HOUSTON, US – Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the US continue to plague communities across the country, prompting the Biden administration to take action.
The latest high-profile hate crime took place in the state of Indiana on Jan. 11, when an 18-year-old Indiana University student of Asian descent was stabbed repeatedly in the head on a city bus because of her race.
According to the criminal complaint, the suspect, Billie Davis, 56, who is white, started stabbing the victim in the head with a folding knife as she exited the bus. Davis allegedly told investigators that she stabbed the victim because she was Chinese, saying “it would be one less person to blow up our country.”
Davis has been charged with attempted murder, aggravated battery and battery by means of a deadly weapon.
“This terrifying confrontation is a continuation of a soaring national crisis: anti-Asian racism intensified by the Covid-19 pandemic and rising US-China tensions,” said the Indiana Chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum in a statement, emphasizing that this “is not an isolated event. AAPIs across the country have found themselves in the crosshairs of racial harassment, discrimination, vandalism, and violence.”
“There is fear. Because that could be any of us,” said Rogene Gee Calvert with the nonprofit AAPI advocacy group OCA-Greater Houston.
“I could be sitting in a bus or sitting anywhere and somebody could come up and do something violent to me because they’re angry. It doesn’t matter where we are, who we are or what we’re doing, but if people have been indoctrinated to believing that we are here to do something wrong, then they will equate whoever they see as Asian as being those people they hate, whether it’s an authoritarian government or country. Their mentality is that we hate those people because we hate those governments.”
“I fear the ‘normalization’ of this racial hate and how it has manifested itself through violence,” she continued. “This has become so prevalent in the last five or six years because of the political climate created by the former president (Donald Trump) in which he encouraged and allowed this contempt and hatred to be voiced and accepted.”
Calvert pointed out the alarming number of AAPI hate incidents across the country since 2020, citing the online database Stop AAPI Hate.
“Since it was first established on March 19, 2020, 11,500 cases have been reported through March 31, 2022,” she said. “Granted, there has been anti-Asian hate and rhetoric since Asians first came to this country during the gold rush and the building of the transcontinental railroad.”
Calvert, who is also a member of the US Commission on Civil Rights Texas, told Anadolu that social media has also contributed to enabling this “hateful rhetoric to be communicated widely and anonymously.”
“Usually people cannot differentiate among the various Asian ethnicities, so we are all clumped together, and whatever animosity there might be for a specific country or government, there is the inability for the average person to know how to tell the difference between people from those countries or descendants from those ethnicities,” said Calvert.
“Plus, Asians will always be considered ‘foreigners’ because of our distinctive and different physical look, no matter how many generations we have been American citizens.”
Another high-profile hate crime happened in San Francisco on Jan. 8, where a 78-year-old Asian man walking on the sidewalk was blindsided by an unknown man and violently shoved to the ground as the suspect ran off. It’s one of many hate incidents that have happened randomly across the country to unsuspecting victims of Asian descent.
“It is frightening and sad,” said Calvert. “That someone is so full of hate and anger to deliberately cross the street to attack an elderly individual who is obviously helpless, walking with a cane. What did happen was frightening to anyone walking the public streets.”
More than 60 percent of Asian Americans said ongoing violence against the AAPI community has negatively impacted their fear of racial discrimination, according to a survey released on Jan. 19 by the global nonprofit think tank Coqual.
“We are ‘walking targets,’ in a way, as we go along our daily lives,” emphasized Calvert. “As this anti-Asian hate sentiment continues and possibly grows, people might feel they can react and commit actions that they might not otherwise think they would do because they see them happening more around them and accepting them as being OK.”
The survey also pointed out that 63 percent of Asian Americans said the ongoing Asian hate has negatively impacted their mental health.
“It is worse with Asians because we do not naturally understand or accept the Western concept of mental versus physical health. We look at health more holistically so that we might not differentiate a stomach ache caused from stress from one caused by bad food,” explained Calvert. “Asians are generally stoic and are taught not to open or share their feelings. So culturally, we are inhibited in facing mental health issues.”
More than 60 percent of respondents said that AAPI hate and discrimination have also impacted how safe they feel in the workplace.
“I believe there are Asians who feel unsafe and unwelcomed in their workplace,” said Calvert. “There is implicit bias against them from their fellow employees because they may speak with an accent (or) may not be aware of or know how to play politics or follow cultural norms. Asians who might feel these pressures and unfairness often do not know who to turn to or how to handle these situations. They feel like ‘prisoners’ in their jobs. Asians are known for their diligence and work ethic so that any negative impact affecting work can be very disturbing and stressful.”
Calvert said the appalling trend of increased AAPI hate over the past several years has impacted the way Asian American and Pacific Islanders feel about their overall safety in the US.
“I believe that more Asians fear racial discrimination and hate crimes now than in the past, partly because there is more awareness about such crimes taking place and they seem to be more vicious or at least we hear about those that are more newsworthy,” she continued. “Also, the political climate has gotten very aggressive and outspoken against authoritarian Asian countries and governments such as China and North Korea.”
In response to the racially-motivated Indiana University attack, the White House last week announced a multi-agency strategy to help combat anti-Asian American hate, promote language access and improve governmental data collection for the Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander communities.
The White House advisory group detailed its main priorities for the AAPI community including combating anti-Asian hate and discrimination, data disaggregation, language access, equitable inclusion in Covid-19 response and recovery efforts, capacity building such as access to grants and federal contracts, increasing federal workforce diversity and outreach and engagement with AAPI communities.
“I personally know the important role the federal government plays in our everyday lives in advancing equity, justice, and opportunity for our diverse communities,” said advisory committee member and award-winning Asian American actor Daniel Dae Kim, known for his roles in the television series Hawaii Five-O and Lost.
Calvert agreed, reemphasizing that President Joe Biden’s administration has taken many steps to support the AAPI community on many different levels.
“It makes me feel very confident in my own government that they care because it could be so easy to ignore this,” she said. “For President Biden and the White House to single out the AAPI community and to put significant resources into protecting us is a wonderful way to say that we are important and that we matter.”
“They’re not sitting on the sidelines anymore,” Calvert continued. “They’re taking action and giving us representation so our voices will be heard.” (Anadolu)