ven though I was born in the U.S. and consider myself American, I was bullied in middle school for being Asian. I was like a banana or Twinkie -- white and Americanized on the inside but with yellow skin and Asian physical features on the outside. Usually bullying stops as kids mature and I have not experienced much racism since my teens. Never did I think I’d be so scared to go outside in the land that I call home during my late 20’s. Just as many other Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) experienced xenophobia in the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, I was spat at and yelled names “corona”, “Chinese virus”, and “Chinese f*cker” while I was walking my dog or going out for a run. The anti-Asian hate crimes have once again increased at the beginning of 2021 with deaths and attacks against vulnerable groups such as the elderly and women: 84-year old Vicha Ratanapakdee was attacked to the ground and died from his injuries; Noel Quintana was slashed across his face for asking the perpetrator to stop kicking his bag; and Asian women were victims of the Atlanta spa shooting spree. There has been a 1,900 percent increase of hate crimes against Asians when comparing the data from 2019 versus the first half of 2020.
President Biden recently signed a Presidential Memorandum to combat racism against the AAPI community, but there are actions on a microlevel for people to help as well. Examples include volunteers walking seniors in Oakland, CA or people standing guard at night to protect their neighbors in Orange County, CA Bystanders can speak out or report hate crime incidents. Friends can check in with their AAPI peers and continue to bring awareness on social media. Colleagues can advocate for awareness in the workplace. People can speak with elected officials to find ways to diminish racism. In the end, standing in solidarity is not just about doing so with the AAPI community. It is for all People of Color (POC) so we can get closer to ending racial discrimination, injustices, and inequality.
While living in unprecedented times, I hope everyone counts their blessings and recognizes the sacrifices made by POC and how they helped with the progression of the U.S. Examples of Asian contribution include but are not limited to:
- Chinese workers who built the transcontinental railroads, Filipino farmers who provided cheap labor, and Japanese immigrants who worked in sugar cane fields
- The rise of popularity in Asian cuisine -- Taiwanese boba, Japanese sushi, Filipino adobo, Korean BBQ, Vietnamese banh mi
- The enjoyment of entertainment -- Kpop, Kdramas, anime, and mangas
- Popular and affordable products -- Japanese cars, “made in China” products, Korean technology (e.g. Samsung components are in smartphones)
- Asian beauty and health practices such as herbal medicine and Chinese acupuncture
I hope people humanize the struggles of POC who have battled racial discrimination throughout history when all they wanted was to build a better life and be treated with respect. With this, I hope that the strength of the hardworking Ox which signifies movement, bring movements of positive changes for everyone and prosperity to everyone for the rest of 2021.