Thegrainy security camera footageis shocking.
The old man walking on Oakland Street in Chinatown’s Chinatown never sees his attacker, a man who throws him to the ground with brutal force and walks away. Video of the attack on the 91-year-old, recorded on January 31, has become the most recent evidence of a wave ofhate crimesagainst Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Now the activists have had enough.
It’s been a long time coming. Hollywood stars have started speaking out against racist violenceat the start of the pandemic. In the middle of summerStop the hate AAPI, an alliance of three organizations serving AAPI communities, began documenting incidents. They quickly discovered that bullying, assault, and verbal abuse were “becoming the norm” in the United States. In September it seemed thatone in four young adults of Asian originhad been the victim of intimidation or harassment.
After posting an award encouraging anyone with information about the suspect in the recent Oakland case to come forward, Kim took to Instagram. “The number of hate crimes against Asian Americans continues to skyrocket, despite our repeated calls for help. Crimes are too often ignored and even excused. … #Enough is enough.”
The recent political cycle is partly to blame.
Analysis by Stop AAPI Hatefound that one in ten tweets about Asian Americans contained racist or stigmatizing language related to China in the months leading up to the 2020 election. Almost 40% blamed China for the pandemic. Tweets have become a widespread campaign staple. “Research suggests that President Donald Trump, whose racist or stigmatizing tweets by far have the most reach and have been retweeted 1,213,700 times and liked 4,276,200 times, is the biggest broadcaster among politicians of anti rhetoric. -American Asian linked to the pandemic. ”
On January 26, President Biden signed four executive orders aimed at addressing inequality and systemic racism, including one that gives the Department of Justice a mandate and resources to track hate crimes against Asian Americans. “This is unacceptable, and it is not American,” he said,referring specificallyto the increase in xenophobic attacks.
“I think President Trump created a framework of permission that it was okay to be casually racist towards Asian Americans and people of Asian descent,” the Aspen Institute said.Eric Liu told NPR. “President Biden, just by changing his tone, simply by refusing to speak in this way, makes a big difference.”
But “changing the tone” will be a big lift.
In 2017, Frank Guan wrote a premonitory article titled “The model minority in the Trump eraWhich helped shed light on the historical elements of bigotry and resentment that reignited attacks on AAPIs long before COVID-19 hit. “Things won’t be any easier for Asian Americans, as anyone who paid attention to the candidate and now President Trump’s campaign rhetoric will attest,” Guan said. “The language of yellow peril has returned, with a vengeance: Asians, the Chinese in particular, are ‘violating our economy’ and ‘stealing our jobs’.” Stirring up resentment against a rising China continues to be a legitimate political strategy. “If America is no longer great and America is never to blame, then another nefarious must be responsible,” he said. “Asians in America remain a small and vulnerable population, and are promising scapegoats.”
While the man responsible for the Chinatown attack has been arrested, the violence continues. Maybe it’s time to see it as an allied emergency: targeting and blaming an entire demographic never ends well. Say something early and often. While executive orders are a good place to start, changing the tone will require everyone to sing the same song.