By Christina Dinh
Scrolling through Instagram, looking through my friend’s stories, seeing post after post about the rise of hate crimes against Asian communities in Canada and the United States. Throughout the pandemic, I would see the occasional post regarding the increase in xenophobia and hatred towards Asian people. It felt strange seeing the amount of people now caring about the issue and raising awareness. Ultimately because I never felt like people cared at all.
Asian people have never been centered in conversations about race. The racism Asian people face, often diminished and dismissed. This is largely due to the model minority myth. The model minority myth is the idea that Asian people in North America are inherently intelligent and successful compared to other minorities. Therefore, less likely to experience racism, discrimination, or face any significant struggles as a whole. It is historically used to pit minorities against each other, to prevent solidarity, and to further white supremacy. The model minority myth is so ingrained in our society that it affects both Asian people and non-Asian people. Not only do non-Asian people hesitate to accept the struggles that the community faces, Asian people do as well. Asian people grow up with the mindset that if they are quiet if they don’t stand out, everything will turn out fine. They tell themselves that it can always be worse, they have no right to be angry. It has pushed Asian people to be passive – to put their heads down and to deal with the hardships that they face in silence. It has led Asian communities and their struggles to be sidelined and excluded from discussion.
Ever since the pandemic hit, there has been a clear surge in violence and hate crimes against Asian communities. In the United States, it has been reported by The NYPD that hate crimes motivated by anti-Asian sentiment jumped 1900% in New York during 2020. According to Project 1907, Canada has an even higher number of anti-Asian racism reports per Asian capita than the United States. Most incidents are reported from Vancouver with Toronto coming in with the second-highest number of reported cases of anti-Asian hate crimes. These incidents disproportionately affect Asian women with 65% of overall cases reporting verbal abuse and harassment, and 30% of incidents reporting physical assault. However, one of the most devastating cases comes from the United States. On March 16th, six Asian women were shot and killed in Atlanta. During a briefing with reporters, a Georgia sheriff’s office spokesman told the press that the gunman merely had a “bad day”. Despite the lives that were lost, there are still many that deny and refuse to acknowledge that the violence is racially fuelled. More people are beginning to speak up as the violence has risen; undeniably, the issue feels too big to be ignored.
On the other hand, the racism that my friends and I have faced has always felt small. Comments about the shape of our eyes, the smell of our food, and the accents of our parents. Being asked where we’re really from, having our names be butchered, and hearing the mutters under people’s breaths. When I speak about my own experiences with racism, there is still a little voice in the back of my head saying, “It’s not too big of a deal. You can handle it.” In an Instagram post by actress Marli Siu, she describes the racism that the Asian community faces as paper cuts. “A paper cut is tiny. If you complained about a paper cut you’d be laughed at. But imagine getting paper cuts in the same place of skin over and over again and every time you think the skin has healed, it’s cut again.” While hatred against Asian people is easily identifiable in the violence, the hatred is often much more presented in the small everyday actions of individuals. The hate crimes and the violence itself begins with the smaller acts. The paper cuts that are ignored and dismissed become infected, ultimately having fatal consequences.
To support Asian communities one has to start confronting the actions and struggles that are all too often brushed off. For lasting change to be made, people need to speak out, actively confront the issue beginning with their own families, friends, and peers. Step in, call people out and hold them accountable for the small comments, the assumptions, the mockery, and the judgements. Make an effort to understand, to sign petitions, and to donate. To stop Asian hate, we must acknowledge the struggles of Asian communities. The hatred that Asian people have faced has been invalidated, denied, and ignored for far too long.