In the past few months, there has been an alarming increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans, with around 3,800 incidents being reported between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, according to NBC News.
In the past three to four months alone, Stop AAPI Hate received 503 reports of hate crimes against Asians. But racism and erasure of Asian experiences and stories have existed long before this; very rarely do we learn about Asian history and the history of prejudice that has existed against Asians for a long time. We do not learn much about the Japanese internment camps that existed in the U.S. — including one in Santa Fe. We do not hear about the various anti-Asian immigration laws that have existed during various periods in U.S. history or other instances of hate that are often swept under the rug.
While I am Indian, I do not want to speak for the beliefs, values and experiences of the entire Asian community; the continent alone is home to nearly 60 percent of the global population and, consequently, houses an incredibly diverse range of cultures, religions, languages and skin tones. Roughly 2,300 languages are spoken across the continent, and it is the birthplace of almost every major religion, including Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Each person has their own experiences and perspectives, and all are equally important and valuable.
Instances of hate and erasure emphasize to me the importance of Asian representation — not only in movies, books and television, but also in history books, in positions of authority, in discussions of racial equality, and other platforms and areas everywhere. Because with this lack of representation, misleading and harmful stereotypes can take root, and the consequences are incredibly harmful — not only to Asians but to other groups as well.
The model minority stereotype, for example, often portrays Asians as the optimal immigrants to the United States, citing high income, higher levels of achievement, and other often misleading or misdirected factors. This leads to erasure of groups and individuals of Asian descent who live in poverty, and it often harmfully impacts and divides other minority groups. While it is important to recognize the successes and contributions of Asians, it shouldn’t be done in a way that undermines and negatively impacts others.
Another example that has manifested in recent months is the way some Asians are falsely associated with COVID-19; perhaps this is because the coronavirus that causes the disease has been referred to as the “Chinese virus,” even by people as impactful as the former president of the United States. And though some may argue that this is not the first instance of a virus being named after a location — the Spanish flu and West Nile Virus are a few examples — a 2015 article by the World Health Organization recognized the potential racism and prejudice that could emerge from such naming conventions, recommending the use of more general names instead.
And though something as small as names may not seem to matter, recent events have shown just how important these things are. Many Asians are forced to stay at home more often for fear of being attacked or abused in public. Since quarantine began, crimes against Asians have reached new highs.
That’s why it’s more important than ever that we fight Asian hate, whether this be by donating to organizations, signing petitions or raising awareness — awareness about existing forms of racism, awareness about harmful stereotypes and awareness about what can be done. And while this racism and anti-Asian sentiment has long existed across the world, these actions are important steps toward addressing and discussing what can be done to eliminate such harmful behavior.