Tag Archives: Pacific Islander

“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.

Pacific Islanders Promote Their Own Identity

Despite mounting worries over the COVID-19 pandemic, more than a dozen Pacific Islander activists and media representatives gathered in San Mateo March 14 to anchor an online conference about the 2020 census and their collective stake in an accurate count.

They were joined online and over the airwaves by almost a hundred more people — various voices from the “Coconut Wireless” – who watched, listened and added their own perspectives.  The online conference was hosted by Ethnic Media Services with the support of the California Complete Count Office 2020 census.

“They [government officials] need to see us. We pay our taxes, we pay our dues,” said Nackie Moli, who runs the podcast Poly by Design. Identifying herself as a “proud Samoan woman,” she said she was excited to promote the census in her work with Island Block Radio, heard, she said, from Alaska to Mexico. “We all need to be counted.”

Census data permeates U.S. society. According to one expert, it directs $1.5 trillion in annual  federal spending (https://tinyurl.com/Census-drivenSpending) on health care, education and development, and more, in hundreds of government programs and projects.

Addressing the role of census data in supporting education, Manuafou Liaiga Anoa’i, of the Jefferson School District Board of Trustees in San Mateo,  said: “Empowering others — that’s census. Education in a classroom? That has to be funded. We have to continue to give our future generations more resources.

“We are an invisible community, but we don’t have that poverty mind-set. We continue to be warriors.”

Speaker after speaker addressed the battle to  distinguish Pacific Islander identity and “disaggregating” it from its current place as a subset of the Asian American population in the census.

The Pacific Islander community is highly diverse, but for most of its history, there have been few ways to specify origins on the census: Someone who identifies as “Asian or Pacific Islander” could also check boxes for Chinese, Filipino, Korean, Vietnamese, Japanese, Asian Indian, Hawaiian, Samoan, Guamanian  or “Other API.” “Other API” offered a write-in box for more detail – Tongan, perhaps, or Fijian, or something else.

In 2000, “or Chamorro” was added to the Guamanian choice, and for the first time, “Other Pacific Islander” appeared as a separate write-in box alternative to “Other Asian.”

According to the 2010 Census, the total U.S. Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander population was 1.2 million, more than half living either in Hawaii or California. By 2018, that number had grown to 1.4 million, still largely in Hawaii and California, according to estimates presented by Alisi Tulua, of One East Palo Alto and OCPICA.

With a fast-growing influx in populations from Micronesia, the Caroline Islands and other equatorial climes, the United States is seeing some of the first refugees of climate change and sea rise.

“The migration is inevitable,”said Epi Aumavae, of Samoan Solutions. “When you have nowhere to live, you have to move. That’s the reality.”

And it’s all the more reason for communities to be sure they’re included in the census this year, she said, because those communities will continue to grow and need resources. The numbers counted this year will be the basis for the next decade of government apportionments.

“Climate refugees are going to gravitate to where their communities already are. Those populations are going to increase because people will have nowhere else to go,” Aumavae said.

Finau Tovio, of the College of San Mateo’s MANA program, added, “Our Tonga is our churches, community leaders, ancestors.”

Between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the number of people checking Guamanian or Chamorro increased 60%, Samoan grew 38%, and Native Hawaiian 31%, Tulua said. Also, people who checked “Other Pacific Island” and wrote in “Tongan” increased 55% and “Tahitian” write-ins increased 53%.

Other Oceanic populations demonstrated even more dramatic growth: Chuukese were up 544%, Solomon Islanders 388%, Kosraeen 301%, Marshallese, 237%, Carolinian 201%, Pohnpeian, 194%, Mariana Islander 177%, Yapese 177%, Fijian 138%, I-Kiribati 129%, Saipanese 117%, Palauan 115%, Papua New Guinean 86%, Tokelauan, 61%.

“We see the truth in climate change. East Palo Alto is, in majority, on a flood plain,” pointed out East Palo Alto native and College of San Mateo student Shaana Uhilamoelangi. “We’re seeing a big influx from the South Pacific.”

“It’s so important to be heard and fairly represented,” said Sonya Logman, chief of staff of the California Complete Count Census 2020 office in her opening remarks at the online conference.   The state government dedicated $187.2 million toward ensuring a complete count of its people. “We’re in a league of our own,” she said.

To reinforce that message, Aumavae urged meeting participants and listeners: “Make phone calls with your families, have conversations with relatives, because we’re not going to be able to do it face to face. Please, write your island in so it tells this administration and whoever’s next that we’re here.”

Mark Hedin is a reporter for Ethnic Media Services. He has previously written for the Oakland Tribune, the Central City Extra, the San Francisco ChronicleEl Mensajero, the San Francisco Examiner and other papers.


This article was originally published here.

U.S. Bank Recognizes Young Artists in San Francisco

May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month. This year, we celebrated the occasion in San Francisco with an integrated marketing campaign, including sponsorship of the Asian Pacific Fund’s “Growing Up Asian in America” art contest.

Community Development Regional Manager Michelle Brega served as a judge for the contest and presented the awards on May 5, 2018, on behalf of U.S. Bank. “It meant a lot that we made the commitment,” she says. “I’m thrilled the bank sponsored the event.

“I was misty-eyed the entire ceremony as I juggled both the themes of the day and the emotions that it evoked,” she continues. “The youth voices were moving, powerful and optimistic. They spoke on complex themes and shared deeply personal stories.

One of the contest winners, Emma Li, was moved by the gender inequities she sees in the world, from kids’ movies to Congress. Her artwork, titled “Women of the Future,” symbolized her hope for what’s to come.

“We still have a long way to go for women to reach parity with men, even in the US,” Emma said in her acceptance speech. “It is reflected even in popular kids’ movies! In The Smurfs, male smurfs outnumber the girl 100 to 1. At school, I discovered that women have a much lower average salary than men. There has been no woman president, and less than one-fourth of the US congress are women! In addition, in US universities, only 24 percent of full professors are women.

“I have a dream that someday there will be a female president, a woman astronaut on Mars, more women winning Nobel prizes and all people of all genders having equal opportunities,” she continued. “Finally, the glass ceiling will be shattered!”

The winners inspired Michelle and reminded her of her own childhood, growing up Asian in Maryland. “I did not feel as confident or supported as these children do today. I am overjoyed that they’ll carry their communities into the future with such passion and optimism, and hope all of us will support all of our youth in their commitment to make community possible.”

See more of the winning entries here.