Hundreds of New Yorkers joined AAF at Foley Square in New York to speak out against the anti-Asian violence | Photo via Asian American Foundation
America’s long history of hatred and violence against Asians reared its ugly head once again. In the recent tragedy in Atlanta, eight women, six of them Asian, were massacred by a racism-motivated white man wielding a weapon of war that he had just bought.
The killings marked the dreadful pandemic year as one of intense and misplaced anti-Asian racism in the U.S. According to an advocacy group, Stop AAPI Hate, there have been more than 500 hate crimes reported involving discrimination and violence targeted at Asian people in the past year alone. Many more had not been registered. A coalition of civil rights groups estimated more than 2,100 incidents.
In Midland, Texas, an Asian family, including two young children, was stabbed at a Sam’s. The assailant was captured and said he stabbed them because he thought they were spreading coronavirus. The Asian family was not even Chinese.
A Filipina nurse tearfully reported that after working 18 hours straight in a hospital’s emergency room, she stopped at a grocery store to buy some essentials. A couple of old ladies greeted her, shouting anti-Asian slurs. The Filipina nurse is fair-skinned with Chinese facial features.
Closer to home, a diminutive 77-year-old Filipina who is a charter board member of the Philippine-American Chamber of Commerce in North Texas was denied service at a local Q.T. grocery store given a dirty look by the clerk who was mumbling racist words. The feisty senior citizen who is a martial-arts aficionada held her ground and was ready for anything untoward. Her burly and outspoken American husband confronted the clerk and firmly put him in his place. Meanwhile, a story went viral about a 75-year-old Chinese woman in San Francisco who fought back and sent her assailant to the hospital.
Stories circulated New Year 2021, some captured on video, about elderly Filipinos and other Asians assaulted on San Francisco and New York streets. A 91-year-old Thai retiree in Oakland was attacked during his morning walk and killed. A stranger with a knife slashed a 61-year-old Filipino’across his face while riding the New York City subway on his way to work. All for no reason except a mistaken belief — the Chinese brought COVID-19 to the U.S.! It didn’t matter that many of those assaulted were not even Chinese.
Is this American enough?
It also didn’t matter if the anti-Asian hatred victims were born and raised in the U.S. and served heroically in the military. Last night, CNN showed 78-year-old Lee Wong, a veteran and Purple Heart recipient who came to the U.S. as a child, giving an impassioned speech in a town hall meeting. He tearfully shared that when people looked at him with accusing eyes, he told them he is an American. And some would say, “You are not American enough; you are not patriotic enough!” So, at the town hall meeting, he took off his shirt and showed everyone the scars that covered his entire body caused by six enemy bullets that pierced his body during the Vietnam War. And he declared: “Is this American enough?” “Is this patriotic enough?”
“Asian-Americans do not deserve the xenophobic and bigoted attacks against them spiking in America, falsely attributing to them the origin and meteoric spread of coronavirus. Asian-Americans are also victims of the pandemic.”
Asian-Americans do not deserve the xenophobic and bigoted attacks against them spiking in America, falsely attributing to them the origin and meteoric spread of coronavirus. Asian-Americans are also victims of the pandemic. And hundreds of thousands of Asian American medical professionals and hospital workers who risk their own lives saving COVID-19 victims are heroes who deserve to be thanked and congratulated, not hated.
National politicians added gasoline to the fire
Former President Donald Trump’s incendiary rhetoric exacerbated the current surge in Anti-Asian hate crimes. He had continued to refer to COVID-19 as the “China Virus” or “Kung Flu,” blaming China for the pandemic. He could be correct. But, when he branded the pandemic as the “Chinese virus,” and the racism-prone U.S. Sen. Ron Johnson called it the “Asian pandemic,” the unintended consequence was suddenly xenophobic hysteria against Chinese and Chinese-looking Americans of Asian descent through the nation. Asian-Americans, including those born and raised in the U.S., were harassed, coughed and spat on, bullied, blocked from entering grocery stores, told to “go home,” even physically assaulted, and some killed. While a 57 percent majority of Americans describe the COVID-19 pandemic as a natural disaster, 43 percent believe some groups are responsible.
