Tag Archives: Chinese American

“Often Our Communities Are Pitted Against Each Other” says Manjusha Kulkarni of A3PCON

A rash of hate incidents against Asian Americans is spreading like a virus since the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

On March 16, eight people were shot and killed at three Atlanta area spas amid growing fears nationwide of anti-Asian bias. Six of the victims were Asian women.

Anti‐Asian hate crimes surged by a staggering 149% in 16 of America’s largest cities, even though overall hate crime dropped by 7% in 2020, according to a fact sheet released by the California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.

With the stabbing of a 36 year Asian man in Chinatown In February, New York leapt to the top of the leaderboard for the most number (28) of racially motivated crimes against people of Asian descent in a major city, followed by Los Angeles (15) and Boston (14), in hate incidents reported to the police.

Data shows that the first spate of hate crimes occurred in March and April ‘amidst a rise in COVID-19 cases and negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic’.

The brutal spike in attacks on Asian and Pacific Island Americans (particularly seniors)  amid an epidemic of anti-Asian violence ,“is a source of grave concern for our community,” said John C Yang, of AAJC. “While battling COVID19, unfortunately Asian Americans have also had to fight a second virus of racism.”

At an ethnic media briefing on February 19, civil rights advocates called for a unified response to counter racial and ethnic divisions, bigotry and incidents of hate.

“What we are experiencing is the America First virus,”  declared Jose Roberto Hernandez, Chief of Staff, Koreatown Immigrant Workers Alliance, where hatred is manifesting in a rash of vicious attacks targeting Asian Americans.

STOP AAPI Hate, a national coalition aimed at addressing anti-Asian discrimination, received 2,808 reported incidents of racism and discrimination against Asian Americans across the U.S. between March 19 and December 31, 2020. Sixty nine percent of anti-AAPI attacks occurred in California, followed by New York City (20%), Washington (7%) and Illinois (4%).

According to STOP AAPI Hate, victims reported prejudice incidents that ranged from physical assault (8%), coughing and spitting (6%), to being shunned or avoided (20%). The vast majority (66%) reported verbal assaults.

In another study, hateful comments on social media also reflected racist trends sweeping the Internet. The term Kung Flu spiked in March and July last year in a Google key word search, while an analysis of Poll and Twitter posts from January 2020 saw a similar surge of Sino phobic racial slurs in March.

The most victimized group in the AAPI population – almost 41% – were people of Chinese descent while  Koreans, Vietnamese and Filipinos also were targeted.

The effect on the Asian American community is significant, said Yang, President and Executive Director, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, referring to a Harris poll that showed three-quarters (75%) of Asian Americans  increasingly fear discrimination related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Another poll, added Yang, reported that 40% of Asian Americans either experienced discrimination or heard someone blame Asia or China for COVID-19. Many of the people who felt threatened are frontline workers in essential jobs at grocery stores, hospitals and community centers and custodial services.

“The surge in violence is creating an atmosphere of  tremendous fear,” noted Cynthia  Choi, Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action and co-creator of Stop AAPI Hate.

Hate against Asian Americans is not a new phenomenon added Yang, referring to historical fear and prejudice that led to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the incarceration of 120 thousand Japanese Americans during World War 2, and the war on terror after 9/11 that impacted Arab Americans.

Asian Americans are often demonized for being ‘foreigners,’ or carriers of disease, but during the pandemic, said Yang, the ‘need to blame’ someone for the virus has exacerbated those fears and morphed into violence against the Asian American community.

Hateful rhetoric from President Trump, who referred to COVID19 as ‘the China virus, the Wuhan flu, and the China plague’ at political rallies, further inflamed racially motivated violence against Asian Americans.

“That has had a lasting impact”, stated Choi.

Her view was echoed by Manjusha Kulkarni, Executive Director of Pacific Policy and Planning Council, who pointed to “.. a very direct connection between the actions and the words of the former presidents and the administration.” She referred to policies initiated by the former administration to ‘alienate, isolate, and prevent our communities from getting the support they needed, and to reports her organization received, containing ‘the words of the president.’

“Words matter,” said Yang, calling on people to come together to dismantle the contagion of racism and hatred.

AAPI advocates drew the strong support of Marc Morial, President and CEO, National Urban League, who condemned the ‘climate of intolerance which has been created in this nation.” He reiterated his support for AAPI, accountability for perpetrators of violent acts, and commitment to cross cultural understanding “which is central to civil rights in the 21st century.

“Hate anywhere, is hate everywhere,” noted Morial. “We stand against efforts to demonize the Asian American community.”

So how is the nation addressing this issue?

