There is no excuse for hate crimes against Asian Americans

Mariyam+Quaisar+is+the+Living+Arts+Editor+of+The+Berkeley+Beacon.

Photo: Courtesy of Mariyam Quaisar

Mariyam Quaisar is the Living Arts Editor of The Berkeley Beacon.

By Mariyam Quaisar, Living Arts Editor

The recent murder of eight people, including six of Asian descent at three different locations—a massage parlor in Acworth, GA and two spas in Atlanta, GA—calls for an addressing of hate crimes against Asian Americans in the United States. 

Since the beginning of this pandemic, there has been a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans. According to a recent California State University report, in major U.S. cities like New York and Los Angeles, attacks against Asian Americans rose by about 149 percent in 2020. The worst part is that while the overall rate of hate crimes in the U.S. declined, attacks targeting Asians significantly increased. But there’s little surprise in that when our former president himself condoned calling the coronavirus names such as “kung-flu” and “the Chinese virus.” 

Over the past year, about 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian attacks and hate speech have occurred, including shunning, slurs, and physical attacks, according to a report from Stop AAPI Hate. In 2021, 503 incidents—like verbal harassment—occurred in just the first two months of this year. Verbal harassment makes up 68.1 percent of such reports, shunning makes up 20.5 percent, and physical assault makes up 11.1 percent.

The names of the Asian women who were killed should be remembered. The victims, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng, Yong Ae Yue, Hyun Jung Grant, Soon Chung Park, and Suncha Kim all had different lives. Tan would have turned 50 on Mar. 25, and she left behind a 29-year-old daughter. She was dedicated to giving her family a good life through her business—Young’s Asian Massage— which she created from nothing. 

Feng, 44, was a recent employee of Young’s Asian Massage, she was kind and quiet. Yue, 63, was a mother who loved to cook Korean food and spend time with her friends. She was also an avid reader. Grant, 51, was a single mother supporting her two sons and she loved to dance. Park, 74, was an employee at one of the Atlanta spas and she had a family that she loved. Kim, 69, was also an employee at one of the Atlanta spas. She was a grandmother, a wife for over 50 years, and a line dancer. 

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All of the lives lost on March 16 were innocent, and would likely be here today if it were not for the anti-Asian racism plaguing our country.

The 21-year-old shooter blames his violence on a “sex addiction,” a claim that many news outlets such as the New York Times defend, and some news outlets are putting a question mark after “hate crime.” 

How is what occurred in Atlanta anywhere close to a question? Call it what it is: a hate crime. This was an attack on an entire race of people and this is not the first time. The targeting of Asian-American communities has occurred for years.

The shooter’s so-called “sex addiction” was defended, and accounted for under the  foundations of evangelicalism, and what evangelical christians believe in. Combating improper sexual thoughts and pornography is a large theme in evangelical culture. Historically, evangelical leaders have connected violence and pornography to the heavy emphasis on keeping a pure mind, and not “falling out of God’s grace”—which is the reasoning the shooter used when speaking to the police. The lead pastor of First Baptist Church of Jacksonville, Heath Lambert, said “the obvious root of the violence was the pornography that the accused gunman ‘was using and trying to get away from.’” 

A painfully familiar story is that of Ted Bundy’s crimes, where he used his addiction to pornography as the reasoning behind his heinous actions. To Bundy’s claim, James Dobson, founder of Focus on the Family, wrote, “What a tragedy! There is a possibility, at least, that it would not have occurred if that 13-year-old boy had never stumbled into the pornographic magazines in a garbage dump.’” 

Last time I checked, that is an incredibly ridiculous excuse because it is not an excuse, neither Bundy or the crimes in Atlanta. If you can’t control your urges, then that’s a problem. It also begs the question: why were Asian women his target? 

Asian women are “sexualized and objectified” and have been since they first migrated to the United States, according to Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of the National Pacific Women’s Forum. Choimorrow says when Congress passed the Page Act of 1875, it essentially prohibited East Asian women from coming into America because they were seen as prostitutes. This historical outlook is directly connected to the murder of the women in Atlanta, as Asian women are still fetishized. 

