This Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, We Must Stand Up to Anti-Asian Hate and Violence

by HRC Staff

Post submitted by Viet Tran (he/him/they/them), former HRC Press Secretary

The history of the API community is one of navigating assimilation, fighting stigma and of longstanding resilience.

May is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and I am taking time to honor the advocates and allies who have driven our movement forward at the intersections of LGBTQ experience and Asian Pacific Islander (API) identities. 

As I honor the rich contributions and narratives of the API community, it’s important to also acknowledge the ongoing challenges and barriers the community still face. From visibility on television and in movies to published works and representation in public office, APIs are still fighting for diverse representation and equality across the board.

The term “Asian American” was first coined by Yuji Ichioka, a historian and civil rights activist, in the 1960s to allow an incredibly diverse and expanding community to coalesce into a self-defining political and social identity as they organized on key civil rights issues and elevated their stories.

The history of the API community is one of navigating assimilation, fighting stigma and of longstanding resilience.

From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, that explicitly barred Chinese American laborers from entering the country, to the unconscionable internment of Japanese American citizens during World War II guided by an idea that Asian Americans are “perpetual foreigners” to the murder of Vincent Chin that ignited a national call to address anti-Asian bias and racial intolerance -- and importantly, propelled Asian Americans into the civil rights movement.

Anti-Asian racism and bias is nothing new to the API community.

And today, as the world navigates an extraordinarily challenging and unprecedented time of a global pandemic, the API community again faces an ongoing rise in COVID-19 motivated racism and violence.

In March 2020, the STOP AAPI HATE reporting center, founded by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council (A3PCON), Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) and San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department, has received almost 1,500 reports of COVID-19 discrimination from Asian Americans across the country within a month. 

For many API people who are also LGBTQ, the impact of COVID-19 is doubled. LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islanders are now facing a two-front battle in response to the pandemic. LGBTQ people are more vulnerable to health risks of COVID-19 and often more likely to work in jobs in highly-affected industries -- with data showing that one in five LGBTQ people currently live in poverty.

Hate has no place in our country and racist and divisive language, such as calling COVID-19 the “Wuhan” or “Chinese” virus only continues to place the Asian Pacific Islander community -- especially immigrants -- at risk of violence and discrimination.

As a community, I’m calling for everyone to stand up against the hate and violence against the Asian Pacific Islander community when we see it arise.

Even in the face of discrimination, exclusion and other barriers, APIs have shared a longstanding history of perseverance. It’s most apparent when I look at the myriad of stories from the community and especially at how they have transformed and continue to shape politics and culture today.

I think of trailblazing leaders like Patsy Mink, who in 1965 was the first woman of color and Asian American woman elected to Congress. Mink paved way for individuals like Mark Takano, the first openly gay person of Asian descent in Congress, and Mazie Hirono, the first female elected senator from Hawaii and the first Asian American woman elected to the Senate.

I look at the landscape of local and state offices today, in journalism and literature, on the screen and down to activists organizing in the streets -- and I see the Patsy Mink’s, Mark Takano’s and Mazie Hirono’s in each fixture of society, trailblazing, pioneering in their roles and constantly pushing for diverse representation and experiences.

They have all made the differences for people like me, and for LGBTQ and API youth everywhere.

Let’s continue to honor the rich contributions and resilience of the API community this month, but let’s also ensure history doesn’t continue to repeat -- we must stand united in divisive moments and continue to push back against racism and intolerance.

For more information about life at the intersections of API and LGBTQ identities, click here. Check out Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Defend Yourself for resources to addressing anti-API hate.