An alarming rise of anti-Asian violence has seemingly entrenched itself across the country. The Asian and Pacific American community has experienced a significant rise of physical and verbal assaults, leaving the community reeling with the even higher levels of cruel manifestations of discrimination, prejudice, white supremacy, xenophobia and racism.
According to StopAAPIHate, over 3,700 anti-Asian incidents have been reported since March 2020. From the vicious attack of a 65-year-old Filipino woman in New York to the Georgia shooting where six Asian women were killed, the APA community has endured malicious, senseless attacks. An analysis released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University in San Bernardino found that anti-APA hate crimes rose by nearly 150%.
At the start of the pandemic, the FBI warned of a potential surge in anti-Asian hate crimes amid the coronavirus outbreak, fueled by Trump’s infamous reference of the coronavirus as the “Chinese virus” or “kung flu.” A year later, we continue to see a disturbing number of anti-Asian incidents.
As a response to the Atlanta shooting, Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David issued a statement assuring the APA community of HRC’s stance of solidarity.
“For Asian and Pacific American communities who hold multiple marginalized identities, discrimination and its consequences can be even more severe,” stated David.
“We cannot ignore the deadly homophobia, biphobia and transphobia too many APA people face,” David said. “We also cannot ignore that APA immigrants’ safety and inclusion remain under constant attack in this country. For APA people living at the intersections, they are facing a multi-fronted battle to live their lives openly and safely. We cannot and should not be silent or stand by.”
HRC has been meeting the challenge to identify ways of combating the multiple avenues of oppression and discrimination while amplifying the bold resilience of the APA community. To address the alarming rise of anti-Asian hate, HRC has ramped up efforts to lift up APA staff members and create space for their concerns to be voiced.
“We are being called upon to show up in allyship, support and action, not just in this moment of acute crisis, but in the acknowledgment that this moment is a product of decades of anti-Asian racism and discrimination that is too often minimized or erased by the damaging and pervasive perception of a monolithic Asian and Pacific American community,” said Nicole Cozier, senior vice president for HRC’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion program.
Acknowledging that the distress is compounded when identifying as both LGBTQ and APA, HRC initiated wide organizational efforts to connect with its APA staff and volunteers. These structured connections identified methods of addressing the rise of anti-APA hate and xenophobia while uplifting APA voices.
The connections yielded insightful and frank responses, an acumen to the actual experiences and concerns of the LGBTQ APA community. Folks were primarily concerned with the perpetuation of hate and discrimination facilitated by inaction.
To leverage 40 years of advocacy work for the LGBTQ community to help combat anti-APA hate on the ground level, HRC established coalitions with community-based, APA-led organizations such as the National Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance.
“[HRC is] making sure that we’re honoring the work of organizations and people that have been fighting for Asian American equality and equity for a long time,” said Rashika Pedris, HRC’s senior communities and volunteer relations manager. “We’re encouraging our community partners, our nationwide network of volunteers and members — to do the internal work of anti-racism and education and then follow that up with action and relational leadership in their communities.”
During Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month, HRC developed the AAPI Out Loud video campaign to highlight APA spoken word artists who built awareness of the current violent climate and widen the visibility of APA voices. Additionally, HRC also strategically partnered with graphic designer Meg Emiko, an Asian- American non-binary artist whose artwork was spotlighted during the month of May and is featured throughout this issue of Equality magazine.
Furthermore, HRC developed a robust campaign to celebrate Asian and Pacific American Heritage Month to include a video of the personal coming out experiences of APA folks. Additionally, HRC published a blog post on the shared lived experiences of two of its Youth Ambassadors who identify as APA, speaking directly to young LGBTQ APA people about how their identities empowered them and on combating anti-Asian hate.
HRC also designates virtual spaces for community engagement and conversation, including various diversity and inclusion trainings designed to encourage self and professional development. HRC President Alphonso David has also continued to publicly call for an end to anti-APA violence, including in staff emails and correspondence. HRC also also publicly supported legislation which combats blatant anti-APA discrimination.
On May 20, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act — which includes the Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act, promoting better hate crimes data collection as well as a more informed approach to hate crimes prevention at the federal, state and local levels — into law.
“HRC urged Congress to pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which will help prioritize and expedite investigations of possible anti-APA hate crimes,” said David Stacy, HRC’s director of government affairs.
As HRC continues to fight for both the LGBTQ and APA community, the organization acknowledges the work that lies ahead in ensuring a more progressive and equitable future for all. It is through mobilizing our volunteers and supporters that action is made.
At the end of the day, a portion of the work lies in personal efforts, ordinary people making extraordinary strides to ensure change is taking place.
“People should take the time to build authentic relationships with Asian Americans and members of other marginalized communities,” said Pedris. “They should take on the work of educating themselves about Asian American cultures and experiences, while not burdening oppressed communities with having to teach and provide all of the solutions to our society's issues of discrimination, violence and institutional racism.”
For more information on HRC’s efforts to lift up voices from APA folks and other communities, visit hrc.im/APAOutLoud.