Stop Asian Hate: The Causes behind Hate Crimes against Asian Americans
BY MAY HONG '23 & SIVAPRIYA MARIMUTHU '23
Millions immigrate to America every year, hoping for a brighter future where they can achieve the "American Dream.” Unfortunately, upon arrival, many face bigotry from society as well as harmful rhetoric from politicians, which fuels racism. Across America, a Thai woman shoved, a Filipino man stabbed, and a Chinese girl burned to death. Anti-Asian sentiment has persisted since the mid-nineteenth century, but the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic resulted in unparalleled levels of prejudice and discrimination, which, in turn, spikeds hate crimes. Though COVID-19 transmission has no clear links to a particular ethnicity, its Chinese origin creates a life-threatening environment for Asian Americans.
Former President Donald Trump actively spewed racist remarks, compelling his followers to take irrational measures, which endangered the basic rights of Asian Americans. He deliberately misguided Americans by referring to the disease as the "China virus" and "Kung Flu." Blaming Asian Americans [space missing b/w “ordinary” and “Asian”], this misclassification sparked a chain reaction of hate crimes against them. Further, seeing their President engage in such derogatory behavior normalized a public racist mentality. In 2020, America witnessed a painful 150% rise in the number of hate crimes targeting Asian Americans in several major cities.
Trump’s racist comments also demonstrate a poorly executed effort to divert public attention away from the nation's collapsing economy. Although Trump received news of the virus’s dangers in early January, he refused to alert the public, dismissing the risks as insignificant. Consequently, COVID-19 rapidly spread to America, halting schools, shutting down businesses, and ending lives. The mass shutdown collapsed the American economy. To hide this massive blunder, Trump put up a front in which he denied knowing about the virus’ threat. This behavior parallels how Trump weaponized xenophobia to enlarge his political base when he imposed a travel ban on Islamic countries in 2017. As a recurring theme, this exemplifies politicians’ immense power as well as the repercussions of abusing that power. To maintain popularity within their political parties, they often exploit xenophobia, ignorant to the countless lives they endanger as collateral damage.
Overwhelmed with turmoil, disaster, and death, Americans, unable to cope, became desperate to place blame. Unfortunately, they pinpointed Asian Americans, utilizing them as scapegoats. These unjust accusations reflect America’s long-standing racism. Americans have feared the economic success of those of Asian descent, as seen with the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese workers. America began labeling Asian immigrants as “unfit” and “unclean” because of their darker skin tones, and this prejudice still prevails today. For example, in elementary schools, some white peers hurl racist taunts about Asian children’s small eyes or colored skin, belittling their identity. The socio-economic consequences of COVID-19 tipped the brimming pot.
News outlets also unintentionally contribute to anti-Asian sentiment, by projecting a distorted image of China. This incentivizes Americans to “cleanse” the country through drastic measures. The media often depicted the Chinese as “exotic” and critiqued their practices. Consequently, Americans took the bait, spraying Febreze to “clean” anyone perceived to be Asian in subways, stabbing them, and yelling at them to “return to China.”
Fortunately, America steadily progresses toward a welcoming, safe society. Unlike Trump, President Joe Biden welcomes conversation, enabling individuals to voice their perspectives. Rather than shoving society into the dark, he maintains transparency. Biden currently guides our nation toward greater inclusivity. In April, he urged Congress to swiftly pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, condemning the rise of racism towards Asian Americans. This act aimsed to support governments in improving hate crime reporting systems and making hate crime information more accessible to Asian American communities. Although politicians have always presented a stance that supposedly opposed racism, Biden’s commitment to mitigating xenophobia and racism is evident in his objectives. In his first week in office, he signed a Presidential Memorandum to condemn intolerance against Asian Americans in the United States. Furthermore, he appointed numerous government departments to lead the country’s efforts to stop anti-Asian bias. Biden also endorses numerous organizations that support the Asian American community, such as Stop AAPI Hate, which tracks acts of hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, hoping to educate society about the dangers of xenophobia. As a result, Biden’s support fosters a safe environment where individuals can speak up against injustice without fearing suppression.
With an inclusive President and a vocal community, America is on the path to fostering diversity. It’s crucial that individuals recognize the importance of accepting all cultures, refusing to partake in exclusionary behavior, and spreading awareness to prominent issues. Thus, we must educate ourselves and others regarding the dangers of xenophobia and avoid being bystanders.