Last Saturday, I facilitated breakout room discussions during a Youtheoria International virtual workshop conducted in conjunction with the Asian American Progressive Student Union. It was on the topic of Anti-Asian Racism, and the presentation that the AAPSU members gave was really striking, and made me reflect.
Generally, when someone mentions racism, people think about racism towards black people. Personally, a lot of my discussions about racism usually pivots around anti-black racism. But then, black people are not the only minority group that suffers from systemic or outright racism each week. Racism occurs across other minority groups in various ways across history, such as Irish immigrants to the US in the 1800s, Jewish communities in the 19th century and Japanese in the US in the 1940s. Concentration camps were even created for Japanese-US Americans at one point, even though they were innocent in the intercontinental war.
And today, Asians, particularly those of East Asian ethnicity are facing horrifying discrimination around the world during the pandemic, and it’s an issue that I realized is swept under the rug. When COVID-19 erupted, there was a slew of media and figures focusing on the fact that it originated from PR China. This is valid, but unfortunately many people across the world twisted this to mean that it came from Chinese people in particular. This led to attacks against people of Asian ethnicity, even if they had never visited China before, not that it is relevant anyway.
The AAPSU gave some shocking facts about violence against Asians in the United States.
· “Violence against Asian Americans in New York has skyrocketed 1900 percent in the past year”
· “Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, violently shoved to the ground and passed away due to internal brain damage.”
· “Carl Chan, the president of the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce, has tallied more than 20 assaults between January 28 and February 12 in Oakland’s Chinatown alone.”
· “Bawi Cung and his son were stabbed at Sams Club last March. Although they have healed, the scars and trauma linger.”
Asian businesses have suffered as well, as many clients stayed away due to misconceived fears about getting a virus that does not discriminate. This has forced many of them to close down, implanting serious economic damage to Asian communities.
In a Central / East African context, I have seen really clear Anti-Asian sentiments expressed by everyday people in DR Congo. Whether its insults in French that I can’t repeat here or horrific facial imitations, it’s a bit of a hypocrisy. I never did anything to stop these behaviours, and thus that leads people to think that is okay to say harmful words.
The virtual workshop ended with some advice on ways we can help fight against this, which ranged from simply educating people on this subject to engaging in more inclusive racial dialogue. If we stop the behaviour when we first encounter it, we stop it from leading to a bigger issue.
– Luanga Kasanga (D2, GCC- DRCongo)