3 Things to Know Column: Stop Anti-Asian Hate
Between March 2020 and March 2022, there were over 11,400 reported hate incidents directed against Asian Americans. Stop AAPI Hate reports that around 20% of these incidents, Asian Americans were blamed for COVID-19, spying for the Chinese Communist Party, or economic distress. Throughout American history, Asian Americans have been scapegoated and subjected to discriminatory treatment. This AAPI month, let’s break down the history of AAPI Hate and what we can do to stop it.
1. America has had a deep, complex history with Asian immigration and discrimination.
The United States has a complex relationship with immigration, and especially Asian immigration. In the mid to late 1800s, the United States received many Asian immigrants to America. As waves of Asian immigrants arrived on U.S. soil, fear fear started to spread. Xenophobic media outlets vilified Asian immigrants and the US Congress passed legislation discriminating against Asian immigrants.The Chinese Exclusion Act, passed in 1882, directly targeted Chinese immigrants by enacting a 10-year ban on Chinese workers. The so-called Gentlemen’s Agreement of 1907 allowed Japanese immigrants (most of whom were men) to bring their wives and families to the United States, in exchange for a guarantee from Japan to limit emigration from Japan. The 1921 Immigration Act and the 1924 Immigration Act enacted severe quotas on migration. These quotas highly disadvantaged Asian Americans, further limiting migration. These acts all played key roles in limiting immigration from Asia to the U.S .
Other policies barred Asian immigrants from the rights of citizenship or from owning property. The Naturalization Act of 1870 ruled that only free, white men could qualify for naturalization of citizenship. The Alien Land Act barred Asian immigrants from owning land. Further discriminatory laws were enacted, such as the anti-miscegenation laws that prohibited Asian immigrants from marrying white American citizens.
The worst instance of discrimination against Asian Americans occurred during World War II. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, xenophobia and resentment against Japanese Americans was at an all time high. In 1942, President FDR signed Executive Order 9066 which called for the forcible removal of over 100,000 Japanese Americans. They were brought to internment camps in remote locations within the United States and were imprisoned for simply having Japanese ancestry. If you’d like to learn more about this important issue, check out last month’s Think Table.
2. The most recent rise of anti-Asian hate came with scapegoating for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Fortunately, the United States has since tried to reckon with his dark history of discriminatory policy against Asian Americans. The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 repealed the harmful quotas set forth by previous legislation. The US also rescinded Executive Order 9066 and created a memorial in recognition of the Japanese Americans who experienced internment. But the pandemic brought a new rise of anti-Asian hatred.
In March 2020, the world stood still. Businesses shut down, schools closed, and everyone was in a state of chaos and uncertainty. As we sat stuck at home, our eyes glued to the television, it became clear that we didn’t know anything about the coronavirus. We tried to learn what we could, and we looked to experts to tell us.
To add to the chaos, harmful rhetoric began to circulate regarding the virus’s origins. Terms such as “kung-flu” and the “the China Virus” began to stick, with our own leadership using these harmful words during official press briefings.
As more people pointed blame towards China, Chinese Americans and Asian Americans in general were targeted. There have been countless reports of Asian Americans experiencing verbal harassment, physical violence, and in some cases, even death. Stop AAPI Hate reported 11,400 hate incidents nationwide aimed at Asian Americans. These included verbal attacks, physical assault, shunning or avoidance, and deliberately being coughed or spat on. Innocent people became the targets of heinous acts simply because of their Asian ancestry.
Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84 year old Thai man, was attacked and died. Noel Quintana, a 61 year old Filipino man, was sitting on the subway when someone slashed his face with a box cutter. Bawi Cung, a Burmese-American father, and his two young children were attacked at knifepoint. Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, Dayou Feng, Delaina Yaun, Paul Michels, Yong Ae Yue, Soon Chung Park, Suncha Kim, and Hyun Jung Grant were all killed and Elcias Hernandez-Ortiz was injured in a shooting in Atlanta. Six of the eight people killed were women of Asian descent. None of these victims deserved such awful treatment.
