By Bill Johnston-Walsh and Stephanie Sun
Imagine for a moment your daughter running to get something from the car, parked in your driveway in a quiet neighborhood, only to discover it’s been vandalized with an obscene image featuring a racial likeness.
Worse yet, imagine entering a restaurant and finding racial slurs on the menu. Or walking around your neighborhood and being assaulted. Or losing clients for your business because of your race.
Imagine this bigotry and hate crimes happening in your local community, impacting your neighbors and friends.
Not a 100 years ago or even 50 years ago. Today.
Imagine feeling unsafe in your own town, afraid to run errands or go to work, because strangers blame you for the coronavirus.
This is the very real experience of Asian Americans, many of whom are age 50 or above.
An analysis of preliminary police data, conducted by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, showed a spike last year—in some cases by triple digits—in anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 of the nation’s largest cities, including Philadelphia.
The first spikes occurred in March and April 2020, according to the center’s report, coinciding with the rise in COVID-19 cases and negative stereotyping of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members generally, and Chinese Americans in particular.
In addition, the report states that overall hate crimes fell last year, while hate crimes targeting AAPI community members dramatically increased.
In Philadelphia, which has the highest population of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the Commonwealth, there were 19 confirmed incidents of hate or bias against the community, representing 34 percent of hate or bias incidents confirmed by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) in 2020.
Unfortunately, the number of hate crimes and violent incidents are still on the rise, and often go unreported.
While Asian Americans are on the receiving end of overt and extreme aggression, we ask you to stand with us. No one should be judged based on their race or ethnicity.
- TO LEARN MORE: Visit https://www.attorneygeneral.gov/protect-yourself/civil-rights/combatting-hate-crime/ or https://www.asianamericandayofaction.com/
Pennsylvanians should not exact their hate or frustrations about the coronavirus on fellow Americans who are also struggling with the pandemic.
Any form of bigotry or hate crimes is unacceptable. If you think that these violent acts just impact the targeted person or Asians, you are wrong. It affects us all. Racially motivated hate crimes are divisive to communities and distract us from working together to combat our mutual enemy: the coronavirus.
There has been so much loss since the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 crisis a pandemic last year: lives have been lost to a deadly virus, livelihoods for many who have lost jobs or businesses, our sense of normalcy and treasured community connections as the virus interrupted daily routines, replacing handshakes and hugs with social distancing and masks.
We are experiencing one of the most difficult years in our history, and we are all in this together. We ask all Pennsylvanians to look out for each other and stand with us to eradicate hate in our communities.
Here are some ways to help Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the Commonwealth:
- Support small businesses owned by Asian Americans.
- Talk to your family, friends, and neighbors about the violence against Asian Americans; engage in discussions that promote harmony over hate.
- Learn about Asian American contributions to our nation’s rich history, to better understand and recognize them as members of our community.
- Check in on your Asian American and Pacific Islander neighbors and friends; ask how they are doing and be a supportive listener.
- If they feel unsafe, offer to spend time with them, accompany them walking or shopping, or run errands for them.
- If they have been a victim of a hate crime, encourage them to call 9-1-1 immediately and report it to local authorities. Non-emergency hate crimes and discriminatory acts should be reported to state and local police, the FBI, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, the local Human Relations Commission or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission.
- Support victims by advocating for recovery services offered in Asian languages to help them heal from the trauma.
- Ask leaders to create a system of support that allows those who are being targeted to seek help in different places and ways.
- Urge community leaders to invest in strategies to bring marginalized communities together to build and heal during and after COVID-19.
- Encourage organizations to take a stand against hate crimes directed at Asian Americans.
- Take a bystander intervention training to better understand and eradicate Asian American stereotypes.
- Conduct Know Your Rights trainings and evaluate racist attitudes towards Asian Americans.
Bill Johnston-Walsh is the State Director of AARP Pennsylvania. Stephanie Sun is the Executive Director of the Pennsylvania Governor’s Advisory Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (GACAPAA). They write from Harrisburg.
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