Racism wounds Asian community

Hate crimes have increasingly targeted Asian-Americans in the pandemic era

By Alex Kelly and Mo Juenger, Staff Writer and World News Editor
Newswire photos by Mo Juenger
Anti-racist messages permeate Xavier’s campus, though Mio Kamioka doesn’t believe the university does enough to combat anti-Asian discrimination.

Xenophobic and racist hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have increased since the beginning of the pandemic, believed by many to be a result of COVID-19. Asian Americans are being falsely blamed for the pandemic because of the virus’s origins in Wuhan, China.  

According to advocacy group Stop AAPI Hate, over 2,800 incidents of hate were committed against these groups in 2020. Another report done by the United Nations addressed that over 1,800 hate incidents occurred in the period from March to May of last year. 

The majority of reported incidents were verbal harassments, with several cases of physical assault. Other forms of hate incidents include vandalism and refusal of service. According to data from the New York Police Department, hate crimes against Asian Americans increased by almost 150% in 2020 compared to previous years.

Examples of this have gone viral. In a video shared across the internet, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an elderly Thai man, gets pushed to the ground by another man in the San Francisco area. He died in the hospital two days later due to a brain hemorrhage. Ratanapakdee’s family believes that this wasn’t just a random act of violence but rather an attack due to his race. 

Despite widespread attacks, some fear that the issue is being ignored by traditional media establishments. International student and senior environmental science major Mio Kamioka believes that this hate hasn’t been more widely publicized because the Asian American community stands divided. Unlike other identity-based violence this year, the Asian community hasn’t protested en masse to promulgate their message.  

“There’s a problem with people coming together. Coming from diverse backgrounds… it’s a cultural thing,” Kamioka said. She added that fear was a large factor in the lack of protests, noting that undocumented Asian immigrants often do not report crimes against them, both due to cultural influence and fear of deportation. 

“Over the past four years living here, I’ve really learned how the Asian community has strong Asian identity in the U.S.,” Kamioka said. 

In other parts of the world, Kamioka noted, Asian individuals often self-identify with their nationality instead of their race. People don’t consider themselves broadly Asian; they consider themselves Japanese, Chinese or Taiwanese, she explained. In the U.S., a stronger broad identity has emerged where individuals often consider themselves Asian-American. 

Some argue that much of the anti-Asian rhetoric has been amplified by former president Donald Trump and the terminology he used surrounding COVID-19. While in office, Trump referred to the virus as the “Chinese virus.”  

“You’ve heard the virus called ‘the Chinese virus,’ but the hate crimes are toward pretty much any Asian, because people can’t really distinguish between Asians (by nationality)… I don’t look remotely Chinese, but if I’m walking down the street with some friends, people are like ‘Ni hao,’” Kamioka added.

President Joe Biden condemned the usage of these terms, signing an executive memorandum in order to prevent this language from being further used in the federal government. He also plans to introduce new policies to reduce this kind of speech outside of the White House. 

“Inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric has put Asian American and Pacific Islander persons, families, communities and businesses at risk,” Biden noted in his referendum. Other politicians, such as Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), are pushing for the Department of Justice to do more to prevent and prosecute anti-Asian hate crimes. 

To Kamioka, this progression is terrifying but not irregular. Hate crimes against Asians have existed in the U.S. for centuries, but people are often unaware of their presence. 

Kamioka blames this on the “model minority myth,” a harmful ideology which presents Asians as the “best” non-white racial group. She feels that this often engenders the belief that Asians cannot be discriminated against because they are “better off” than other racial groups. 

Actors Daniel Wu and Daniel Dae Kim are also working against these hate incidents by offering reward money to get information about an assault case in Oakland. However, some argue that increased policing shouldn’t be the solution to this problem.  

Kamioka argues that more policing would further racial tensions and the divisions caused by the model minority myth. Controversies like this, she believes, are designed to pit racial and identity groups against one another instead of allowing them to stand together against White supremacy.

This ideology has also pervaded Xavier’s campus, according to Kamioka. However, she believes it manifests differently here than it does outside the Xavier “bubble.”

In a pandemic where so much violence against Asians has been public, Kamioka believes that the Xavier community still encounters mostly covert hate against Asian-Americans. 

“It’s very silent… it’s really hush-hush. Not many people are talking about it, so not many people realize it. It hasn’t really been overt, both the hate and the response to the crimes here at Xavier,” Kamioka said.