Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has been suffering from an uptick in hate crimes.
In its 2020-2021 national report, Stop AAPI Hate reported over 3,000 hate crimes. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University declared that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 150%.
The Atlanta spa shooting was a culmination of anti-Asian racism that has been ongoing for decades. Scapegoating Asians for the coronavirus has only made it worse.
Asian voices in America have always been minimized in entertainment, politics, and in media.
But with attacks on the most vulnerable members of our community, we refuse to be silenced any longer.
It may seem overwhelming to educate yourself and get involved with activism. However, it is crucial if we as a society are going to move forward toward racial equality and justice.
From my own experience, here are the first steps to advocating for equal rights.
1 Listen and Learn
As I said, AAPI voices have always been minimized in the Western sphere. According to the U.S. 2018 census Asians make up only 5% of the United States population.
It’s no wonder our voices get overshadowed.
Our own narrative is often dominated by myths such as “asian excellence” and the model minority. These myths are also used to oppress other racial minorities.
It is crucial to understand how the media portrays Asians as nerds, martial arts masters or cold exotic beings. Only recently, through films like “Minari”, have we had complex representation.
Therefore, the first step to being an ally is to promote AAPI voices and learn about the ongoing oppression Asians face in America.
In addition to listening to AAPI experiences, you can also learn through various resources such as works by Erika Lee and Cathy Park Hong, podcasts and documentaries.
2 Call Out Your Peers
It is far harder to stand up to your friends and family than it is your enemies. But similarly, it is more meaningful and impactful to be called out by our friends and family than by strangers.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s easy for AAPI voices to be ignored. Therefore when you call out your peers they’re more likely to understand and change their behaviors.
You might not think it matters, but it does.
Anti-AAPI behavior can display itself in subtle ways, such as:
“Where are you actually from?” This implies that an AAPI person doesn’t belong in [insert Western country here] and that they are a foreigner.
“They’re so exotic looking.” / “They have such exotic features.” These ideas objectify and fetishize AAPI people.
“You don’t seem Asian.”/ “You’re not like other Asians.” These statements are shaming the AAPI people for not following whatever your perception of an Asian person is.
People cherry-pick AAPI culture such as K-pop, anime, matcha, hula dancing and all Asian food, without actually supporting AAPI people.
“But Asian people have [XYZ] advantage.” This behavior erases actual Asian people’s experiences in favor of what you perceive Asian people’s experiences to be.
In highschool, my non-Asian friend’s father once lectured me for 15 minutes about why someone can ask me where I’m from.
I desperately wished for her to step in and stop him. She didn’t.
So every little bit counts, even if you don’t think it does.
It’s not possible for everyone. But donating to organizations can be a way to make an impact. Here are some organizations making a difference:
Asian Americans Advancing - Atlanta: AAAJ is “a nonprofit legal advocacy organization dedicated to protecting the civil rights of Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders (AANHPI) in Georgia and the Southeast.”
CAAAV: This Pan-Asian organization supports immigrants and low-income Asian people in New York City, and advocates for economic and racial justice.
Asian Mental Health Collective: “It is the mission of AMHC is to normalize and de-stigmatize mental health within the Asian community.”
4 Support AAPI Businesses
Due to racism and COVID-19 a lot of AAPI businesses have shut down. Supporting AAPI businesses can be a great way to support the community.
Below are links to some Asian owned businesses!
5 Bystander Intervention
With hate crimes against Asians increasing by 150%, bystander intervention is more necessary than ever. However, it can be scary to put yourself in the path of a potentially volatile person.
There are various AAPI based bystander intervention training courses. They can teach you to intervene in a way that keeps yourself safe as well.
Here is one that partnered with Asian Americans Advancing Justice.
Hollaback!: “Hollaback! partnered with Asian Americans Advancing Justice | AAJC to adapt our free bystander intervention training as well as offering a de-escalation training to meet this moment.”
Following these steps are great ways to support the AAPI community right now. Please also remember to balance activism and your own mental health. Take breaks when things get overwhelming.
To my AAPI community, it’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be angry. We are here for each other and we will not be silenced.