As a Chinese international student walked into a CVS to place a money order, she was told to show her ID. Upon showing her Chinese passport, the cashier told her that CVS does not sell money orders to foreigners.
This happened to my friend at the beginning of 2020 in Minnesota.
Racism toward Asians and Asian Americans has been a continuous issue and has escalated since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. With heated rhetoric like “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu,” and recent violent attacks, many of us are left in voiceless fear and anger.
These attacks have been widely seen in the Bay Area and New York City. In January, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant was forcibly pushed to the ground and died days later. Another 64-year-old Vietnamese American grandmother was robbed in broad daylight ahead of the Lunar New Year celebrations in San Jose. A 61-year-old Filipino American man was slashed across the face by a passenger on the NYC subway with a box cutter on Feb. 3 and received almost 100 stitches. Even basketball star Jeremy Lin was called “Corona Virus” on court in a recent G League game.
Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate, an initiative formed last March aimed at tracking and responding to incidents of violence and discrimnation against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, received more than 2,800 reports of racism and discrimination in 2020. Physical assaults made up 8.7 percent of incidents and verbal harassment made up 70.9, but many instances remain unreported.
Racism and xenophobia toward us are nothing new. Mainstream media reporting on recent anti-Asian hate often overlook the history of discrimination and racism toward Asians in America.
Perhaps this is because Asians and Asian Americans are perceived to be model minorities ─ economically and educationally successful, and thus somehow separate from other underrepresented racial minorities.
This dishonest idea prevents us from getting the support and resources we need, and has been strategically used by opponents of equal opportunity policies and programs to suggest that racial discrimination does not exist.
Asians and Asian Americans have a long history of being discriminated against in the U.S., despite being left out or rarely talked about in U.S. history classes. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned Chinese immigration for 10 years and declared Chinese immigrants ineligible for naturalization through 1943. The Immigration Act of 1924, sometimes known as Asian Exclusion Act, effectively banned all immigrants from Asia.
Though coming from different cultures, Asian Americans share a similar history of racism and exclusion in America. Throughout the late 1800s and the early 1900s, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Indian, and Filipino immigrants were used as cheap labor for building railroads, farming, fishing, and canning. In 1906, the San Francisco school board put all Asian children in segregated schools. During WWII, Japanese internment camps were established to constrain and detain Japanese people.
At the end of the day, we experience different facets of racism. The issues that have surfaced since the beginning of the pandemic made me rethink racial injustice in this society. I hope that we are able to see the recent increase of hate crimes as a wake-up call to advocate for justice.
To my non-Asian friends, I hope you still enjoy K-pop and K-drama, and enjoy the rice and tea you consume every day. Enjoy the anime you watch in your free time, enjoy the convenience of transcontinental railroads. As you appreciate our culture, I hope that you don’t ignore the struggle we went through and are going through. I hope you can appreciate the hands that weave these cultures into the American society and those who suffer for it. Even if you don’t appreciate the Asian culture, I hope that you can still respect it, along with our communities and individuals.
Maybe it has been part of our culture to mind our own business and keep our heads down when it comes to injustice, maybe it has been our instinct to resort to silence and invisibility to seek comfort. There are still many unreported instances of injustice and unheard voices. I wish to encourage those who are struggling now, and trying to find our belonging in this community, to talk about our needs and voice our day-to-day struggle.
If you wish to report an instance of discrimination, the organizations Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Stop AAPI Hate provide a reporting resource.