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    Anti-Asian Violence and Efforts to Combat It

    “For far too long our culture has belittled, fetishized, and dehumanized API women, especially poorer, southeast Asian women…I am urging President Biden, Congress, and every state and local official to work diligently to address [the] ongoing violence against the API community, work diligently to end human trafficking, prioritize the end of sexual violence against women, and help heal racial divides in our country.”

    —Oakland Councilmember Sheng Thao

    Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hate crimes against Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities have risen by at least 150 percent, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University. The crimes have included attacks on some of the most vulnerable citizens, such as the elderly and the poor. Xenophobic rhetoric connecting the pandemic to those who are AAPI is one of the widely suspected drivers of the hate crimes that have been occurring throughout the state and nationwide.

    Events such as the March 16 mass shooting in Atlanta that left 8 people dead, however, may be rooted in problems that precede the current pandemic by centuries in the U.S. These problems include incidents that mirror those that have been frequently inflicted on the LGBTQ community, including “shunning” or the deliberate avoidance of particular group members.  

    Stop AAPI Hate National Report

    Recently, the organization Stop AAPI Hate—formed by the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON), the Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University—released a national report documenting incidents targeting AAPI Americans from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021. Out of the nearly 4,000 incidents, close to a quarter happened in San Francisco.

    The report—authored by Russell Jeung, Aggie Yellow Horse, Tara Popovic, and Richard Lim—included the following:

    • Verbal harassment (68.1%) and shunning (20.5%) make up the two largest proportions of the total incidents reported.
    • Physical assault (11.1%) comprises the third largest category of the total incidents.
    • Civil rights violations—e.g., workplace discrimination, refusal of service, and being barred from transportation—account for 8.5% of the total incidents.
    • Online harassment makes up 6.8% of the total incidents.

    The states with the most reported incidents were California (nearly 50% of all incidents), followed by New York, Washington state, Texas, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Illinois, Florida, New Jersey, and Maryland.

    Reported Incidents

    Here are just some of the incidents that were reported to Stop AAPI Hate:

    “My boyfriend and I were riding the metro into D.C. When on the escalator in the transfer station, a man repeatedly punched my back and pushed past us. At the top, he circled back toward us, followed us, repeatedly shouted ‘Chinese b—h’ at me, fake coughed at, and physically threatened us. A few days later, we saw a news story about how the owner of Valley Brook Tea in D.C. was harassed and pepper sprayed by the same man, calling him ‘COVID-19’ repeatedly.”

    (Annandale, VA)

    “During an Asian American protest, a white man driving a silver Mercedes drove past the first wave of Asian protesters yelling out of his window at them, “Stupid f—ing Asians!” Afterwards, he drove to where the remaining Asian protesters stood and was witnessed by multiple protesters aggressively driving onto the walkway where several protesters were gathered. Several elderly Hmong women jumped out of the way. An 8-year-old boy, who stood in the path of the oncoming vehicle, was startled into action and quickly moved out of the way towards safety.”

    (Elk Grove, CA)

    “I was shopping at [store] in Milpitas when an older man started making faces at me. I asked him what was wrong and he said, ‘What’s wrong? You are out here shopping!’ I was confused, and he followed up with, ‘We delisted your companies, shipped back your international students … when do you ship out? When do you ship out? We are going to take away your citizenship!”

    (Milpitas, CA)

    “As I was shopping, a white woman and what I am assuming was her husband came into the aisle I was in. They gave me dirty looks and just looked me up and down like they were disgusted with me. I tried to ignore it the best I could so I just walked away. To add to the story, I am a part of the LGBTQ+ community so I was wearing a mask that showed love and support for the community. As I walked away, the woman proceeded to walk up to me and stop me. She looked me up and down and said these exact words: ‘Oh so you’re one of them?’ And I was, of course, confused, but then I remembered I had on the LGBTQ+ mask. I politely responded, ‘Excuse me?’ She proceeded to say slurs that were both directed towards Asians and the LGBTQ+ community.”

    (Jefferson, KY)

    “I was trying to enroll my daughter in a gymnastics class and had left several messages to call back. I was finally able to speak with the owner of the business and asked why he had not returned my phone calls, and was told that he did not like my name which is obviously Asian and he would not accept our daughter into his gym. I was so shocked at his blatant statement and hung up the phone.”

    (Tustin, CA)

    Local and National Efforts to Combat Anti-Asian Hate

    On March 24, Mayor London Breed announced new efforts to advance public safety in San Francisco and provide targeted support to members of San Francisco’s community. The first is an expanded community safety teams program that will provide outreach, support, and engagement in key neighborhood corridors throughout the city. The second is the extension of a program to accompany seniors to medical and personal appointments.

    “San Francisco, like many areas around California and the country, has seen unacceptable violence targeting out Asian and Pacific Islander residents,” said Mayor Breed. “In an effort to create a meaningful and sustainable response to protect our residents we’re providing a proactive, culturally competent, community-based response. Our goal with these two programs it to build trust among our diverse communities and increase public safety for everyone in San Francisco.”

    At the federal level, the Biden administration has issued “Additional Actions to Respond to Anti-Asian Violence, Xenophobia, and Bias.” These include reinstating the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and the appointment of a permanent director who will coordinate related policies across the government. The administration has also established the COVID-19 Equity Task Force, which seeks to bring a racial equity lens to addressing xenophobia and acknowledges the significant mental health concerns facing the AAPI community as a result of the rising hate.

    The Department of Justice additionally announced an initiative to coordinate and expand civil rights protections for the AAPI community. The Biden administration is also providing funding for AAPI survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.

    Councilmember Thao also notes an effort that goes beyond government actions: “Black, brown, indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, and LGBTQ+ communities are stronger when standing in solidarity, and with a diverse coalition working together against white supremacy, we can protect our neighbors, loved ones, communities, and elders.”

    Stop AAPI Hate:

    Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism:

    Published on April 22, 2021