Reports of anti-Asian attacks and harassment are once again on the rise—after being fueled earlier in the pandemic by xenophobic rhetoric by then President Trump. Today it’s as critical as ever that we do all that we can to stop it in its tracks.
From March 19 through Dec. 31, 2020, more than 2,800 incidents of coronavirus-related verbal harassment, shunning, and physical assault on Asian Americans across the U.S. were reported to the STOP AAPI (Asian American/Pacific Islander) HATE reporting center. Asians of all ethnicities are being racially profiled, and women are two and a half times as likely to be targeted, the group reports. Asian Americans face coronavirus discrimination in public and at businesses, especially grocery stores, pharmacies, and big box retail stores.
This isn’t unlike the situation faced by Muslims after 9/11. And just as Islamophobic actions are targeted at both people who are actually Muslim and those perceived to be Muslim, COVID-19 racism has real consequences for Asian Americans who are Chinese or perceived to be Chinese. The harassment of AAPI women is especially concerning, with perpetrators often using the pretext of the coronavirus to perpetuate misogyny. Cynthia Choi, co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, says “I feel like the coronavirus is being weaponized.”
People targeted by COVID-19 racist attacks—who are dealing with the devastating impacts of the pandemic like everyone else—can feel further isolated and anxious. Tuyet Anh, a member of the National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), says that her experience with harassment “makes me and other Asian Americans feel as if we are the virus. We are labeled and demonized as this threat to white American safety.”
Amanda Nguyễn of Oakland, California created a viral video about the recent attacks and told reporters "When I made that video I was tired of living in fear and I wanted to scream. ... We are literally fearing for our lives as we walk out of our door.”
In these times, it’s important to remember the damaging narratives and scapegoating that occurred in other painful periods in our history—resulting in the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Immigration Act of 1924, and Japanese internment in the 1940s.
In AFSC’s workshops on anti-Muslim racism, we trace the roots of these damaging narratives that have targeted the AAPI community over centuries, as articulated by Edward Said in his classic work “Orientalism.” Simply put, the European or “Western” world has viewed Asian, Black, and other “non-Western” people through a lens that paints them as monolithic and dangerous, among other things. These narratives—which are still prevalent in our society and reinforced through education and entertainment—undergird our collective anxieties about public health in this moment.
It’s as important today as ever to educate ourselves and our community about these issues, stand up to racism wherever we see it, and work to build the safe, inclusive communities we all deserve.
Here are some resources that can help:
- Do’s and don’ts for bystander intervention (AFSC)
- How to respond to coronavirus racism (Teaching Tolerance)
Report Instances of anti-Asian harassment:
- Stand Against Hatred website (Asian Americans Advancing Justice)
- Stop AAPI Hate reporting website (Asia Pacific Policy Planning Council)
- Know your rights during COVID-19 (Vision Change Win)
- Self-care tips for Asians dealing with COVID-19 racism (Huffington Post)
- Anti-stigma social media toolkit for public health (Seattle and King County)
- Racial Justice & Social Equity Resource List (Racial Equity Tools)