It has been more than a year since the first case of COVID-19 broke out in China, which soon developed into a worldwide pandemic, becoming a threat to every aspect of human society. Now in 2021, while many countries and people still struggle to fight the deadly virus, people have made their way around getting used to the COVID-lifestyle. For instance, while imperfect, hopeful surges of new vaccines have been coming up. However, along the trails of this pandemic, there is a problem that, quite frankly, has no vaccine to-racism.
Rooted from the fact that COVID-19 came from China, this overall hate, antagonism, and discrimination were applied not just to Chinese people, but also to Asian people in general. This newly powered racism takes place in one of the most atrocious forms-crimes. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, Anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S have increased significantly in most cities, when comparing 2019 to 2020. This was especially true in large, populated cities such as Los Angeles or New York City-for which in New York City, the crime incidents more than tripled. The advocacy group Stop AAPI also said that it received more than 2,800 reports of racist hate incidents last year in 2020.
The contents of these crimes are just as severe as its numbers. To analyze a few cases to illustrate this horror, Vichar Ratanapakdee was an 84-year old man who had immigrated from Thailand. He was living in a San Fransisco neighborhood when on January 28th, 2021, he was violently shoved to the ground by an attacker, and he never got up again. In another case, an 89-year old Chinese woman was slapped, then set on fire by two young men who had never met her before. While the happening ended on a burn of her shirt as she quickly took out the flames before anything could happen, it was still left as a shock to the Asian community that such horrendous crimes could be made. Lastly, on February 3rd, 2021, Noel Quintana, a Filipino American man was travelling on the New York Subway. A man he had never met before advanced to him, then slashed his face with a box cutter from ear to ear-while he cried out for help, no one moved, only gasps of horror. He had to exit the train and make his way to the station booth himself. This is shocking not just because of the crime itself, but also because of the way the bystanders acted-how no one called the train conductor or 911-which grows concerning awareness about the support system for Asian-Americans when in need.
And while these harsh crimes display the worst of racism, it’s not just these extreme examples-Asians face discrimination and hate on a day-to-day basis, from verbal abuse to offensive actions such as being coughed/spat on, or being refused/discriminated from their workplace. Out of the 2,808 incidents reported to the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center from March-December 2020, 70.9% was verbal harassment, and 21.4% was the act of shunning-to ignore or reject the individual. The coexistence of these radical, violent crimes and continuous, everyday expressions narrow the way for Asians to make a way in our society.
Thankfully, there’s still hope left. The society’s acknowledging the need for precautious as well as protective measures for instance, an executive action signed by President Joe Biden would ban the use of anti-China terminology within the federal government, such as ‘China virus’ or the ‘Kung-flu’. It was also this April when the US Senate passed a legislation 94 to 1, that would enhance structural responses for racist crimes-for instance it would assign an official of the US Justice Department to facilitate reviews of COVID-19 related crimes and forms of violence, as well as provide grants for state and local governments to improve their own reporting systems.
This long-disputed issue places much apprehension, as well anticipation, for the future of our society-in which people of different races will work together. And while we still have a long way to go, recognizing that these problems exist, then carrying out friendly actions yourself-saying hello to your neighbors of different races, standing up against unjust actions, may be a meaningful start to clearing this conflict.
“Anti‐Asian Hate Crime Reported to Police in America’s Largest Cities”. “Study of Hate & Extremism” 2020. 2020,https://www.csusb.edu/sites/default/files/FACT%20SHEET-%20Anti-Asian%20Hate%202020%203.2.21.pdf .
Turton, Nicholas. “Stop AAPI Hate: New Data on Anti-Asian Hate Incidents Against Elderly and Total National Incidents in 2020”. Stop AAPI Hate, 2021, https://secureservercdn.net/220.127.116.11/a1w.90d.myftpupload.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Press-Statement-re_-Bay-Area-Elderly-Incidents-2.9.2021-1.pdf.
Lah, Kyung. “Family of Thai immigrant, 84, says fata attack was ‘driven by hate’”. BBC, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/16/us/san-francisco-vicha-ratanapakdee-asian-american-attacks/index.html.
Edmonds, Lauren. “Cops search for two men who ‘slapped an 89-year-old- woman in the face and set her shirt on fire’ in Brooklyn”. Dailymail, 2020, https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-8566963/Cops-search-two-men-slapped-89-year-old-woman-face-set-shirt-fire.html.
Cabral, Sam. “Covid ‘hate crimes’ against Asian Americans on rise”. BBC, 2021, https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-56218684.