A recent spike in hate crimes committed against members of the Asian and Asian American community have some people feeling uneasy and alarmed.
According to the Associated Press, there has been a recent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes, including a mass shooting in Atlanta that left eight people dead, six of Asian descent.
The Biden administration announced on Tuesday that there will be new steps taken to combat anti-Asian violence and discrimination, but there is still more work that lies ahead. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism found that hate crimes against Asian Americans increased 149% from 2019 to 2020, drawing a correlation between the rise of hate crimes with the rise of COVID-19 cases.
“A recent spike in hate crimes committed against members of the Asian American community have some people feeling uneasy and alarmed,” Biden said Tuesday. “They’ve been attacked, blamed, scapegoated and harassed.”
Biden said his administration had a conversation with Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders about the rise in hate crimes. He said the leaders said that hate and violence “often hide in plain sight.”
“We cannot be complicit,” Biden said. “We have to speak out. We have to act.”
Marisa Terry, interim vice president for Asian American Ambassadors (AAA), said that it continues to be a difficult process ensuring that all Asian Americans feel safe and respected.
“It’s always difficult to formulate a response when a vulnerable community comes under attack,” Terry said. “For some people, their first instinct is to lie low and avoid becoming a target of violence themselves. That is a valid response.”
AAA is an organization at LSU that was established for the purpose of building a community of students who have an interest in the cultures, traditions and histories of Asian and Asian American culture, Terry said.
“We are an organization that aims to create a voice for Asian Americans in today’s society,” Terry said. “Our mission is to spread awareness and educate others on Asian and Asian American culture. We accomplish this goal by hosting events where we teach members of the LSU community about various Asian traditions and encourage participant observation.”
AAA helps to provide a sense of community for Asian Americans at LSU. It’s a spot where students can go to feel safe and accepted. Although there have been no reports of hate crimes reported against Asian Americans at LSU recently, this spike in crime across the country is still leaving some members of the LSU community concerned.
“It’s terrifying to know that there are people out there who would hurt you just because of the color of your skin and the country your family once came from,” Terry said.
AAA is currently planning to host an Asian cultural showcase with the help of the LSU Japanese Animation and Culture Society to help encourage pride in Asian culture and heritage and to combat the fear and hatred that is seen today, according to Terry.
She said members of AAA are also encouraging students who attend the showcase to donate to the Asian Community Relief fundraiser, which helps assist the local Asian community as well as the families of the victims in Atlanta.
of hate have risen since the onset of the pandemic, this problem has been going on for much longer than most people think.
“There is a long history of racism in this country,” Terry said. “While it’s true that the political climate and pandemic have bred fear and xenophobia, these sentiments are not exclusive to our current time period.”
Terry said that certain ethnic groups facing oppression is nothing new. She hopes that people can find it in themselves to resolve their racist views and eliminate any stereotypes that they may have.
“A pot of hot water that just started boiling won’t suddenly stop being hot as soon as it’s taken off the fire,” she said. “What I do hope is that this boiling point will open people’s eyes to the racism that Asians face.”
The University aims at making everyone feel included and respected. Terry said that it’s the little things that can help make Asian Americans feel more at home at LSU.
“LSU has recently made a few changes to its Title IX policies and procedures,” she said. “Perhaps it is a good time to re-examine and update how it would handle potential racially motivated attacks or harassment.”
She said it’s people’s actions that make the most impact.
Donating to local organizations that fight racism and calling out people who say racist things is a step in the right direction, she said.
“Social media posts in solidarity are easy and might make a small difference, but they are largely performative and don’t necessarily help to change the structural forces that contribute to racist violence,” Terry said. “If you want to be an ally for any vulnerable community, check in with friends and neighbors who are a part of that community and ask if they need anything.”
Charles Shindo, a professor of American history who also teaches Asian American courses, said that the oppression and racism that Asian Americans are currently facing is nothing new.
“In the second half of the 19th century on the West Coast and especially in California, anti-Asian animosity centered around the belief that Asian immigrants were not only taking jobs away from white Americans, but that Asian immigrants were also lowering the standard of living in America since employers paid Asian workers less than white workers,” Shindo said.
Shindo said that this led to a plethora of laws that oppressed Asian Americans and made life tougher for them.
He also said that some of the laws in the past took advantage of the already vulnerable Asian American community.
“Most western states had Alien Land laws, as well as miscegenation laws, forbidding the marriage of Asians and white people,” Shindo said.
He said attacks on Asian Americans are unprecedented these days due to high populations of that community across the nation. In the past years, Asian Americans have been moving to different parts of the U.S., where they didn’t live before, which could be a contributing factor to the racism and animosity that some of them face, according to Shindo.
“This time, the anti-Asian attacks have been more widespread, in part because the virus is everywhere, but also, the Asian population is more dispersed than ever before,” Shindo said.
Shindo said that the nature of these acts likely exist because people want to blame others for whatever problems exist.
“Calling out these attacks and acts is necessary, but so is leadership who make it clear that scapegoating a group of people for something they are not responsible for will not be tolerated,” Shindo said. “The Biden administration has made that statement, often, but the Trump administration only added fuel to the fire by referring to COVID as the ‘China virus’ or ‘kung flu.’”
When it comes to this country’s racist past being fixed, Shindo says it’s more complicated than it seems.
“The attacks will lessen, but they won’t end,” Shindo said. “They just won’t get the attention that they are getting right now. As long as people continue to think that white people are ‘more’ American than people of color, this issue, along with America’s other racial issues, will continue.”
For many people, the mass shooting in Atlanta against Asian Americans and other acts of racism surprised them. For Shindo, the increase in hate crimes was no surprise.
“I was not at all surprised to see this rise in hate crimes, having studied and teaching Asian American history,” Shindo said. “I have not experienced any hate directed toward me during this pandemic, but I also haven’t been going out much because of COVID.”