Amidst the unprecedented and historic upheaval around the Black Lives Matter movement and the resurgence of the pandemic, the president is once again returning to his old political playbook. At his Tulsa, Oklahoma rally he threw an anti-Asian jab (“kung-flu”), which he is now following up with restrictions on immigrant workers, many from Asian countries
In earlier columns I’ve made the point that over the course of American history Asian Americans and other ethnic and racial groups have been targeted for and used as scapegoats for economic and social/political problems. Also, repeatedly, shaky international relations between the United States and any Asian country results in domestic problems for Asian and Pacific Islander Americans.
An iconic example is the Vincent Chin murder case in 1982. Chin was killed by two unemployed auto workers who blamed their situation on the import of Japanese cars. They attacked Chin because they thought he was Japanese, which highlights another point I made, “racists can’t tell the difference and don’t care.” In the resulting trial and sentencing, the killers never served any jail time.
Today, there are definitely reasons to blame the spread of the coronavirus on the Chinese government’s handling of the initial epidemic, now pandemic. But the accompanying xenophobia and racism directed at Asians and Pacific Islander Americans is the issue at hand.
The July 5–13 issue of Time Magazine highlights this anti-Asian racism with two articles, “The Model Minority Trap” by Viet Thanh Nguyen and “Facing Racism” by Haruka Sakaguchi. Sakaguchi’s article is accompanied by ten vignettes about anti-Asian harassment and assault.
More stories about AAPI hate incidents happening at local parks and hate signs being posted on Asian businesses are being reported. This is on top of the videos of Asians being verbally threatened and, in some cases, physically attacked because of the hysteria surrounding these unprecedented times. This is why the STOP AAPI HATE campaign is so important.
On March 19, 2020, Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council (A3PCON) in Los Angeles and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA) in San Francisco along with the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University kicked off the STOP AAPI HATE campaign and reporting center.
The purpose of the reporting center is to record and document incidents of physical attacks and verbal harassment directed at Asian Americans because of the racism and hysteria related to the COVID-19 pandemic. From its inception to now, 800-plus reports have been filed.
(A3PCON is a coalition of community-based organizations that advocates for the rights and needs of the Asian and Pacific Islander American community in Los Angeles. CAA is a long-standing advocate for civil rights for Asian Americans in California.)
But this begs the question of what to do about it. I have some suggestions to add to the mix.
• Know your legal rights and how to report such incidents. To report incidents go to:
– www.a3pcon.org/stopaaapihate: Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council
– www.standagainsthatred.org: Asian Americans Advancing Justice–Los Angeles
– LAPD: Hate Crimes Unit: gen # 1-877-ASK-LAPD (ask for HC Unit)
– LA County Human Relations Commission: (213) 738-2788
• Advocate for your local governmental offices and law enforcement agencies to have a staff and contact number dedicated to this issue.
• Share methods about “how to handle/what to say” to de-escalate a negative/hostile situation (“just say NO” won’t get it done): www.ihollaback.org (look for other ideas/options)
• Don’t be a “victim,” defend yourself if necessary.
• Do outreach, this is not the time to circle the wagons: (difficult to do with the resurgence of the pandemic in Los Angeles County)
Businesses: It’s an opportunity to reach new customers/clients by advertising and promoting your services and goods in other ethnic communities
Churches/temples/mosques: Opportunity for multi-congregation interaction and fellowship
Schools: Opportunity for multi-cultural education in school and with other schools with different ethnic populations
Restaurants and ethnic markets: Institute Sriracha diplomacy, Salsa diplomacy, Louisiana Hot Sauce diplomacy, Wasabi diplomacy, Hawaiian Chili Pepper Sauce diplomacy; everyone’s culture has and likes their hot sauce, thus hot sauce diplomacy. How about a multi-cultural Hot Sauce Festival once things open up?
Community media platforms and social media influencers: Go beyond your subscriber base to share and interact.
Individuals: Restore common courtesy, say hello, thank you, excuse/pardon me, basic human acknowledgment and smile (I know, hard to do while wearing a mask)
As a last resort, if in an untenable situation, show them you can speak English….and cuss them out!
Warren Furutani has served as a member of the Los Angeles Unified School District Board of Education, Los Angeles Community College District Board of Trustees, and California State Assembly. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of The Rafu Shimpo.