge in violence against the Asian-American community, the folks at HelloPrenup are taking a moment to shed some light on the Stop Asian Hate movement.
You’ve likely heard about the particularly targeted and hate-fueled mass shooting in March 2021 which claimed the lives of six women of Asian descent, and eight people in total. The suspect told the police that he had a “sexual addiction” and had carried out the shootings at Asian-run massage parlors across the Atlanta, GA area to “eliminate his temptation.” While this incident drew massive media attention and helped to ignite a broader anti-Asian hate movement, anti-Asian bias is nothing new. And even before this 2021 incident, anti-Asian hate crimes were becoming increasingly common, at an alarming rate. According to a report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, there was a more than 164% increase in anti-Asian hate crime reports to police in the first quarter of 2021 in 16 major cities and jurisdictions. Unfortunately, a lot of these incidents result from anti-Asian bias that began at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the novel coronavirus first broke out in the province of Wuhan, China.
While the past year has only proliferated the general public’s awareness of anti-Asian bias, racism and bias is unfortunately nothing new for people of Asian descent. As far back as the late 1800s, xenophobia fueled the notorious Chinese Exclusion Act, which was the very first and only American law to prohibit immigrants based solely on race. Another stain on America’s very racist history is the institution of Japanese internment camps during WWII. By decree of Executive Order 9066 signed by President Roosevelt in 1942, people in the West Coast of the United States of Japanese descent, even U.S. citizens, were forced to isolate in internment camps as a direct result of the attacks on Pearl Harbor. The justification at the time was that this order would help prevent espionage. Over about 4 months’ time, approximately 112,000 people were sent into the camps, about 70,000 of whom were U.S. citizens. Many of these individuals lost their private property, and were forced to live out the remainder of WWII in the camps. Around 30 years later, when drafted troops returned home from the Vietnam War, many Southeast Asian refugees were the target of discrimination.
Fast forward back to modern times. Much like the way in which Muslims became a scapegoat after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Asian American community is suffering. Former President Donald Trump’s reference to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus” did not help matters, and in fact, has been correlated with an increase in anti-Asian rhetoric on the internet. Coinciding with this uptick in cyberbullying, a survey from the Pew Research Center found that three in 10 Asian Americans reported having been subjected to racist slurs or jokes since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Sadly, verbal slurs are just the tip of the iceberg, and an alarming number of Asian Americans have been spat on or even physically attacked in xenophobia-fuelled incidents. This hatred does not discriminate based on age, either as an 84 year-old Thai man in Oakland, California died after being shoved to the ground.
So, what can you do to support these marginalized communities and help to halt xenophobia?
See something? Say something!
This motto extends beyond the jurisdiction of airports. It’s extremely important to realize that hate crimes are significantly under-reported. If you witnessed what appeared to be a hate crime, reporting it to local authorities or the FBI greatly strengthens the chances that the perpetrator will be tried. Reporting your story to a platform like Stand Against Hatred will help to contribute to a network of tracked hate crimes.
Take part in a training
If you’d like to become more knowledgeable about strategically intervening during hate crimes, you can look into bystander intervention trainings. Many of these trainings focus on the importance of addressing what others may seem to think is inconsequential, and taking advantage of “teachable moments.”
Needless to say, a lot of Asian Americans are currently living in fear. Take a moment to reach out to your Asian American friends and ask how they would like to be supported at this time. Some individuals may appreciate being accompanied to run errands, etc. in these times of heightened tension. It’s also very important to remember that this is not just a wave of hatred that’s recently risen. Though it’s now getting a lot of publicity, these issues are unfortunately deeply ingrained within the societal structure of the United States. Taking the time to simply listen to the experiences that Asian Americans is essential to building a sense of community, empathy, and allyship.
Do your reading
As Margaret Huang, president and CEO of the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) states, “Asia is an extraordinarily enormous region of the world … so the experiences of Asian Americans are not uniform by any stretch,” Huang said. “Understanding Asian history in the country, understanding the different experiences of different communities will also go a long way in demonstrating how Asian Americans have always been part of the U.S. story.”
Yes, you’ve already had a bit of a history lesson just from reading this blog, but there are a plethora of books about Asian American history and experiences that you can delve into. Check out these selections from Vox.
Community-based initiatives can go far. Use the platforms available to you, whether it’s your workplace or a club/organization you partake in, to create space for individuals to understand the issue. These actionable steps go beyond solidarity alone, and drive individuals to participate in actively anti-racist work. Support Social Data Equailty.
Asian Pacific American Heritage Month
Drawing further relevance to fighting back against Asian hate, May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month. As we’ve spoke to “Asian” is an incredibly broad term, and, according to the heritage month’s official website, encompasses individuals of all of the Asian continent and the Pacific islands of Melanesia (New Guinea, New Caledonia, Vanuatu, Fiji and the Solomon Islands), Micronesia (Marianas, Guam, Wake Island, Palau, Marshall Islands, Kiribati, Nauru and the Federated States of Micronesia) and Polynesia (New Zealand, Hawaiian Islands, Rotuma, Midway Islands, Samoa, American Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Cook Islands, French Polynesia and Easter Island).
So why May? According to the official website, The month of May was chosen to commemorate the immigration of the first Japanese individuals to the United States on May 7, 1843. This time was also chosen to mark the anniversary of the completion of the transcontinental railroad on May 10, 1869, as most of the workers who laid the tracks were Chinese immigrants. This observance began as Asian Pacific American Heritage Week back in 1978, until it was expanded into a month-long affair in 1990.
If you’re still wary of in-person events, modern streaming platforms like Spotify and Hulu have aggregated content by AAPI creators, and discussions about inclusivity and race. Broadcasters like NPR are also making efforts to celebrate this month with Twitter discussions and relevant interviews. What’s particularly special about this AAPI Heritage Month is that it’s the first one ever in which the United States has been graced with a South Asian American, much less, a woman – in the office of Vice President! Speaking to the Stop Asian Hate movement, Vice President Kamala Harris has been quoted as saying, “Racism is real in America. And it has always been. Xenophobia is real in America, and always has been. Sexism too,” Harris said at the time. “The President and I will not be silent. We will not stand by. We will always speak out against violence, hate crimes and discrimination, wherever and whenever it occurs.”
At HelloPrenup, we strive to call attention to racial injustices, and we are working to revolutionize prenups while removing the notions of class privilege associated with them.