Violence Against asian americans: “Not Just a Spike”

by Lucy Palma ‘23

Currently, you could click on pretty much any news site and see an article having to do in some capacity with a “spike” in violence against Asian Americans. While it is super important that our news outlets and the country are putting some more recognition into a serious situation going on in our country, the language surrounding this violence is wrong. 

 

First of all, this is not just a spike. Hate crimes against Asian Americans did not just magically start happening when the news started to cover them. As stated by English teacher Mr. Yee, “It's not surprising, and it doesn't feel as though it's necessarily different now. It's just noticed.” The rhetoric surrounding these hate crimes is focused on words like “a rise” or “spike,” which allows for the interpretation that the violence against Asian Americans has just become an issue. However, disregarding the fact that there has truly been an increase in violence is also not fair because there truly has been. So as a society, we have to acknowledge that this violence existed previously and understand the history of it, as well as looking and analyzing why there has been more coverage and energy surrounding the acts of violence against Asian Americans. 

 

The history of violence against Asian Americans is long and complicated, and one in which there is a lot of misunderstanding, specifically as to who is who. This misunderstanding is depicted by Mr. Yee, “ I think that the, the biggest problem with regard to AAPI hate or violence is that it's really hard to figure out who we is. And so even with regard to anti-Latino oranti-Hispanic or however you want to categorize that hate, a lot of times, there's at least a lineage back to a common language, even if it's one that is a second generation household or third generation household isn't spoken. There's an understanding that everyone came from speaking the same language in the AAPI community. That's not the case. There are tons of different languages. And not only are there tons of different languages, but there were historically a ton of different ways in which all those people who spoke those different languages, not only were not unified, but were pitted against each other.” People tend to make major generalizations when tackling the hate going on towards the AAPI community, however, those generalizations are actually completely wrong and contributing to the acts of violence against the community as a whole. The hate towards Asian Americans is  generalized and these generalizations contribute to the violence that keeps happening. 

 

Sophomore Jonathan Kho emphasizes that history is important and crucial to understanding impact, “I think to truly understand that the Asian American community has always dealt with these hate crimes, is by looking back in history and adding huge events to the history curriculum such as the Gold Rush, the Transcontinental Railway, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese internment camps in WWII, and many more events. These moments bring light to the struggle and discrimination Asian Americans had to go through throughout American history.” By knowing the history of these hate crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans, it is harder for people to make those major generalizations that contribute to the hate. Mr. Yee agrees on the importance of understanding the past, “the necessary place to start is for the people outside the AAPI community to understand, this is how we got where we are historically.”

 

Kho also touches on an interesting point regarding the history of Asian Americans, referring to the common misconception that they are seen as “the model minority.” This again puts a stereotype on Asian Americans that they are barely a minority, or do not go through the same struggles that other minorities go through. However as stated by Kho, “Asian Americans have always been treated similarly as other people of color.” Now that we know and are aware that this hate has been going on way before the sudden “spike”, what can we do to fix it and help the Asian American community? 

 

Chinese teacher Mr. Lowinger describes the challenge he believes comes with creating a better place for all people in the world , “It is so hard to take a close, hard look at oneself, one’s friends, one’s family; to ask tough questions, and answer them honestly, but perhaps it is the only true way to make progress.” There is a lot that our country and more specifically our community are doing, but there is also a lot more we still need to work on. Specifically, acknowledging that racism towards these groups is real and constant, is important. 

 

Senior Elinor West wants to convey that “the world isn’t just black and white— there’s a multitude of shades of brown being ignored.” When dealing with and trying to help all of the people in our country whose lives are affected by racism every day, we first need to acknowledge where and to who it is happening to.

 

In the past couple of months, Asian American hate and the violence towards Asian  Americans has presented itself in many different ways. There have been actual acts of violence, such as a shooting in Atlanta that killed 6 Asian women, as well as derogatory rhetoric used by people who have the utmost amount of power in our society. All of it is racism, and it needs to be stopped and acknowledged in both the world and our school community. According to West,  the school could definitely do some things better specifically around the school’s advisory programs, acknowledging that “DEIB has rarely addressed Asian hate crimes” and Mr. Yee agrees, “and then if we track back before that [the pandemic], even did the school do enough to make Asian American students feel as though their voices mattered? Probably not.”

 

However, things that the school has been doing positively were also brought to light. Kho believes that the school has been “willing to listen to our experiences with microaggressions and ask us about our feelings about the recent Asian hate crimes.” The importance of allowing voices to be heard and listening to the hardships that Asian American members of our community face is an important step in the right direction. This is a very real situation for many members of our school community and as a community, it is our duty to help them and make our school a safe place. We need to work on both our individual actions and the actions of our school community. 

 

As Mr. Lowinger says “The great Chinese sage Confucius was most preoccupied with the question of how to establish a just society. He created a syllogism, which is not well known in the West, and not super easy to translate with 100% accuracy, but more or less says the following: if you want to establish a just society, first you must establish a just neighborhood. If you want to establish a just neighborhood, first you must establish a just family. If you want to establish a just family, first you must establish a just self.”