Against the backdrop of the loss of life and devastation brought on by COVID-19 and the senseless murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Daunte Wright, we are also witnessing an escalation in the number and severity of anti-Asian hate crimes. These attacks are compounded by the racist and xenophobic rhetoric of the recent administration that used the terms “China Virus” and “Kung-Flu” to describe the global pandemic.
As a first generation Asian American who grew up in the Bay Area, the assaults in Oakland and San Francisco have been especially troubling. Xiao Zhen Xie, a 75 year-old grandmother, was attacked, unprovoked, in downtown San Francisco. Watching the newsclip, I listened to her express her anguish in Toisanese, the language my grandmother spoke. I felt an immediate eruption of rage, sadness, pain, and helplessness – a raw feeling that I know many other Asian Americans felt, all of us saying to ourselves that that could have been my grandmother.
This incident was only three days after the tragic loss of eight lives, six of whom were women of Asian descent, at three different massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia, all because a white male shooter was “having a bad day.” I was shocked hearing this. But I was not surprised. Misogyny and objectification of Asian women is just one of the many pervasive examples of othering that sustain anti-Asian sentiment in this country.
Even now, I fight against an impulse to minimize my feelings, like many Asian Americans have done when we encounter racism. I have made the choice to stay silent or try to deflect casually racist comments about my eyes or inquiries about where I’m “really from” in order to not cause trouble, not to draw attention to myself, not to make it worse. But it is worse. In 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 145%.
How should we respond to an increase in anti-Asian sentiment and hate crimes, against the also tragic truth that is the systemic and interpersonal racism that is (and has been) brutalizing the black community? Raising concern and awareness of anti-Asian hate does not invalidate the injustice of police brutality and racial profiling. What we are witnessing should not happen to ANY group. We cannot give power to these divisive forces that would have us reject our shared humanity.
The reality is that the path forward won’t be easy. Nevertheless, as a member of the UCMP community and the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Working Group, I ask that we remain engaged, continue to educate ourselves, confront behaviors and unconscious biases, and incorporate anti-racist practices into all aspects of the work we do.
Here is a list of AAPI resources that will, I hope, help us in these efforts:
Report an incident:
Resources on campus:
- Anti-racist resources compiled by the UCMP DEI Working Group
- A messaged from Chancellor Christ – Standing with our Asian-American community
- Asian American Resources at UC Berkeley by undergraduate students Erinn Wong and Vivian Feng
- Bystander Intervention training with Bears that Care
- The long, ugly history of anti-Asian racism and violence in the U.S.
- The long history of racism against Asian Americans in the U.S.
- Asian Americans Are Still Caught in the Trap of the ‘Model Minority’ Stereotype.
- Berkeley expert: In times of crisis, anti-Asian violence is an American tradition.
- American Experience: Chinese Exclusion Act – PBS Film Series
- Japanese Internment Camps – Densho.org
- Why Vincent Chin matters – NYT Op-Ed by Frank H. Wu
- Post 9/11 Muslim Ban – NICL.org
- Understanding the history of tension between the Black and Asian communities – Dion Lim, ABC News Bay Area
- The Asian American Response to Black Lives Matter Is Part of a Long, Complicated History – TIME Magazine
- Biden to sign the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Bill
- Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in Geosciences
- Anti-Asian Violence Resources by HAAPI ERG
- Asian American Leaders Table – network of local and national Asian American organizations that convened in the wake of the pandemic a year ago, to address the rise in anti-Asian violence.
- Asian Americans Advancing Justice
- ihollaback.org-Bystander intervention resources
Thanks to Anna Thanukos and Lisa White for their input.