There have been more than 3,800 hate crimes against Asian Americans during the COVID-19 pandemic.
An 84-year-old Thai American Man, Vicha Ratanapakdee, was attacked in broad daylight and died from his injuries. A Filipino American man, Noel Quintana, was riding the New York subway when another passenger slashed Quintana’s face with a box cutter. The other passengers on the train watched, but none came to Quintana’s aid.
Just last Tuesday, eight members of the Asian community were targeted and killed in shootings at three Atlanta-area massage parlors.
Racist rhetoric like calling COVID-19 the “Chinese Virus” or the “Kung Flu” have scapegoated Asian Americans as being the reason for COVID-19. Many Asian Americans are reporting that they are being targeted, called racial slurs, pushed, attacked and spat on. Many anti-Asian hate crimes still go unreported. I can’t help but fear for my life, my family’s life and for the Asian community. Throughout American history and today, we will always be seen as the foreigner, economic competitors, a national threat, and as a virus.
My family came to this nation in search of a better life. They were forced out of their homeland, Vietnam, because of Western colonialism and American war involvement. My parents had to leave their careers, their families, their culture, their language to start a new life with just the clothes on their backs.
They were forced to go to a nation where they and their children were called C—k and Oriental. Told by others that “Your lunch smells disgusting,” “Your English is surprisingly good,” “You look good for an Asian person,” “You need to speak English in this country,” “Where are you really from?”, “Go back to where you came from.”
The American nation built from the forced removal and genocide of Indigenous people, a nation built on the backs of Black people and immigrants, is the same nation of slavery, Trail of Tears, Dred Scott, Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment camps and mass incarceration.
The same nation in the 1850s that allowed white mobs to walk away with no criminal charges as they murdered Chinese immigrants and burnt down Chinatowns because of fear of lost wages in the Gold Rush and coal mining. This is the same nation where, in 1982, two white men mistakenly believed that Vincent Chin was Japanese, blamed him and Japan for the loss of auto jobs and beat Chin to death. The same nation that allowed these two white men to walk away without spending any time in jail.
The nation of people that will happily eat Asian food and culturally appropriate Asian fashion but will ignore the continued violence targeted toward Asian Americans. This is the same nation that tells Asian Americans that if they are obedient, silent and get good grades and jobs, they will be accepted by white America.
But this Model Minority Myth will not save us. Nonetheless, the Model Minority Myth has been historically used as a weapon in order to undermine Black justice. The Model Minority Myth has been used to pit Asian Americans against other marginalized communities in order to divide us so that we don’t unite with one another to address the root cause of racism.
The root cause of these racist ideas and racial inequities stem from America’s founding and continued policies that maintain unemployment, poverty, redlining, gerrymandering and wealth hoarding by a few billionaires and corporations, mass incarceration, police brutality, voter suppression and lack of access to health care, education and housing. These policies that uphold these social inequities were founded on the exploitation of Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC).
Racist ideas and acts stem from people wanting to benefit from and maintain these policies, the status quo. Therefore, politicians, neighbors, our friends, family and even ourselves will scapegoat marginalized groups of people for these social inequities, instead of questioning what policies are in place and who is actually in power.
Justice and liberation cannot be found in the same institutions that terrorize Black, Indigenous and people of color. A hate crime against one community is a hate crime against all of our communities. We must unite and get to the root cause and challenge America’s founding and continued policies and finally put an end to these hate crimes.
Kathy Tran-Peters, Bountiful, works at Salt Lake Community College.