Delaina Ashley Yaun (33), Xiaojie Tan (49), Daoyou Feng (44), Paul Andre Michels (54), Hyun Jung Grant (51), Soon Chung Park (74), Suncha Kim (69), and Yong Ae Yue (63) were murdered by a 21-year-old white man in Atlanta on March 16th. He killed 8 people, 7 of which were women and 6 who were Asian. Xiaojie Tan was murdered one day before her 50th birthday. To find out more about the lives and families of victims of this attack, read the BBC article entitled, “Atlanta spa shootings: Who are the victims?”
The shooting cast a spotlight on the rise of racist attacks towards AAPI, and South-East and East-Asians across the world during the pandemic, with US President Biden publicly condemning it. Former President Trump pushed harmful anti-Asian narratives by labelling the virus as the “kung flu” and the “Chinese Virus”, being largely responsible for a spike in violence. The US Senate will soon vote on COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the No Hate Act, which according to Amnesty International, “are critical to ensure the justice system will address hate crimes”. There was a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes reported to the police from 2019 to 2020, as revealed by The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. A report by Stop AAPI Hate released that in roughly the past year in the pandemic, around 3,800 racist incidents (ranging from verbal attacks to physical abuse) were reported to them.
The hate crimes reported by women were more than double that of men, highlighting how racism and misogyny coalesce. As always, we must remember our approaches to combating bigotry must be intersectional. As stated by Russell Jeung, the stereotype of Asian women being submissive and docile plays a role in the gender imbalance. He told NBC Asian America that “there is an intersectional dynamic going on that others may perceive both Asians and women and Asian women as easier targets.” He also emphasised that “this violence against Asian Americans in high-crime neighborhoods has always been high. And so the combination of both the racism from last year and crimes against Asian elderly are now significant enough to get national attention.”
The model minority myth attempts to minimize the struggle many people of colour experience by putting Asians on a pedestal, downplaying the racism they experience, and weaponizing this against the Black community. The notion deliberately drives a wedge between different minority ethnic groups, and fails to place any blame on the system. With rhetoric like the model minority myth, often people do not acknowledge the racist and sexist motivations behind these hate crimes. Many also disregard racist attacks as just a one-off incident, instead of a widespread issue.
Anti-Asian racism is not limited to the US. According to UK police data, in the first ¼ of 2020, there was a 300% surge of hate crimes committed towards East, Southeast and Chinese Asians compared to the same amount of time in previous years. Many Asians are being physically and verbally abused.
One must note that anti-Asian racism didn’t begin in the pandemic and its history must be addressed in order to end it. In the United States, there was the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882) and Japanese internment camps in WW2. Dr Anne Witchard (University of Westminster) told Al Jazeera that anti-Asian racism dates back to the early 1900s when London became home to many Chinese immigrants. An angry mob stoned the first Chinese laundry to open in 1901. According to Witchard, “Politicians manipulated local fears about cheap Chinese labour and writers of popular fiction began to exploit the dramatic potential of Chinese Limehouse in London as a locus of drug-trafficking, gambling and the sexual ensnarement of young white women.” Hundreds of Chinese seamen were unwillingly deported by the UK after WW2, without informing the family of deportees. East and Southeast Asians are underrepresented and misrepresented in British media, contributing to the racist mentalities many Britons have.
We must address the root causes of this violence, and push for better representation, as well as bills like the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act and the No Hate Act.