During the 1850s, hate against Chinese immigrants spiked when workers from China came to the United States to work in gold mines and factories and take agriculture jobs. Unfortunately, as more Chinese laborers came to America, anti-Chinese sentiments grew stronger, to the point where legislation was created to limit Chinese immigration, titled the Chinese Exclusion Act. Due to the “Chinese Must Go” movement, Chinese immigration declined from 39,500 in 1883 to merely 10 in 1887. Tension between Chinese laborers and non-Chinese workers grew for years, Chinese workers and their families were treated horribly and were constantly discriminated against, which sounds a lot like what is happening 200 years later in modern day America. 

More discrimination came about in school systems as the San Francisco School Board created a Chinese Primary School solely for Chinese children to attend, segregating the community in the early 20th century. As Japanese workers also migrated to the United States, anti-Japanese legislation and violence surfaced. In 1942, Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps and isolated. The 10 facilities were considered “concentration camps” by President Franklin Roosevelt himself, where many Japanese Americans died from lack of proper medical care and emotional stress. 

When immigrants from South Asia, like India, entered the United States, following Chinese exclusion, they became farm laborers and were referred to as as the “Hindu invasion” and the “tide of the turbans.” Later on, Congress declared India as a part of the Pacific-Barred Zone of excluded Asian countries, which was part of the Immigration Act of 1917. This was well over a century and a half ago, so why are we still seeing such discrimination now?

Anti-Asian hate and attacks have increased significantly due to the pandemic, and our former president, along with other public officials, have blatantly blamed the Chinese community for it. Well, that claim is just as ridiculous as him. 

As an Asian American student myself, with parents and family born and raised in Northern India, I’ve experienced my own fair share of racially motivated bullying and name-calling growing up. Whether it was other students making fun of my home-cooked delicious lunch, or my complexion while purposely excluding me because I am brown, I have faced discrimination my whole life. 

My high school soccer coach was blatantly racist—he once told a Muslim student she could not wear leggings under her uniform because she “had to dress like everyone else.” My “friends” asked (and still ask) me to “pass the hookah” in an Indian accent due to my Islamic background. When my mom cooks and the house smells like spices, people love to comment on the “odor.” I can go on and on. 

Eventually, I found it within me to stand up for myself and not take the bullshit I was experiencing. But those innocent women in Atlanta didn’t even get the chance to defend themselves before they were ruthlessly murdered. And while all the racists believe they can say and do whatever they feel in this white supremacist nation, without proper reform or action taking place to prevent their incredibly harmful actions, what can those discriminated against do? 

Asian American discrimination seems to be a double-edged sword. On one end, we are stereotyped as being smart and good at math. We are expected to become tech geniuses or doctors, and that expectation takes a large toll on the mental health of students. Being constantly reminded of the model minority myth to become a doctor or computer engineer stresses children out to become just that and nothing else, as if there is no other option. On the other hand, people make fun of but also appropriate our culture. FYI: wearing a bindi—which is worn on a woman’s forehead in various Indian communities—as an accessory without knowing their purpose, is appropriation; getting a tattoo of a Chinese symbol without knowing what it means, just because it looks cool, is appropriation. 

Our nation simply does not address discrimination of non-white communities. It took numerous cases of filmed police brutality to incite action against anti-Black officials. There are hundreds of thousands of cases of police brutality that are unheard of, both against the Black community and other POC communities. My own teachers would let it slide when they heard another student being racist. Hell, there are Emerson professors who participate in microaggressions themselves. The trend is getting a littleactually more than a littletiring. 

The United States has a lot to work on. It’s essential we come together and end the discrimination of all communities in our country. Just because it has been embedded in our history does not mean we need to keep such a harmful tradition alive. Stand together for the fight against hate and racism, so more young kids don’t grow up hearing racist taunts, and so innocent people don’t lose their lives. 

If you are a victim or a witness of a hate crime, here are some ways to report it:

Nationwide Reporting

If you are an on-campus student looking for support from the college:

  • ECAPS 617-824-8595 counseling_center@emerson.edu ; **reach after-hours crisis support by calling this number after 5 p.m. and all weekend
  • Spiritual Life 617-824-8036 spiritual_life@emerson.edu 
  • Intercultural Student Affairs 617-824-8642 intercultural@emerson.edu 
    • tamia jordan, director of intercultural student affairs: 617-824-8438, tamia_jordan@emerson.edu 
  • Office of International Student Affairs 617-824-7858 internationalstudentaffairs@emerson.edu 
  • Social Justice Center 617-824-8528 sjc@emerson.edu 
    • Sylvia Spears, VP for equity and social justice: sylvia_spears@emerson.edu

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