With the rise in hate incidents and hate crimes across the country, activists and advocacy groups are concerned that the real number of events could be much higher. John C. Yang, the executive director of Asian Americans Advancing Justice, has expressed concern that these crimes may be severely underreported “language and cultural barriers that might prevent them from reporting.”
3. There are concerns that Chinese immigrants could now be scapegoated as China continues to rise as a global hegemon.
In addition to China being the original place where COVID-19 was found, the rise of China as a global economic and military superpower is raising alarm bells among American politicians. From the rise of TikTok to the discovery of the spyballoon in US airspace, politicians view China’s rise on the international stage as a threat to the United States’s security and dominance. As such, many policymakers are focusing their efforts on curbing China’s influence, with significant implications for Chinese individuals.
In 2018, the Trump administration launched The China Initiative through the Department of Justice. The goal of the initiative was to combat “Chinese national security threats” and investigate trade and espionage threats. Civil rights groups and activists raised concerns in the China Initiative’s potential to fuel narratives that Chinese Americans (and Asian Americans in general) engage in espionage on behalf of the Chinese government and are wary that these sentiments could further breed intolerance against Asian American communities. The China Initiative has since been halted in 2022, yet these sentiments have carried on throughout additional legislation.
Earlier this year, at Governor Ron DeSantis urging, the Flordia legislature passed policies to prohibit non-residents from China (in addition to Russia, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, Iran, and Syria) from owning land in Florida. In January, DeSantis expressed interest in preventing Chinese companies and nationals from purchasing property in Florida. In addition, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that he is prepared to pass a bill that would prohibit “citizens, governments and entities” of China, Iran, North Korea, and Russia from owning land, including homes. Abbott also proposed to ban international university students from these countries and to block access to apps including TikTok and WeChat. The ban on WeChat has raised significant concern, as the platform is one of the few ways in which members of the Chinese diaspora may communicate with family in China. These decisions have caused backlash within Chinese American communities for its potential to further discriminatory practices.
Throughout recent history, Asian Americans have been used as scapegoats. In 1982, Vincent Chin was brutally beaten to death by two white men. The attackers had incorrectly thought that Chin, a Chinese-American man, was of Japanese descent. At the time, Japan was experiencing a boom in the automotive industry, and witnesses relayed that the assailants were motivated by their anger towards the loss of American automobile jobs from what they believed to be caused by Japanese imports. Following the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001, the United States witnessed a significant spike in hate crimes against Sikhs, Muslims, and South Asians.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of anti-Asian harassment or violence, please reach out to the following resources to report.
In an emergency, call 9-1-1.
To investigate and enforce hate crimes and bias incidents:
call 202-278-2000 or https://tips.fbi.gov/
To report hate crimes or bias incidents for data collection purposes:
To receive free online bystander intervention training (5D’s of bystander intervention–Distract, Delay, Direct, Document, Delegate):
For resources addressing bullying in the AAPI community:
For mental health resources:
To report violations of federal law that protect against discrimination:
To report complaints of educational discrimination and bullying:
To report discrimination in employment or hiring:
For legal advice and more resources:
Call us at the Asian Pacific American Legal Resource Center at 202-706-7135
email: [email protected]
We offer help with:
Reporting Hate Crimes and Incidents
Crime Victims Compensation
Visas for Crime Victims
Domestic Violence Project
Immigration and Naturalization
Housing and Community Justice
What is a Hate Crime?
A hate crime is a criminal act that is intended to damage property or hurt or intimidate you because of your race, religion, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability. Example: Vandalism or Property Damage, Physical Assault, Arson, Intimidation or Threat
What is a Hate Incident?
Some hate-motivated acts do not rise to the level of a crime but are no less traumatizing. It is important to report hate incidents to the APALRC helpline at 202-706-7135 or [email protected] so we can collect data and direct you to resources to help you. Hate incidents can escalate to violence if we ignore them.