Since the emergence of COVID-19, Asian Americans, especially those of Chinese descent, have been portrayed in the public eye as the sole cause of the virus.
Former President Donald Trump has even associated the pandemic with harmful phrases such as “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu” multiple times, whether in his speeches or in his (now suspended) tweets. These statements reinforce the notion that all Asian Americans are directly intertwined with COVID-19.
The influx of hate crimes toward all races of Asian descent within the past few months — likely augmented by the stigma that the reiteration of those statements has created — has been unsettling.
It doesn’t seem to matter that these Asian Americans reside in the United States and have no correlation to what occurred in late 2019 in Wuhan, China. When hateful people are looking for someone to blame, they simply choose to target Asian Americans as a whole.
A 2021 report by Paul Weiss and the Asian American Bar Association of New York cites distressing NYPD data.
In New York alone, 39.1 percent of the arrests made for racially motivated crimes in the first quarter of 2020 were of an anti-Asian bias. This is comparatively greater than the recorded 6.1 percent in 2019.
Many of the recent targets have been elderly, vulnerable and unable to defend themselves against these violent attacks. Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old immigrant from Thailand residing in San Francisco, was shoved forcefully onto the ground during his morning walk on Jan. 28.
This assault was fatal. Ratanapakdee died two days later of a brain hemorrhage.
His case is one of far too many incidents occurring in the recent surge of racially motivated hate crimes against Asian Americans. Across the country, there were more than 2,500 reports of COVID-19 related anti-Asian hate incidents between March and September 2020.
These xenophobic attacks have left the Asian American community afraid and forced to remain on high alert at all times. For Ratanapakdee, even a morning walk was not safe.
At the end of the day, people want to find someone responsible for the cause of all the pain and deaths COVID-19 has inflicted on the world. Unfortunately, Asian Americans have become the clear scapegoat.
Misinformation in the media and a poor portrayal framed by America’s loudest leaders have magnified a dangerous disease-based stigma against Asian Americans. It’s disheartening to see the sheer amount of Asian Americans suffering because of this.
What we hear about on the news is just the tip of the iceberg. Perhaps it’s more frightening to consider the amount of unreported hate crimes that will never receive their proper justice.
Here are a few ways to get involved in supporting the Asian American community during these difficult times:
- Report hate crimes to STOP AAPI HATE.
- Donate. The Asian Pacific Fund works with over 80 nonprofits in the Bay Area, and you’re welcome to donate to any organization of your choosing. You may also donate directly to Vicha Ratanapakdee’s GoFundMe.
- Speak up. Don’t be a bystander to racial prejudice — object to harmful comments or microaggressions. Excusing offensive comments (such as “Kung Flu”) as mere “jokes” will only normalize and perpetuate racism toward Asian Americans.
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