Across the country, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) have been targeted solely due to our existence. Hate speech such as “Go back to China.“ Racial slurs such as “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” seem to be part of the daily news. Silence has rang loud.
Slowly, but surely, Asian voices, and those standing in solidarity with us, are finally speaking. And saying “We Belong.”
We belong here.
I belong here.
Victims of the Atlanta shooting
Xiaojie Tan belonged here.
Daoyou Feng belonged here.
Delaina Ashley Yaun belonged here.
Paul Andre Michels belonged here.
Soon Chung Park belonged here.
Hyun-Jeong Kim Grant belonged here.
Sun Cha Kim belonged here.
Yong Ae Yue belonged here.
Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz belonged here.
Over the past year, racism and hate against AAPI has grown. Personally, this has ripped off the layers of Band-Aids I have put on over the past decades. I yearned to belong when we moved to this country and I couldn’t speak the language. I yearned to belong when the clothes I wore from church donation bins were not “cool” enough to fit in with the other girls at school. I yearned to belong when my teacher re-named me something she could pronounce in the 3rd grade.
Now, I yearn to belong every time I step foot outside.
A quick history lesson
While the spot light has been on recent Anti-Asian attacks, racism against AAPI is not new and did not begin with Covid. In history, people of Asian decent were not allowed to testify against a white people. This was followed by the Chinese massacre, which was one of the worst lynchings of our country’s history, and the Chinese Exclusion Act, which banned immigration for 20 years. In 1900, a similar hate against the Asian community resulted when the first stateside victim of the bubonic plague was a Chinese immigrant. Asian immigrants were denied citizenship and prevented from owning land in 1924, and tens of thousands of Japanese immigrants were forced into internment camps in the 1940s.
Between those events, Asian Americans have been the subject of daily jokes and ridicule, which have been brushed off and buried until recently. We are tired of thinking there must be something wrong with us. We are tired of being told to stay quiet and be the “model minority.” We are tired of being forced to laugh at jokes at our own expense. And now, we are tired of fearing for the safety of our family and children by simply existing as humans.
Since Covid-19 started, more than 3800 Anti-Asian racist incidents have been reported. For example:
- 84 year old Vichar Ratanapakdee, who was on his daily walk, was killed after being shoved to the ground.
- Bawi Cung and his 6 and 3 yo sons were shopping at Sam’s Club when they were stabbed by a man who believed they were Chinese and were spreading the virus.
- An 89 year old woman was attacked and set on fire in Brooklyn.
- An Asian woman sustained injuries to her head after being shoved in Queens.
- An elementary school worker was beaten while standing at a bus stop and lost part of a finger
- An Asian gas station owner was pepper-sprayed and told to “Go back to China”
- A Japanese jazz piano player was brutally beaten in a Harlem subway station by people who screamed “Chinese!”
Not all incidents make mainstream news: Asian children being bullied by teachers and classmates, people being spat or coughed on, and patients refusing care from Asian doctors fearing they have Covid. The list goes on.
I can’t help but wonder if something similar will happen to me or my children in our community? And if so, will anyone step in and step up to defend the fact that we belong here? That I belong here?
The recent attacks and murders in Atlanta have stirred fear in our community. But it has also sparked fury and bravery to demand change. It has amplified our voices and the voices of our brothers and sisters standing in support and solidarity with the AAPI community. It has gained the attention of media outlets and other citizens, who realize that having a “bad day” does not justify brutally killing 8 people in cold blood. For those who demand accountability for the heinous crimes and hate speech, I thank you. For those of you who don’t understand and rush to justify the acts or defend actions of the perpetrators, I urge you to research and educate.
If you want to learn more about recent events and how to help, here are some resources:
Report incidents: https://stopaapihate.org/