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The Anti-Asian Racism and Violence That Got Us Here, and How to Help Fight Back

Stop Asian Hate.

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - FEBRUARY 20: Protestors hold signs that read "hate is a virus" and "stop Asian hate" at the End The Violence Towards Asians rally in Washington Square Park on February 20, 2021 in New York City. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, violence towards Asian Americans has increased at a much higher rate than previous years. The New York City Police Department (NYPD) reported a 1,900% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. (Photo by Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

For months, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have been sounding the alarm about the horrifying rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and attacks in the U.S. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which former President Donald Trump insisted on calling “the China virus” despite the danger of doing so, hate and violence against the AAPI community has risen exponentially, and now, following what was by all indications a racist rampage aimed towards Asian women in Atlanta, eight people are dead with more injured.

This tragedy is horrifying and frightening, even more so because it is an escalation of a terrifying trend in racist violence, one that was stoked and encouraged by people like the former president who use hate to enflame their political bases with no regard for the human cost. The rise in anti-Asian racism goes back to the start of the pandemic. Before the country even went into lockdown, Senator Diane Feinstein was publicly denouncing the rise in Asian hate. But the media even then continued to associate the coronavirus with images of Asian people. That stopped for the most part as COVID overtook the nation, but for right-wing extremist assholes like Trump and his friends, who didn’t want to admit their own failure to control the virus, Asian people became the scapegoat. And look where we are.

Hours before the attacks in Atlanta, the organization Stop AAPI Hate reported that they had recorded/received reports of 3,795 incidents of anti-Asian racism and hate.

This report came on the heels of a string of attacks on Asian Americans, beginning on January 28th when Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old man from Thailand, was violently pushed while on his morning walk. Ratanapakdee died from his injuries two days later. Following that, more and more incidents continued, with many Asian elders being attacked in public, with clear racist motivations. According to a study by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 cities rose 150% last year. The majority of these attacks have been against women.

At the same time that Asian Americans have been calling for attention to this issue online and in media, the hate has continued. And now, with this horrific tragedy, more are dead, and Asian Americans are left with the feeling that this attack was the inevitable outcome of the rise in violence and the long history of dehumanization and racism towards Asian people in America, even as they spoke out to try to stop it.

What is worse is that for many (truly terrible) people, the murder of Asian women continued to be a joke and an excuse for more dehumanization. This cannot and should not happen, but it does because this is the world racists have built. Victims are ignored and mocked even as the perpetrator of these crimes was taken into custody alive, and will most certainly be the focus of the media narrative in the wake of this terror.

But there are things we all can do to help. The first is to listen to and support the AAPI community in this time, and take steps to learn how to speak up and intervene against this sort of violence. Hollaback! has partnered with Asian Americans Advancing Justice to offer free bystander intervention training as well as offering a de-escalation training online. There are also many organizations to which you can donate. New York Magazine has listed fifty of them here, but let us highlight a few.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta

Red Canary Song:

The Atlanta chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum.

The dismantling of white supremacy and racism is no easy task, but it is something that can be accomplished. It requires us all to work to stand up against hate, unlearn racism, and work in solidarity and support of these communities.

(image: Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images)

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Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.