Surge in anti-Asian crimes worries SWOSU campus leader
By Sydnie Balcer
For The Southwestern
A shooting in Atlanta, Georgia, on Tuesday, March 16, left eight people dead, six of whom were Asian women, and it has brought the surge in anti-Asian hate crimes back to the forefront of social and political discussion.
According to an analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, anti-Asian hate crimes surged 149% in 2020, while overall hate crimes dropped 7%. The spike in hate crimes was strongly associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, since the first known case of the virus was reported in Wuhan, China.
The hate crimes increased as COVID-19 cases in the United States did, with the first surges being noted in March and April of last year.
While the spikes in anti-Asian hate crimes are what is currently being discussed, many communities are saying racism against Asians and Asian Americans has been a problem for much longer.
Lyly Van is a Vietnamese American member of the Asian American Student Association at SWOSU and a former president of the organization, and she said she frequently experienced racist comments throughout her childhood.
“I feel like I’ve never experienced any physical racism, but a lot of things occur casually in conversation,” Van said. “We experience a lot of microaggressions, whether we realize it or not, and there’s always this message of ‘You’re not one of us.’”
A microaggression is defined as “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group, such as a racial or ethnic minority.”
Van said that one member of AASA encountered racism during her first semester of college when taking an English class. According to Van, the professor of the class went to the student’s adviser, saying that the student was not at a high enough English level to be able to pass the course; however, the professor did not speak to the student at all before going to the adviser.
Van mentioned many of her own experiences with racism as well, and said that she noticed cases were often worse when her parents were with her due to their accents.
“A large amount of the racism I experienced was when I was with my mom,” Van said. “As soon as she started speaking, people would be extremely rude to her. The whole life of our parents, at least in the case of Vietnamese Americans – they take so many risks to come here to give their children a better life, but they didn’t know that a better life meant having their accents, food, and their culture mocked.”
Van said the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes and sentiment has raised a lot of concerns for members of AASA because it is easy for them to see their families in the news stories.
“We share that sadness, and we see that in others,” Van said. “Even though it mostly occurs in big cities, you can’t say it won’t happen here. You never know who’s gonna be in the news next.”
Additional discussions over the shooting:
Another of the issues surrounding the recent shooting is the difficulty of prosecuting hate crimes.
Prosecutors have to be able to definitively prove that attacks were racially motivated in order to qualify them as hate crimes, which means that unless the defendant was explicitly racist during their attack, it most likely will not be prosecuted as a hate crime.
In the Atlanta shooting, the 21-year-old responsible blamed a “sex addiction” as opposed to stating that his attack was racially motivated, causing officials to hold off on labeling the shooting as a hate crime.
The perpetrator’s claimed reasoning has also brought up the issue of the hyper-sexualization of Asian women, which can be traced back over a century.
How can non-Asian students, faculty and staff at SWOSU be allies to the Asian and Asian American communities?
“I think SWOSU does a really good job supporting their students in any way that they can,” Van said. “I think because they already provide support how they can for students, I think what should be done is providing resources for people to address prejudices.”
Van said ways to be an ally include listening to Asian and American peers, comforting them if they need it and to read or listen to information due to the abundance of resources available online.
According to an article from USA Today, other ways people can be allies to racial and ethnic minorities include donating, organizing discussions about the issues at local levels, questioning their privileges, accepting that they will make mistakes and being able to own up to and apologize for those mistakes.
Educational resources and stories from the Asian and Asian American communities:
Almost American Girl: An Illustrated Memoir by Robin Ha - This graphic novel memoir tells Ha’s story of immigrating to America from Korea, struggling to fit in, and how learning to draw helped save her.
Interior Chinatown by Chales Hu - This literary fiction novel is “a deeply personal novel about race, race, pop culture, immigration, and escaping the roles we are supposed to play.”
Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning by Cathy Park Hong - In this book, Hong, a daughter of Korean immigrants, “blends memoir, cultural criticism, and history to expose fresh truths about racialized consciousness in America.”
Sigh Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In by Phuc Tran - “In this memoi
r, (Tran) explores the racism and abuse he faced against the backdrop of the punk rock music and literature that saved him.”
Anti Anti-Asian Socialist Club – Anti Anti-Asian Socialist Club stars writers Douglas Kim and Felicia Ho, and they discuss “Asian American identity, media/entertainment, socialism/politics and millennial existentialism.”
Asian American History 101 - Asian American History 101 educates people about “the vast history of Asian Americans from their contributions to their struggles and triumphs.”
Asian Americana - Asian Americana is “a show about slices of distinctly Asian American culture and history.”
We’re Not All Ninjas - We’re Not All Ninjas is “a movie review podcast focusing on Asian American Representation in Hollywood Films.”