Stop Anti-Asian Hate Crimes. This is Our Home Too
Updated: Feb 19
Dear Asian Youth,
Delaina Ashley Yaun. Xiaojie Tan. Daoyou Feng. Paul Andre Michels. Soon C. Park. Hyun J. Grant. Suncha Kim. Yong A. Yue. These are the names of the Atlanta spa shooting victims, the majority of whom were Asian. In the past year, countless other Asians have been called slurs, struck down, beaten senselessly while they were just walking on the street, waiting at a stoplight, passing by a store in Chinatown. Make no mistake, these attacks were fueled by hate and bigotry. There are simply no words to express the rage and grief that the Asian American community is feeling right now.
Even so, these hate crimes are not surprising. While many point to former President Donald Trump’s incendiary remarks about the “kung flu” and the “China virus” as the impetus for these attacks, those remarks are only symptoms of a problem that has long festered in our society. In America, Asians have historically been viewed as “other”; many are either immigrants themselves or are second- or third-generation immigrants. The microaggressions that Asian Americans are so often the target of— “Where are you really from?” “You speak really good English!”— contribute to the sense that we can’t truly be Americans because of the color of our skin.
That “other”ing, which had merely simmered under the surface before, was exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic. As a Chinese American whose extended family lives in Shanghai, I remember being terrified in January by the possibility of the virus infecting my relatives. My family, who had heard from abroad about the dangers of the virus, started wearing masks long before CDC guidelines mandated them. It was during this time that people at the supermarket would stare at us, singling us out as the carriers of a foreign sickness that no one wanted to be near. Chinatowns across the country were deserted, in a way that Italian and Spanish restaurants never were when the virus surged particularly badly there. Asians, especially those of Chinese descent, were viewed not as Americans but as foreigners whose diseases did not belong in this country.
I have been lucky enough not to have experienced the countless harassments and aggressions related to the pandemic that my fellow Asians have: “We don’t want your coronavirus in this country.” “Go back to Asia.” “You don’t belong here.” These are all examples of the perpetual foreigner stereotype of Asian Americans, created by decades of division and discrimination that date back to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the Japanese internment camps during World War II. The former was the first time that America had barred immigration from a country on the basis of race, and the latter treated Japanese Americans, many of whom were American citizens and had repeatedly proved their patriotism, as enemy spies while leaving German and Italian Americans alone.
Despite all of these examples of institutional racism that questioned how American Asian immigrants could be, there hasn’t been a unified push to bring attention to them, resulting in very little talk about how Asians fit into America’s complex history with race. Last summer’s reckoning with Black Lives Matter protests sparked conversations across the country about how to address the effects of white supremacy and systemic racism on the Black community, but Asians were excluded and ignored even as they suffer from the very same institutions. For too long, we have been silent, brushing off microaggressions and racist jokes. The recent wave of anti-Asian hate crimes has created a force just as powerful to counteract it: Asian Americans of all ethnicities, all generations, are finally rallying together to be seen, to be heard, to fight back.
Asians need to be included in the anti-racist work that the Black Lives Matter movement has championed. We are, by definition, a minority group and people of color; we stand with our Black, Brown, and Indigenous brothers and sisters against white supremacy and systemic racism. The microaggressions that we face are anything but micro; they imply that we don’t belong in the melting pot of America. My parents, like so many other Asian immigrants, came here for its promises of freedom, equality, and opportunity. We are just as American as anyone else. This is our home too.
Hearing about the drastic increase in the number of anti-Asian hate crimes that have been perpetrated in the past year has made me feel incredibly scared and helpless. For the first time, my parents were genuinely concerned for their safety when they went to Chinatown, and they warned me to be careful when walking alone. However, even in the midst of all this tragedy, I see a glimmer of hope: the racism that Asians have long endured is finally being thrust into the national spotlight, and Asians, across all generations and ethnicities, are beginning to speak out about their experiences. It is time for us to organize and fight with other minorities against the twin evils of white supremacy and systemic racism.
Annabelle Jin is a high school senior from Moorestown, NJ, and a rising freshman at the University of Pennsylvania. She is a second-generation Chinese American who is a Projects Manager at Dear Asian Youth, and she is passionate about fighting for social justice issues like gender equality and menstrual equity.
Cover Photo Source: PBS