West News Wire: Rebeka Islam felt as though someone had punched her in the gut as she watched news reports about a string of shootings at spas in the Atlanta region last year. “I was simply devastated,” said Islam. She was unsurprised, though.
The 22-year-old white male suspected of killing eight people that day, including six Asian American women, would later be accused of having racial and gender motivations. The suspect maintains that his motivation was a sex addiction. The victims included Paul Andre Michels, Delaina Ashley Yaun Gonzalez, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie Tan, and Yong Ae Yue.
But “violent, racist attacks against Asian Americans had already increased nationwide before the shootings in Atlanta. The executive director of APIAVote-Michigan, a grassroots nonpartisan group striving to enhance civic involvement among Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said it was frightening to watch this unfold. “At this point, it felt much more personal to me. Many women, including myself, were probably thinking, “That could have been me.”
Numerous similar assaults against Asian Americans have persisted around the nation a year after the shootings, which activists believe to be a continuation of the long history of violence and prejudice against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that is woven throughout the history of the country.
“Part of American culture has been minimizing and pretending discrimination against Asian Americans can’t and does not exist,” said Ayesha Ghazi Edwin, chair of the Michigan Asian Pacific American Affairs Commission (MAPAAC).
According to data from the 2019 Census, there are 22.9 million Asian Americans and 1.6 million Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders living in the United States. Anti-Asian prejudice, exclusion, and discrimination have a long history in America, especially during difficult economic times or other periods of significant upheaval. The FBI received 1,600 percent more reports of anti-Muslim hate crimes in 2001 compared to 2000 after 9/11. When Vincent Chin was killed in Detroit in 1982, the 1980–1982 recession was coming to an end. The Page Act of 1875, America’s first immigration law, essentially prohibited nearly all Chinese women after the Great Panic of 1873; the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited nearly all Chinese people from entering the country during the Long Depression of 1873 to 1896; the 1907 Bellingham riots, in which a mob of 500 white working men attacked and forced out several hundred mostly Sikh men over fears of labor competition at lumber mills; and the 1942 incarceration of about 120,000 Japanese Americans after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, to name a few.
Almost 11,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were self-reported to the organisation from March 2020 to December 2021, according to the most recent report from Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that keeps track of hate incidents and hate crimes against those people in the U.S. Women reported around 62 percent of those incidents. Where the Islamist group operates, Michigan, there were about 120.
These figures are probably understated. One in eight Asian Americans who responded to a survey conducted by Survey Monkey and AAPI Data, a demographic and policy research organisation that focuses on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, indicated they had experienced a hate crime or incident in 2020 and the first three months of 2021.
The most current 2022 American Experiences with Discrimination Survey, conducted in early March of this year by AAPI Data in collaboration with Momentive, revealed that the percentage had increased to 1 in 6 Asian American adults in the previous year. The rate is already 1 in 12, or 8%, in the first three months of 2022, and as the year progresses and COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the number is certain to rise.
The poll also revealed that 83 percent of Asian American parents worry that their children would be bullied because of their race or ethnicity and that Asian American men are equally likely to experience hate crimes and hate incidents but are less likely to report them.
Not just Asian Americans had encounters with hate crimes. According to the most recent survey, 19% of multiracial adults, 17% of Black adults, 16% of Asian Americans, 15% of Native Americans, 14% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islanders, and 13% of Latino Americans reported having experienced hate incidents or hate crimes, compared to only 6% of white adults during the same period.
“The horrific violence we saw in Atlanta in March 2021 made some people pay attention to this problem in a new way,” said Melissa Borja, an assistant professor of American culture at the University of Michigan who specialises in Asian/Pacific Islander American Studies. I only wish they had taken notice of it sooner.
Events are typically arranged to commemorate tragic events so that communities can come together after having had time to heal and reflect. However, the violence has not yet stopped in Asian American communities, which is slowing the healing process. People are still thinking about the recent murders of Michelle Alyssa Go, who was crushed to death in front of a tube, Christina Yuna Lee, who was stalked and killed in her home, GuiYing Ma, who died after being struck by a rock, and the vicious beating of the 67-year-old Filipino grandmother who has not yet been identified.