This unfortunate choice of words by our national leaders followed a long American history of using diseases to justify anti-Asian xenophobia – one that has helped to shape the perception of Asian Americans as “perpetual foreigners.” There’s a clear correlation between former President Trump’s incendiary comments and the subsequent hate speech spread on social media and the hate violence towards us, says Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate and professor of Asian American Studies at SFSU. AAPI, the Coalition of Asian Chambers of Commerce, Asia Societies, the Anti-Defamation League, and many other anti-minority discrimination advocacy groups have banded together to support their elected officials to fight the anti-Asian bias and hate. The mayors of Austin and Houston have formed special Task Forces and elevated police presence in Asian communities. A Covid-19 Hate Crime Bill has been introduced in Congress to protect the beleaguered communities. President Joe Biden has sought to undo the damage wrought by his predecessor. Shortly after taking office in January, he signed an Executive Order denouncing anti-Asian discrimination. During a March 11 speech on the anniversary of the COVID-19 pandemic, he said that hate crimes against Asian Americans are “un-American” and they “must stop!”
The “Model Silent Minority Community,” discriminated for a century, now lives in fear
There are 575,000 Asian businesses in the U.S. that feel threatened. The scapegoating is reminiscent of old racist tropes that led to the discrimination of Asian immigrants in the U.S. From the quarantining of San Francisco’s Chinatown during the bubonic plague of the 1900s to Japanese Americans’ rounding up in internment camps during WWII to the traditional discrimination in visa quota allocation against Asians.
Historically, it did not help hardworking Asians. They have been the subject of scorn and jealousy as America’s “silent model minority community.” They have the highest per capita income and the highest education level in the U.S. among immigrant groups and the most negligible chances of getting into trouble with the law.
“Unbeknownst to many mainstream Americans, especially the younger generations, Asian-Americans have played a significant role in building this country and its supremacy as the most economically powerful nation on earth. Notable Americans of Asian descent have been responsible for the country’s global leadership in high technology and modern sciences.”
Asian-Americans are builders, not destroyers
A former President of the United States once said that if Asian-American doctors and nurses (particularly Filipinos, Indians, Chinese, and Korean) would leave the country, the entire American health system will collapse.
Unbeknownst to many mainstream Americans, especially the younger generations, Asian-Americans have played a significant role in building this country and its supremacy as the most economically powerful nation on earth. Notable Americans of Asian descent have been responsible for the country’s global leadership in high technology and modern sciences. Among these are the Asian-American CEOs or co-founders of Fortune 500 companies such as Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Master Card, YouTube, Hotmail, NVidia, FitBit, Adobe, and Pepsico. It was also an Asian-American scientist who discovered the cure for the Ebola virus and is busy working on a potential medicine for COVID-19.
Asian Americans are typically soft-spoken and humble to a fault. The many thousands of Asian medical professionals will never flaunt their sacrifices as front-liners and willing warriors in the war against the deadly coronavirus. And the Asian business and technical professionals such as engineers, scientists, architects, accountants, educators, and others are low-keyed as they lead the technology revolution in the country. Instead of being shunned and mistreated by clueless and ungrateful society segments, they should all be applauded and thanked. It is wrong to curb the immigration of these skilled and talented professionals. America must continue to be open to Asian immigration, especially the highly-skilled professionals. America and all of us will be better for it.
About the Author: Gus Mercado is a 40-year resident of Texas and a well-known Fil-Am business and civic leader in Dallas, Texas. He founded the popular Filipino Leaders Coalition of North Texas (FILCON). He is a recipient of the Presidential BANAAG award for outstanding community service. Reactions to this article may be sent to email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this column belong solely to the author and do not represent the views of the Philippine Daily Mirror. We reserve the right to exclude comments submitted in response to this article, which is inconsistent with our editorial standards.