Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, there has been a surge in hate crime towards the Asian population. In the US alone there were more than 3800 recorded cases of anti-Asian instances, up 25% from the previous year, according to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center. In reality, these figures are likely much higher with anti-Asian hate crimes (and hate instances in general) historically being underreported, due to a lack of trust towards police amongst other reasons. On 16th March, 8 people were gunned down at spas across the US state of Georgia, with 6 of the victims being of Asian descent. Whilst authorities and the media were initially quick to suggest that the attacks weren’t racially fuelled, fear spread throughout the Asian community prompting an outpouring of support, as well as the sharing of anti-Asian experiences across social media, spanning the last year.
The scapegoating of China by Donald Trump escalated the anti-Asian rhetoric with his public branding of the pandemic as the “China virus”, paired with his use of racist terminology such as "Kung flu". Despite the coronavirus outbreak happening in Wuhan, China was quick to control the uptake of cases, accumulating 90,000 cases over the past year in comparison to the US’ 30.5 million.
Writing for The New Yorker, Jiayang Fan explained: "The incendiary rhetoric of a racist former President combined with the desperation stoked by an unprecedented pandemic has underscored the precariousness of a minority’s provisional existence in the U.S. To live through this period as an Asian-American is to feel defenseless against a virus as well as a virulent strain of scapegoating.”
And it’s not just Chinese individuals who are being targeted; Koreans, Japanese, Filipino and Thai communities have all been subject to the widespread physical and verbal abuse. Viral videos have circulated social media illustrating the horrifying reality of the anti-Asian agenda.
At the end of March this year, a 65-year-old Asian American woman was assaulted on her way to Church in New York City; the attacker hurled the words “f*** you, you don’t belong here.” Sources report that the building’s security not only failed to help, but closed the door on the victim. In January, it was a similar story in San Francisco, when an 84-year-old Thai man died after being assaulted whilst out walking. These instances are just 2 out of hundreds, with law enforcement being hesitant to connect the killings to racial bias, instead reporting the cases as “elder abuse.”
In February, designer Philip Lim took to Instagram after a new wave of attacks on Asian people. “It feels as if we do not really matter or exist” Lim said. The hesitance of law enforcement to address the possibility of racial bias in these crimes has left many Asian individuals distressed, wary, and in some cases too scared to go outside.
Following the deadly shootings in Atlanta, actor Sandra Oh addressed protestors at a Stop Asian Hate March in Pittsburgh.
"For many of us in our community, this is the first time we are even able to voice our fear and our anger, and I really am so grateful to everyone willing to listen." Oh said according to CBS Pittsburgh.
"I know many of us in our community are very scared, and I understand that. And one way to get through our fear is to reach out to our communities. I will challenge everyone here, if you see something will you help me?"
Sandra Oh went on to lead the crowd in chants cheering "I am proud to be Asian."
Image CBS Pittsburgh/YouTube
Korean boyband BTS also expressed their "grief and anger" to their 34 million Twitter followers.
"Our own experiences are inconsequential compared to the events that have occurred over the past few weeks. But these experiences were enough to make us feel powerless and chip away at our self-esteem" BTS said in their statement.
Although the media is largely focusing on the situation in American, these instances are happening across the globe. Anti-Asian rhetoric has also spread across the UK with police data suggesting a 300% rise in hate crimes towards Chinese, East and Southeast Asians in the first quarter of 2020, compared to previous years.
In the UK, the problem is being largely ignored. Asian nationalities are massively underrepresented in British television, film and theatre even though they are the third-largest racial-ethnic minority in the country. However in the last year, East and Southeast Asians (ESEA) appeared in British media more than ever before, but often being used as visual accompaniments to coronavirus reporting, further fuelling the damaging rhetoric.
In February of this year, a lecturer at the University of Southampton was the subject of a racially aggravated assault whilst out jogging. Peng Wang, 37, told the South China Morning Post: “Some crazy guys shouted at me from their car on the other side of the road. They said ‘Chinese virus’, get out [of] this country, f*** you.” He went on to explain that “since Brexit and then the pandemic” racism against ESEA has become worse.
Whilst the UK parliament is largely ignoring the concerns of the ESEA community, charities across the country, such as Protection Approaches, have launched initiatives in response to the rising rates of hate crimes. Together with the Chinese Welfare Trust and Newham Chinese Association, Protection Approaches launched the ‘Confronting Covid-Related Hate’ project which aims to “deliver a comprehensive training programme to staff and volunteers” that will will “support victims of hate crime and abuse.”
What Can You Do to Help?
Below you can find a variety of resources including petitions, charities, and educational resources to support the community and spread the word:
Text: Sam Pennington