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By Henrietta J. Burroughs                                           Follow East Palo Alto Today on
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April 30, 2020                                         EPA Today Facebook page Follow epatoday on Twitter EPA Today Blog Icon


Montage showing instances of anti-Asian hate crimes

Courtesy of the Asian American Unity Webinars


When it comes to being the victims of hate crimes, few, if any ethnic groups, are exempt. Nearly 400 participants from across the U.S. took part in an online meeting to address the anti-Asian hate crimes that are increasing throughout the country. Many of these hate crimes are the direct result of the current COVID-19 pandemic and they are aimed specifically at the U.S.’ Asian American and Pacific Islander communities.

According to research conducted by Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, several thousand incidences of xenophobia and racism against Asian Americans occurred between January 28 and February 24 of this year.

The online forum "Stop AAPI Hate," which was launched on March 19, 2020, reported in its April 3, 2020 press release that it had received 1,135 reports in its first two weeks. It also stated that AAPI women are harassed at twice the rate of men, that AAPI children/youth are involved in 6.3% of the incidents and that a significant number of incidents are now taking place in grocery stores, pharmacies and big box retail.” See the complete press release here.

By the third week in April, there were nearly 1,500 reported incidents.

Alarmed by such statistics, the Asian American Unity Coalition (AAUC), Civic Leadership USA (CLUSA) and Ding Ding TV collaborated to host the first Asian American Unity Webinar that the nearly 400 participants attended. The webinar was subtitled AAPI Solidarity Confronting COVID-19 Pandemic and it was held on Saturday, April 25, 2020.

Anthony Le, who is the deputy director of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Institute (APALI) and the first elected Asian American unity coalition president, was the webinar’s moderator. In laying out the seminar’s mission he stated:

“The purpose of the API unity webinar series is to unite our community to make our community visible, to take control of the negative rhetoric and narratives permeating the media that stigmatizes the Asian American community in times of crisis. In today's inaugural seminar or webinar, we are addressing how our community is united to fight this COVID-19 pandemic.”

Le pointed out how the Asian American community was being “marginalized and targeted” and explained that some people, who are currently suffering from the restrictions imposed to curb the spread of the coronavirus, “identified our API community as the scapegoat of all this suffering. Already many recorded and unreported incidents of discrimination, bias and hate are on the rise all around the world. A lot of good deeds have been done by the Asian American communities across the country, but it's hardly reported by the mainstream media.”

In highlighting the good deeds to which Le referred, the seminar’s featured speaker, New York Congresswoman Grace Meng, told the assembled group, “I know that many of you are working today not just to combat the pandemic, but also to combat this longer lasting virus of discrimination. Please know that you are not alone in this fight and I thank you so much for your work.”

Meng said, “Over 2 million API's are working on the frontlines of this pandemic, whether they're in healthcare, law enforcement, as first responders, transportation workers, in our supermarkets and in many other service industries. Seventeen percent are healthcare workers in the U.S. and one in four doctors are immigrants.”

Meng made her remarks while traveling in her car to New York from Washington, D.C., where she had just voted on an interim bill to add more federal funding for small business loans.

She said that she was proud to have introduced a resolution in Congress that condemns anti-Asian sentiment, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.

The resolution -- House Resolution 908, which is championed by Senators Kamala Harris of California and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and other U.S. Congressional Representatives, condemns all forms of anti-Asian sentiment related to COVID-19. See the resolution here.

“We've had over 140 sponsors of this legislation and it calls on all of us as leaders to condemn and denounce this sentiment in any form,” Meng emphasized

Meng’s resolution also calls for federal agencies like the FBI, to work with state and local officials to report, prosecute and bring perpetrators to justice.

Meng told her listeners that she will introduce a new bill called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which will require the Department of Justice to review these types of hate crimes, along with the reports of federal state and local law enforcement agencies, and to submit a monthly report to Congress, including all of the accompanying data. She stated that without the data, it would be hard to truly assess and fix the problem.

Most of the reporting shows that the perpetrators of many of the anti-Asian hate crimes are black or Latino.

Meng said that people of color should stick together.

It's more important than ever, Meng said, in ending her remarks, “that we join hands together to fight back against discrimination and also against this virus….We have a chance to help people become upstanders rather than bystanders.”

Joining hands and working together across racial, ethnic and religious affiliations to end the nation’s disparities was a call that was echoed by Dr. SK Lo, president of the Asian American Unity Coalition (AAUC) and New York City Comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, who had earlier introduced Congresswoman Meng.

Jason Tengco, community outreach and development specialist with CLUSA, shared various resources, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice, Act to Change, and Asian & Pacific Islander American Health Forum (APIAHF) and recommended three key, concrete action steps:

1) Report incidents of hate that one sees. Reports can be made at the Asian American Advancing Justice website.
2) Become a partner organization for Act to Change’s API Day on May 18, to rally against bullying and hatred.
3) Sign up and attend a bystander, intervention training, also organized by Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

At the end, Tengco suggested that everyone could take action by reflecting on three things: what had inspired them in the webinar, what had challenged them and what they are now willing to commit to do in 30 to 90 days. “Leadership happens when you are willing to show up,” he said.

The webinar’s organizers said that they would provide future webinars to which everyone could show up, again. The next one is scheduled for May 23, 2020.

Henrietta J. Burroughs, the author of this article, can be reached at epatoday@epatoday.org