Videos of shocking street attacks. Shouted insults from politicians. Slanderous graffiti scribbled on the facade of businesses.
Over the past year, Asian Americans have warned of the mounting discrimination they have witnessed and witnessed, in part due to former President Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric and false statements by him and other officials about the coronavirus.
Celebrities, activists and influencers on social media have asked people to fight hatred against Asian Americans in the Pacific Islands.
Then came the massacre of eight people shot in Georgia, including six women of Asian origin.
Amid fear, grief, and pain, the murder sparked another emotion in some Asian Americans: outrage over the country’s longstanding inability to take discrimination seriously. versus.
Some scholars and activists said Tuesday’s massacre came as no surprise after years officials and popular culture downplayed the dangers of anti-Asian prejudice and stereotypes.
Although Asian Americans and other minorities have had a long history of deadly violence, the threats and discrimination they continue to face are often overlooked and viewed as nothing more than abuse. harmless insults.
In many cases, some say, people are reluctant to even acknowledge that attacks on Asian Americans can be racially motivated. It happened on Wednesday when a law enforcement officer in Georgia apparently dismissed racial prejudice as the motivation for the massacre.
Instead, the suspect Robert Aaron Long, who is white, had “a very bad day”. The official quoted Long’s statement that his motivation was sexual coercion and not racism.
According to experts, even if anti-Asian violence is recognized as such, it is sometimes downplayed, viewed as nothing more than an isolated incident, and is not an integral part of the history of Asian Americans.
“There is a tendency not to believe that violence against Asian Americans is real,” said Angela Hsu, 52, from suburban Atlanta. “It’s almost like it takes something really, really brutal to make people believe that people of Asian origin are being discriminated against.”
Activists say without a better understanding of the dangers Asian Americans face and without accepting that they are real, it is difficult to mobilize a national campaign involving the police, justice, media and the public. – fight against racism against people of Asian origin.
Many now hope that the tragedy in Georgia will lead to a firmer and more tangible effort to combat hatred against their communities.
Angela Hsu, chair of the Georgia Association of Asian and Pacific Lawyers, for example, urged investigators to examine Skeptic’s claim that the massacre was motivated by sexual coercion with skepticism.
“The truth can be a lot more complicated,” she said, adding that it was important to identify the role that the racial problem may have played. “This is an opportunity to discuss the bigger problem that is not being discussed adequately.”
The perception of anti-Asian discrimination is influenced by complex factors. What it means to be Asian-American is very different. This population includes people whose families have lived in the United States for generations, and people from dozens of countries and in many different circumstances, including as refugees.
They have varying levels of English tuition and fluency, and they may find themselves in different places in the US political spectrum, sometimes depending on the topic at hand. Some of them, especially first generation immigrants, are less likely to report racism. Your children may be more likely to keep their mouths shut on the paper clip.
Many people in America don’t know the history of Asian Americans, which isn’t taught enough in schools, said Erika Lee, professor of history and American studies. Asian at the University of Minnesota. Few people know, for example, of the lynching of 18 Chinese in Los Angeles in 1871 or the violent return of Chinese by an angry mob to Seattle in 1886.
“I can’t even tell the number of times, even after many years of teaching, I’ve heard my students say in class, ‘I didn’t know this happened,” she said.
There is also the stereotype that all people of Asian descent are economically and educationally successful, which can only lead to the false assumption that the discrimination they face need not be so severe.
It is true that some of the Asian Americans who experience the worst of violence are socially and economically marginalized people. They tend to be invisible to much of society. That fact only fuels the widespread neglect of anti-Asian violence, said Chris J. Lee, 33, founder of Plan A Magazine’s website, which covers United States culture and politics. Asian origin.
“The kind of people who are murdered, like people who work in massage parlors, or older Asians who make a living picking up cans – none of us really know them,” he said. .
The marginalization of Asian Americans has deep roots.
Chinese immigrants who built railroads and worked in gold mining in the 19th century were sent to the Chinatowns of San Francisco and other cities, rejected by financial institutions, and often abandoned to survive from their own efforts.
Further immigration from China was limited by the Chinese Exclusion Law of 1882, the first immigration law to target working-class immigrants from a particular country. It was followed by the most restrictive immigration law in the country’s history in 1917, banning immigrants from entering an area of Istanbul outside Jakarta and eliminating almost everyone from one of the most populous regions on the planet. Asia.
Japanese residents of the United States have been kept away from white neighborhoods for decades thanks to pacts written in real estate titles. Tens of thousands of American citizens of Japanese descent were held in internment camps during World War II.
When immigration laws were liberalized in the 1960s, immigrants from Asia were able to enter the US in unprecedented numbers.
Following the attacks on the elderly in California’s Asian neighborhoods, some community leaders have called for increased police presence. Others say that simply increasing the presence of police officers is not the solution.
Some are pressuring Governor Gavin Newsom to appoint an Asian American as attorney general in California.
In a press conference on Wednesday, California state representative David Chiu said the presence of an Asian American as the state’s primary law enforcement officer was necessary to build trust, “especially given the tense relationship between the law and the immigrant communities. and non-white communities ”.
In the Atlanta area, where the Asian community has grown and gained more political clout in recent years, the massacre has rekindled fears that may be comforting for some with the end of the pandemic in sight. When the pandemic started, Hsu, the lawyer, said she almost expected people to yell at her for being of Chinese descent. In the past few weeks, he said, she had put down her guard.
“We’re getting out of the pandemic, we have a new president, we don’t hear about ‘Kung Flu’ and ‘Chinese Virus’ all the time,” she said, referring to some. defamatory words Trump used to describe the coronavirus. “I really made sure that it was already possible to leave the house safely.”