“What we need to work on is establishing the checks and balances in society that grant equal power to everybody,” said Hernandez, “at home, at work, and in the community.” Yang called for a stand against hatred, for witnesses to report incidents, and for bystander intervention training, so people know what do when they witness accounts of hate. He urged setting up dialog at local levels.

A number of AAPI organizations, including  OCANational Council of Asian Pacific AmericansChinese for Affirmative Action, and Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, have joined forces to unanimously condemn anti-Asian hate crimes. Several civil rights advocacy groups – Chinese for Affirmative Action, SAALT, and A3PCON, offer in language links on their websites, to report hate incidents.

At the national level, said Yang, Biden’s national memorandum against AAPI hate is a good start in terms of data collection and better understanding of the hate Asian Americans are facing. But the government needs to invest in communities – in victim response centers, financial resources for victims and cross-community, cross-cultural conversations,” – to break down the barriers of prejudice.

“Often our communities are pitted against each other,” said Kulkarni, “that is how white supremacy works.” She remarked that sometimes AAPI communities tend to turn on one other because of ‘close proximity’ geographically or socio-economically, while too many people in AAPI communities accept the model minority myth or anti-blackness “all too easily.”

Communities need to collaborate to combat this culture of hatred and take responsibility to work on solutions, rather than accept the premises of white supremacy, added Kulkarni. She called for healing rather than division.  “We have so much in common …that we should be able to work together for the right, restorative and transformative justice.”

Everyone has a part to play in highlighting this issue. urged Yang. “The virus of racism is very contagious and affects all of our communities. We need to fight that virus together.”

Meera Kymal is the Contributing Editor at India Currents
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona on Unsplash

Originally published February 24, 2021.

Be Counted, Be Heard

Editor’s Note: In honor of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, California’s  State Treasurer Fiona Ma wrote this call-to-action to Chinese Americans, especially those living in her home town San Francisco: Fill out the census, or risk losing hard won gains!

Chinese immigrants, like my parents, began coming to America in the mid-1800s in search of a better life and greater opportunity for their children and grandchildren. Today, more than a fifth of San Francisco residents are of Chinese descent, and the City is home to the second-largest Chinese population in the United States.

Despite our numbers, however, political power and representation for Chinese Americans was a long time coming. The first Chinese American on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors wasn’t appointed until 1977, and we had to wait until the 1990s for the 11-member Board to include more than one Asian American supervisor. Since then, San Francisco has elected its first Chinese mayor, I am one of two statewide elected Chinese constitutional officers, and Asian American elected officials at all levels of California’s government now number in the hundreds.

During Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, we celebrate the contributions of Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders past and present – but we also look to the future and how we can ensure our voices are heard. One of the most critical ways we can take a stand for our communities and our families is to be counted in the 2020 Census.

Census data informs billions of dollars in federal funding for key programs such as Head Start, childcare and development programs, community mental health programs, nutrition programs, educational and health care resources, and much more. Many of these programs are especially important now – in the midst of the worldwide COVID-19 crisis – because they impact the state’s ability to appropriately plan for emergencies and critical patient care needs. Estimates show that for every person uncounted, California could lose $1,000 a year for 10 years, or as much as $10,000 per person over the next decade.

Census data also determines the state’s political representation through the number of representatives in the U.S. Congress and the redrawing of political lines at the local and state levels. That means that participating in the Census will help ensure your community’s voice is heard in city halls across the state, at the State Capitol in Sacramento and under the Capitol dome in Washington, D.C.

That’s why it’s so incredibly important that your entire family and everyone living in your household is counted. The Census is a simple, confidential nine-question survey that you can complete online now at my2020census.gov or by phone. Paper Census forms will soon be arriving in the mail for those families who have not yet completed the Census. Most importantly, you must count every person in your household – whether that’s extended family, small children, tenants, and anyone else who stays with you most of the time.

When you dive into the response rate data in places like San Francisco’s Chinatown, you see the need for greater participation in the Census. Whereas the Bay Area is outperforming other regions with a median response rate of 68.4 percent regionally, as compared to 60.8 percent statewide, San Francisco County has seen less participation, with a response rate of 57.7 percent.

Of particularly concern is the fact that hundreds of thousands of the hardest-to-count households in California still have not yet participated in the Census. In San Francisco, these include people who live around Chinatown, the Sunset and the Bayview neighborhoods, among others.

As a child, my parents instilled in me that education was the great equalizer and encouraged me to pursue one of the so-called “LEAD” (lawyer, engineer, accountant, doctor) professions. They were initially hesitant to embrace my career as an elected government official. But today they are proud I am using my education and public- and private-sector experience serving as the State Treasurer of the fifth largest economy in the world and working to ensure that other Asian Americans are seen and heard at all levels of government by urging everyone to stand up and be counted in the 2020 Census.