Based on a report from Stop AAPI Hate, an organization tracking anti-Asian hate crimes, there were 3,795 hate incidents reported in all 50 states from March 2020 to February 28, 2021. Those are just the ones that have been reported. In the last few weeks alone there have been more attacks that I can count. Two women in their 20s were attacked in Brooklyn and Queens, a 65 year-old-woman was beaten up in broad daylight as bystanders stood by and watched in midtown NY, two Asian seniors in Oakland, CA had their cars set on fire, and an Asian man in Harlem got his head bashed in. These are just a few of the many attacks that are happening across the country and world.
According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, in the first quarter of 2021 New York City saw a 223% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes compared to the same period of time in 2020. That’s based on the data compiled from police reports in ONE city. This is not an issue unique to the United States, nor is it something that only started because of the pandemic. Racism, cultural appropriation, and insensitivity towards Asians has been so normalized and brushed off that many people don’t recognize how many things are racist or demeaning towards the Asian community. Additionally, mainstream media hasn’t reported on much of it until now. It took a mass shooting and celebrities speaking up for them to cover it. Even so, they have only covered the worst of the attacks.
It isn’t just visibly racist attacks, it’s the hateful rhetoric from our former president referring to COVID as the “China Virus” or the “kung flu.” It’s telling us, “Go back to your country” meanwhile you order Chinese takeout or sushi every week. It’s calling us “chinks” and pulling your eyes back so they look slanted or what people call the “fox eye trend” (which is RACIST) while consuming K-Pop. It’s asking us where we’re from and when we say “New York” you say “No where are you FROM?” It’s wearing our traditional garments improperly or as a Halloween costume. It’s purposely mocking Asian languages and imitating them as a joke. It’s microaggressions like “You’re Asian you must be good at math.” It’s fetishizing and sexualizing Asian women as “exotic.” It’s asking your Asian friends to educate YOU about racism against their community. It’s saying “well I (a white person) don’t find this racist or offensive,” when you cannot possibly understand the harm because you are not part of the community affected by it.
It took me a long time to realize how many things I experienced in the past were in fact racist or at best insensitive. A college English professor once said to me, “That was actually pretty good” after reading the first paper I handed in, implying my English and writing skills would not be good since my college had a lot of international students. I’ve received comments from men joking about “happy endings” with me and the fetishizing/sexualization occurred so many times that it’s only now registering with me that’s what happened during all those interactions. I’ve had white “friends” invalidate my feelings as an Asian American and center their feelings instead or completely dismiss what I’ve said. Better yet, they say “I’ve got your back” but have done nothing to educate themselves about the racism faced by Asian communities. And these are just the tame examples.
In a lot of ways, as awful as the last year has been, I am grateful to have been able to connect with and make so many friends who can relate—including so many overseas and in other parts of the United States. On the flipside, it’s been disappointing to see how many of my white colleagues and artists I have worked with fall silent during this time although I am not surprised. It has been downright pitiful to watch many of the artists I had spent years supporting with free photos and free coffee (as a coffee brand ambassador), not share a thing or in some cases post one Instagram story and call it a day. Most haven’t bothered to send any messages of support or truly check in either. Telling me or any of your Asian friends, “this is crazy” or “this is disgusting” isn’t helpful. We know we are living this horror every day of our lives. Now what are you going to do about it? If you think this is about you as you read this then it probably is. But apologizing to me doesn’t help anyone but yourself. Are you saying this because you’re actually sorry for being ignorant and insensitive or are you just trying to shed your guilt? It’s always about community and how “you’re not alone” or “we’ve got your back” but where is that now when an entire group of people are under attack and so many of us are afraid to leave our homes? The silence is deafening.
You shouldn’t have to know me or to hear my trauma (or anyone’s for that matter) as an Asian American to care about racism and violence against the Asian community. It shouldn’t take a tragic event for you to speak up or check in. You also shouldn’t rely on your one Asian friend to educate you on what’s happening. If you can’t find resources or information to educate yourself then perhaps the media you choose to consume and the friends you follow aren’t diversified enough.
If you claim to be anti-racist you must include Asians. That means ALL ASIANS: East Asians, South East Asians, South Asians, and Pacific Islanders. You cannot cherry pick which BIPOC communities you support. Most importantly, if you claim to be an ally, you should not be staying SILENT about what is happening to Asians around the world. I am calling on all my friends, artists I have worked with, colleagues, the entire music community, and our followers to speak up about this and to call out racism when you see or hear it. This means correcting your friends and family in real time. It’s saying “that’s f*cked up” in the group chat when somebody texts something insensitive. This isn’t a one day or week event. It isn’t a trend or just going to disappear when this pandemic ends (if it ever ends). These are human lives. My community is hurting and we need your support.