MHS Asian Americans grapple with national increase in Violence and COVID blaming

Della Johnson | Staff Writer

As cases of COVID-19 begin to level out and even decline in some areas of the United States, the virus has given rise to another unfortunate symptom of the pandemic. There has been a significant increase in violence and hate speech toward Asian Americans.

As the world found itself in the grips of a pandemic that originated in China, in the United States the blame shifted to innocent Asian Americans. Soon after the disease became globally known, it was referred to with nicknames such as the “Chinese Virus” or “Kung Flu”. 

According to a Pew Research Center study, 31% of Asian-Americans stated that they had faced racially motivated hate speech since the beginning of the pandemic.  Mason High School (MHS) senior Alex Ye saw the comments on social media and in the news, some of it fueled by political leaders. As private citizens and world leaders tried to find the origin of the virus and people developed their own opinions about its origin, it soon became clear that China was going to bear the brunt of the blame. 

Ye believes that regular citizens should not be the target for anger towards a country’s government. “There was a lot of emphasis that the disease came from China,” Ye said. “[People] need to differentiate between the government of China versus actual Chinese people.”

In the United States, anti-Asian hate crimes have grown by an astonishing 150% in 16 of America’s largest cities. Even in the multi-ethnic city of New York, anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 833%.  While investigators have shown a direct link to China as to the origin of the virus, Ye believes that hate violence directed at Asian individuals should be redirected at those who are actually responsible.

“We see a lot of Asian people getting beat up,” Ye said. “There’s a lot of anger, but that anger should be directed at the Chinese Communist Party for mishandling the virus, not ordinary people who don’t have anything to do with a pandemic.”

Even before COVID-19, America’s Asian population often faced assumptions and judgement. Many Asian American students at MHS have had to deal with uncomfortable personal questions about their skin color, diet, and even their intelligence level. Chen has dealt with cultural microaggressions from friends, peers, and strangers alike

Last year when fear was spreading as fast as COVID-19, many political leaders started using the term “China Virus” in reference to the Coronavirus. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar even tweeted the term “Wuhan Virus” and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it the “China virus” during a broadcast news interview.  References like these gave rise to a wildfire of hate on social media platforms that has seeped into the lives of some of Mason’s own Asian American population. 

Last year when fear was spreading as fast as COVID-19, many political leaders started using the term “China Virus” in reference to the Coronavirus. Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar even tweeted the term “Wuhan Virus” and then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called it the “China virus” during a broadcast news interview.  References like these gave rise to a wildfire of hate on social media platforms that has seeped into the lives of some of Mason’s own Asian American population. 

These occurrences have become a daily distraction for Chen, who is exposed to this vitriol on social media platforms and even the nightly news when she sees reports of innocent Asian Americans being randomly attacked on the streets.

The social organization Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) tracks incidents of discrimination, hate, and xenophobia against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Their goal is to address anti-Asian racism and work toward its eradication. They launched the Stop Hate Reporting Center in March of 2020. The group has been outspoken in discussing the rise of anti-Asian violence during the Covid-19 pandemic. The data they have collected isn’t very positive. In one year 3,800 hate incidents directed toward Asian Americans were reported. 

Another disturbing aspect in the rise of hate and violence towards Asian Americans is that women are more likely to be targeted. AAPI reports that women made up 68% of the incidents. Freshman Jillian Wu saw the horrific images on the news, when a lone gunman killed eight women in Atlanta, Georgia. The investigation revealed that the assailant targeted Asian American women.

“These past events have been so devastating to hear about and hearing people still invalidating the racism against Asians disgusts me,” Wu said, “Is killing six Asian women not enough? Is seeing [Asian-American] elders beaten and disrespected not enough?”

Chen has voiced similar pain and worry about the extreme violence occurring throughout the nation. To her, a clear solution lies in how people treat one another. She believes respect must be the foremost priority to begin effectively and thoughtfully addressing the deep wounds that the pandemic has created. 

“There’s just a lot of tension right now, especially with COVID,” Chen said. “There’s so much injustice happening, we need to approach things with kindness. Because if we’re all mad, we’re all frustrated, we’re all irritated, we’re all going to be at each other’s necks. That’s just going to make things worse.”

There could be some light at the end of the tunnel. After the recent attacks against Asian-Americans that have been reported in the news and by everyday citizens on social media, posts of support for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are starting to drown out some of the hate rhetoric.

Ye noticed these positive posts and the movement, but he is cautious as to whether or not this signals a change in how people treat Asian Americans. He warns against the movement being too short-lived and wants it to continue not only for Asian Americans, but any race that feels undervalued in America. 

“We’ve seen a lot of coverage by the media of violence against Asian Americans,” Ye said. “I want to encourage people to not let this become a trend. Try to carry the attitude forward, not just for Asians, for all races and types of people. Keep this attitude of awareness, of trying to learn more about other cultures. Racism is not a one-time thing. We can’t let the current movements die down after the ‘trend’ has passed.”

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