The national context

July 5, 2021

Hate crimes against individuals in the AAPI community have been on the rise since the COVID-19 pandemic began and have only recently been getting recognition. Incidents such as verbal and physical abuse toward AAPI have been reported. Recently, on March 16, 2021, the Atlanta shootings resulted in the death of eight people, six of whom were AAPI women.

The advocacy group “Stop AAPI Hate” reported that they received 6,603 incidents from March 19, 2020 to March 31, 2021. Politicians and public figures have been using increasingly xenophobic language to refer to COVID-19, such as “kung flu” and “Chinese virus.” This normalization of hate has contributed to the increase in hate crimes against AAPI.

Dean of classes of 2022 and 202 and Asian American Studies teacher Brian Poon said that, with the emergence of COVID-19 last year, discrimination against AAPI in history has assumed an important role in his classroom.

“There’s a pattern of dehumanization of Asian-Americans that is pretty vivid in American history, and my course, that’s one of the throughlines of our focus,” Poon said. “And so, last spring and winter, when the Coronavirus was starting, it got pulled forward as a current event.”

Much of anti-AAPI hate has been swept under the rug due to the model minority myth which perpetuates the stereotype that Asians “do well in math” and are “inherently successful and problem-free.” This is harmful to the AAPI community and other minorities because it creates an unrealistic standard and clumps a vast number of people with diverse cultures and histories into a category.

AAPI have faced discrimination, but Poon explained Asian-Americans’ history of discrimination is not validated due to a legacy of AAPI not being recognized as people of color and the challenges they face not being noticed.

“There’s a question of whether or not Asian-Americans count as folk of color. And then there’s a pitting of Asian-Americans against Black and Brown folk, in terms of do their issues count, in light of the challenges that African-American and Latinx people face in our country,” Poon said. “That’s a very complicated legacy, and part of what you see is this fury, of Asian-Americans of ‘Why doesn’t our pain count?’”

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