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A surge of Asian American xenophobia amidst the pandemic.

March 28, 2021

America has seen a surge in hate crimes against Asian-Americans since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic. The xenophobia towards Asian-Americans have come in different forms such as verbally, physically, refusing to associate with Asian-Americans, spitting on them and coughing on them. Many of these xenophobic actions towards Asian-Americans have been caught on camera. 

The elderly have been the ones hit the hardest by this recent surge in Asian-American hate crimes. As reported by CNN, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand, was fatally assaulted by Antoine Watson, a 19-year-old African-American man, for seemingly no reason. The video capturing the incident shows Ratanapakdee walking on the sidewalk when Watson comes into frame and shoves him to the ground and runs off. Ratanapakdee, died two days later from injuries sustained from the attack.  

Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian-American studies at San Francisco State University, said, “We needed to document the racism directed towards Asians because mainstream society doesn’t believe that we face racism, and we need us to document what was happening and we needed to identify the trends. Racism and assaults have created a climate of fear and anxiety in many Asian American communities.”

According to  Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate, the organization has received over 2,500 firsthand accounts of Asian-American xenophobia ever since the lockdown that began in March 2020. In 2019, Stop AAPI Hate, received a little over 200 firsthand reports. New York City had 1 report of Asian-American hate in 2019. In the first half of 2020, they had 20. 

Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders make up large percentages of healthcare workers in several states such as California, New York, and Hawaii. However, despite this, they are the second most hated AAPI demographic behind AAPI seniors. Many Asian American hate incidents in the medical field occur verbally rather than physically. 

Lucy Li, a resident in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, recalled an incident during the pandemic. “Why are you Chinese people killing everyone?” Li recalled the man shouting. “What is wrong with you? Why the f— are you killing us?” she said, “Although it was just words, words can come a long way for us healthcare workers, especially after a sleepless shift in the ICU.” 

Former president Donald Trump referred to the Coronavirus as “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” amidst the pandemic at his rallies. According to Yahoo Life, about two thirds of the AAPI population found these statements to be disturbing. Even after his racist comments towards Asian Americans, three percent more of the Asian American population voted for Trump, to the shock of Asian American politicians such as Andrew Yang.        

Newly elected president Joe Biden signed an executive order in late January of 2021 that targeted xenophobia and hate crimes towards Asian-Americans. 

In response, California’s Asian Pacific Islander Legislative Caucus said, “We thank President Biden for the signing of this executive order. However, the signing of this executive order is simply not enough to stop the hate crimes and xenophobia towards Asian-Americans that occur everyday. 

With the number of Covid-19 cases and deaths rising everyday simultaneously with the amount of Asian-American hate crimes, some groups have united to help elderly Asian-American people be escorted safely to their desired locations. However, with the little government action that has been  taken to help a minority race among minorities, it has been hard for Asian-Americans to tell if their voices are being heard by the ones in power.

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