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An Asian Lawyer’s Call To Stop Asian American Hate Crimes
March 11, 2020
Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are the fastest-growing minority groups in the United States. They are also among the most diversified communities there is in America. Notwithstanding, they are bonded and united; but sadly, for one unfortunate reason: being a common target of hate crimes.
Records show that Anti-Asian violence does not discriminate based on nationality. In 2021 alone, a 61-year old Filipino was slashed in the face with a box cutter while riding a train. Worse, no one helped him. Similarly, a 91-year old Chinese man became a subject of abuse when he was needlessly shoved to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown.
In another news, an 84-year old immigrant from Thailand died after being senselessly attacked and shoved to the ground. Also, in Sacramento, a mutilated cat was left outside an Asian American butcher shop. These horrific incidents are only a few among the number of attacks that Asian Americans have suffered.
Consequently, the Asian American community has called for a public outcry to stop racism and hate crimes. Many initiatives were likewise commenced. However, the first and most important step to solving this problem is recognizing that this issue exists. Racial violence exists, and we need to raise awareness to find a solution.
Effect On the Mental Health of Asian Americans
According to mental health experts, Asian Americans are considered a high-risk group even before the pandemic. The community is found to have had the highest rates of depression and suicide, and are less likely to seek medical help as compared to other racial groups.
In a recent study on Ethnic and Racial Studies, it was found that Asian Americans who experienced COVID-19-related discrimination suffer more elevated levels of anxiety and depression. Furthermore, in another study, it was found that youths who have experienced discrimination often develop severe mental health issues.
Following the recent racial abuses, victims are now showing signs of racial trauma, which results in long-term mental health issues: increased anxiety, depression, and other somatic symptoms.
Indeed, racism and racial attacks have created a climate of fear and anxiety in most Asian American groups.
Asian American Hate Attributed to Political Rhetoric
Asian American hate crimes have had a massive spike since March 2020, with an increase of 1900%. At least 2,808 cases were reported as Anti-Asian hate from March to December 2020. Note, however, these numbers are only the tip of the iceberg. There are more undocumented accounts.
Now, what could have motivated such hate? A lot of factors come into play in the rise of anti-Asian hate in the United States, and advocates have attributed one of them to the former President.
It can be noted that the former US President had repeatedly referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus” or the “Kung Flu”, among other names, during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. In some reported incidents, perpetrators have mimicked the same language as the former president. Such incidents have shown that rhetoric has had a lasting yet disturbing effect on anti-Asian individuals.
What made matters worse is that the government at that time did nothing to prevent the spread of irrational and needless Asian American hate.
Asian American Serving on The Frontlines
Despite the hate, there are still approximately two million Asian Americans that are serving as frontline/essential workers during the COVID-19 dilemma. Most have worked in the healthcare industry which is a thankless job. Nonetheless, Asian American frontliners do not ask to be thanked for their service. Rather, they demand that they be respected as individuals.
In September 2020, a resolution denouncing racism, which was sponsored by Representative Grace Meng, was passed by the House of Representatives with a vote of 243-164. Such resolution calls for public authorities to thoroughly investigate hate crimes targeting Asian Americans, after being wrongly blamed for the pandemic.
Early this year, a “Memorandum Condemning and Combating Racism, Xenophobia and Intolerance Against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States” was issued by the White House on January 26, 2021. With this, President Joseph Biden has asked various government agencies to issue guidelines to advance cultural competency, language access, and sensitivity towards Asian Americans and the Pacific Islanders. This move has recognized that previous leaders who had referred to the pandemic through the geographic location of its origin had attributed to the furthering of the prejudicial sentiments against the Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Further, government agencies are instructed to support the State and local agencies in their efforts to prevent discrimination, bullying, harassment, and hate crimes against Asian-Americans.
Indeed, racism and prejudice are prevalent even before the pandemic struck. Most victims of hate crimes that are based on racial prejudice are Asian Americans. It is disappointing. However, it brings hope when activists and entertainers speak out against Anti-Asian hate. We need people to recognize this crisis. We need to raise awareness for this cause. More importantly, we need good leaders who will help us prevent this dilemma from getting worse or more fatal.
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