May 26, 2021
The biggest motivator for hate is fear, and the American people are in constant fear of the unknown. This fear transforms into hate against anybody they perceive as being unlike them.
The current scapegoat in the United States is the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. An analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism revealed that while hate crimes decreased by 7 percent in 2020, those targeting Asian people rose by 149 percent. Now, to say the hate that the AAPI community is facing is something new would do a disservice to that community and be a misrepresentation of history.
There has been a long history of anti-Asian prejudice and discrimination in the United States. First came the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 followed by school segregation targeted at children of Chinese descent. Even though Chinese-American immigrants were the reason for the success of the Transcontinental Railroad, they were still discriminated against and were not allowed to pursue most career opportunities.
Soon after the attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, the American government rounded up all Japanese Americans living on the West Coast and held them in internment camps for over three years. They lost their homes, possessions and jobs due to a tidal wave of racial prejudice and wartime hysteria that affected the entire country.
Americans pride themselves on providing equal opportunities and the possibility to achieve the American Dream, but these aspirations seem to be taken away anytime someone who does not look the same or speak the same language is put under any scrutiny for a litany of reasons. The latest recurrence of anti-AAPI hate is a direct result of labeling the coronavirus the “Chinese Virus” or blaming the pandemic on “bat soup” in China. It does not help that this sentiment was promoted and encouraged by elected officials in the United States.
While it is common sense, and it takes nothing more than a quick Google search to debunk any theories that the Chinese caused the coronavirus, some people simply latched onto the idea because they preferred to have a scapegoat. Older generations, in particular, simply accepted that narrative because it is easier to spread hate than deal with uncertainty. While Gen Z is more accepting of new ideas and is more outspoken against hateful rhetoric targeting minorities, there are still members of Gen Z who have gotten stuck in this epidemic of hate.
There is no justification for hate. Normalizing hate against one minority will simply normalize hate towards all minorities.
The media is to blame as well. While some news organizations have helped spread awareness of the ongoing violence and hate towards the AAPI community, social media can be both helpful and dangerous when it comes to issues of racism and bigotry. On the one hand, it offers the AAPI community a platform to speak out about what they are experiencing. It allows people to raise awareness, sign petitions and plan peaceful protests. On the other hand, it creates a megaphone that allows those who have succumbed to the power of hate to spread more hate. They are also given a platform to spread racist and harmful ideology.
Movies and TV shows still showcase Asian characters in a stereotypical manner. Asian women are constantly being hyper-sexualized and depicted as submissive and demure. Asian men are generally depicted as being very smart, socially awkward and academically oriented. This can also be said about depictions of Asian women in the instances when they are not being hypersexualized. None of these stereotypes truly reflect Asian Americans because, like all races and ethnicities, no two people are the same. Stereotypes oversimplify and minimize people rather than uplifting them as multifaceted individuals.
The model minority myth harms the AAPI community. The persistent stereotype paints the AAPI community as successful and problem-free in contrast to other minority groups. It allows stereotypes and racial comments that are used to put down Asian Americans to be overlooked. Because people are not held accountable when using derogatory words to describe the AAPI community, the struggles the community faces are discredited and dismissed. It is of utmost importance to destroy any trace of the model minority sentiment because hiding AAPI hate only encourages it to grow.
While the AAPI community faces the threat of physical harm due to the violent nature of the ongoing attacks in the United States, not many people seem to have considered the emotional turmoil and mental effect that words and attacks have. Prejudice and discrimination cause businesses to fail and mental health to decline, which ultimately hurts a myriad of people. When AAPI businesses are targeted, the American economy as a whole suffers. Furthermore, not hiring Asian Americans for jobs leads to a more homogenous workforce that negatively impacts the country in the long run.
Furthermore, children imitate what their parents do. Kids who see their parents acting out of hate will start bullying their Asian American classmates, which will emotionally harm both the victim and the bully. Asian Americans will consequently become more depressed and anxious, feeling unwelcome. They will try even harder to assimilate and abandon their cultural traditions that enrich American society. They will become more insecure and unsure of themselves. They are human beings and should be treated as such. They should not be discriminated against because they too have a right to live the way they want to live in the United States, free of the fear of prejudice and discrimination.
President Joe Biden is to be commended for his support of the anti-Asian hate crime bill known as the Covid-19 Hate Crimes Act. The bill, which Biden signed into law on May 20, was drafted in response to the alarming rise in violence against Asian Americans during the pandemic. The purpose of the legislation is to expedite the review of pandemic-related hate crimes. The legislation, whose passage coincides with AAPI Heritage Month, makes grants available in order to help law enforcement and improve the reporting of bias-driven incidents. It is a necessary step in the effort to stop the racism and discrimination plaguing the United States.
EDITORIAL CARTOON BY ANDREW PALMA
There is no justification for hate. Normalizing hate against one minority will simply normalize hate towards all minorities. As Martin Luther King said in the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” on April 26, 1963, “Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
Hate in America is not new, but that does not make it okay. People deserve to live their lives without having to fear retaliation. Spreading awareness and fighting against anti-Asian American hate helps everyone in the long run and is simply the moral and human thing to do.