The Rise of Anti Asian American Racism During the Pandemic

Written By: Anusha 

Edited By: Joaquin

Graphics By: Issy 

In the last few years, social media has had a huge impact on spreading the awareness of global issues. The stories, old or new, of Trayvon Martin, George Floyd, and Breonna Taylor, among others, have taken over our Instagram feeds, publicizing the brutal attacks on people of color. During the pandemic these horrifying assaults have only escalated. In the past few weeks, a grandmother was robbed in a subway, a man slashed across the face with a box cutter, and an elderly man shoved into the ground. The one common factor behind these terrifying posts that are bombarding our feed is the faces of Asian American victims. 

In 2020, the NYPD reported that “hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1,900% in New York City.” Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, assaults against Asian Americans have reached a staggering high level and have just continued to rise. According to CBS News, there have been “more than 3,000 hate incidents directed at Asian Americans recorded since the start of the pandemic.” After Trump labelled COVID-19 as ‘the China virus’, anti Asian-American sentiment has escalated immensely. As Time reports, “Trump followed in a long American history of using diseases to justify anti-Asian xenophobia, one that dates back to the 19th and 20th centuries and has helped to shape perception of Asian Americans as perpetual foreigners.” 

This anti-Asian racism has caused an outcry and we have seen how different Asian Americans represented in mass media have voiced their opinions. Celebrities and influencers such as Olivia Munn have spoken out, “The racist, verbal and physical assaults have left my community fearful to step outside,” and Bee Vang expressed, “A microscopic virus was replaced with a recognizable target”. 

The history of Anti Asian sentiment dates all the way back to the 19th century, with the most notable events being the chinese exclusion act of 1882 and the Japanese internment camps during World War II. It is important to note how the relationship between African and Asian Americans has developed to one of interdependency. While both minorities started out as low class working populations, tensions rose during the 80s as Ronald Reagan established the ‘model minority’ stereotype of Asian Americans. Asian Americans were a symbol of a strong work ethic while African Americans were known as violent criminals. The Times states, “fostering anti-Black sentiment or focusing on interracial conflict in this moment takes away from recognizing that racism is a result of white supremacy”. As Jeannie Mai states, “This strain of coronavirus may be new, but anti-Asian sentiment certainly isn’t…When anti-Asian attitudes remain, it can only take a little event, such as a politician’s rhetoric, calling COVID-19 the ‘Chinese virus’ or ‘kung fu flu,’ or the initiation of hate to bring bullying and harassment back out into the open”.

So when we struggle to adapt to a panicked and out-of-control world, especially in the midst of a global pandemic, how do we go about trying to solve the problems that have plagued us since the beginning of time? How do we begin to retaliate against the increased racially charged crimes when we struggle to fight the battle against COVID-19? 

No matter where you are from or how big your platform is, you can choose to make yourself aware of the issue at hand. You can choose to thoughtfully put out accurate and helpful information and make use of the biggest weapon in our hands: social media. Websites such as AAPI data and more, can provide factual data that can be used to engage others in opinions about the anti Asian American sentiment. You can also support those affected by recent cases of violence by donating to support organizations such as Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Asian American community organizations in the Bay Area. As an Asian American, I choose to discuss these issues whenever I can, hoping to educate even just one person. 

Works Cited

Ferme, Antonio. “Olivia Munn, Awkwafina and More Celebrities Call for Action Amid Rise in Attacks Against Asian Americans.” Variety, Variety, 19 Feb. 2021, variety.com/2021/biz/news/anti-asian-american-attacks-celebrities-olivia-munn-bowen-yang-1234911449/.

Lang, Cady. “Asian American Attacks: What’s Behind the Rise in Violence?” Time, Time, 18 Feb. 2021, time.com/5938482/asian-american-attacks/.Performance by Major Barret, Hate Crimes against Asian Americans Are on the Rise, CBS News, CBS News 22 Feb. 2021, http://www.cbsnews.com/video/hate-crimes-against-asian-americans-are-on-the-rise/.