How America has failed AAPI citizens
I was born into this world under two dual heritages: my mother being a first generation Filipino-American after her parents immigrated to America in the seventies, and my father growing up in a small city in North Carolina where his family had resided for perhaps centuries. I take great pride in both aspects of my life, accepting both and exploring the unique cultures of each. However this dual perspective has granted me insight into both sides of the world of prejudice Asian-Americans face, a prejudice which is now reaching a tremendous point of contention.
The country has only truly recognized this notion recently, as the Covid-19 pandemic has only exacerbated Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) racism in this country. Chinese Americans have taken the brunt of force as many Americans blame China for the pandemic, with many insulting all types of AAPI Americans for a pandemic that really does not serve any country or people. Hearing the virus being referred to as “The China Virus” is painful to hear, but other barbs such as “The Kung Flu” are utterly excruciating. It may seem simple for you to say, or perhaps even true to you when regarding the first comment, but the sayings feel incredibly derogatory. Some were beaten, with many others being unlucky enough to be killed as a result of prejudice-based fear. They served as the broken beginning of what would become a terrifying rise in hatred towards AAPI Americans.
For context, the racism and attacks resurging in America at the moment are absolutely not brand new. The internment of Japanese citizens during World War still remains a strong figment in our history, being remembered as one of the most horrific actions we have ever taken as a nation. However actions like these against Asian citizens immigrants is far more commonplace in our history, going to the days when Asian immigrants were forced to build the Transcontinental Railroad. The haunting bloodshed of the Philippine-American war will be etched into Filipino history for all time, and yet American history books do not delve into what truly were horrifying details such as the internment camps placed there.
None of this is truly gone, just as racism by nature has not disappeared with the passing of various Civil Rights laws. As stated previously, hatred bred within people the moment this virus began to tear across the entire world, with many directing their fear towards something they could not understand. It is a common action; people often lash out in anger towards people that are different from them whenever horrific events break everyday life. Simply look back at the context of the most horrific, racist events in the world’s history, and you will witness a pattern of people in power seeking someone to blame when the world turns sour.
To me, much of this came to a head with the March 16 mass shooting of eight people within Atlanta massage parlors, with six of those individuals being Asian-American. For many, it was the inevitable ending point to the months of ramped up prejudiced words and violent attacks that have plagued the AAPI community since Covid-19’s inception. There is perhaps even some sad irony to the date of deaths, as it was almost exactly one year before that when former President Donald Trump tweeted the words “Chinese Virus” in reference to the coronavirus. Many saw this action as a hate crime, myself included. The context of the past few months has been too daunting to ignore, but there are many who disagree with such thoughts. The sheriff’s captain attempted to formulate some form of premature verdict, affirming that the assailant simply “...had a bad day, and this is what he did.”
Frankly, for much of the Asian-American community across the country, responses like this were insulting. Many saw this as a defense of the killer’s actions, propping up that he was sexist rather than racist as some form of defense against the actions being racist in nature.
NBC’s Nancy Wang Yuen felt very similar about the revolting killings, stating that “based on the reported statement, investigators have so far concluded that the attacks did not appear to have been motivated by race. As an Asian American woman who has endured sexualized racism all of my life, such ignorance enrages me.”
Hatred is hatred, plain and simple, and we must condemn it at every turn. I saw this action as another moment of AAPI needs being written off, and it hurt tremendously to watch it play out. I know for sure that feelings do not solely belong to me with this matter.
On a federal level, action to better represent AAPI citizens or even combat these attacks has been lacking, a trend present in our history. President Biden promised diversity in his cabinet nominations, which to his credit he has begun acting upon. However this representation of the entire country has come with an utter lack of Asian-American or Pacific Islander voices, with zero members of his proposed cabinet identifying as AAPI. Democratic senators such as Tammy Duckworth threatened to boycott all future nominees for anything if changes were not made, but every one of them soon backed down. While his approach to diversity is appreciated, it still is not enough. I appreciate Biden for condemning the violence, as I am aware words can strongly influence the actions of the public, but stern policy decisions need to be taken to help suppress such hatred.
If there is anything I would like to request within this piece, I urge many of you reading this to reach out to your AAPI brothers and sisters during these confusing and difficult times. Everything going on at the moment is bringing us down, with our anger and confusion over recent violence boiling over to a breaking point. We feel forgotten- abandoned by a society that fought so hard for racial reform, but have waited so long to deal with this situation. Many people have pushed in recent months to ensure proper equity between races, but have turned a blind eye towards AAPI suffering. We feel as if rather than being equal as we all should be under God and the Constitution, we feel left in the dust as the country paves a path forward.
This indifference has become fatal, and we cannot allow it to continue. It takes many voices to truly cause change in this nation, so we must all raise them high to send the clear message that we will not allow hatred to so blatantly spread across our country.