Seen and Unseen: Anti Asian Hate in America

Blake Williams, Journalist

What would you do if you saw an older woman knocked out on the pavement of a crowded city street? The vast majority of people would react with kindness, with empathy, they would stop to help her up. However, on February 18 in Queens, New York, a 52 year old Asian American woman was shoved to the ground outside a bakery. Her white attacker allegedly yelled “get the (expletive) out of my way!” before pushing her to the ground as reported in The New York Times. She now has ten stitches in her forehead to remind her of the incident. An encounter tragically more and more common in the United States, racially motivated violence against Asian Americans. 

How did this situation come to be, why are anti-Asian hate crimes on the rise? According to some, the blame goes all the way to the top. “The former President(Donald Trump) certainly fanned the flames of hate towards Asian Americans.” says Olympia High School senior and Chinese American, Kaylee Shen. “Words like “China plague” and “China virus” empowered and validated ignorant and hateful people.” When you have a president seemingly blaming an entire nation and ethnic group for a deadly pandemic, it’s hard not to see how extremists and bigots could be emboldened. “The spike in racist attacks against Asian Americans should serve as a reminder to leaders that their words matter. We call on all our leaders at the local, state, and national level to condemn racism and xenophobia against any group and to not perpetuate fear mongering.” reads an official statement by the ACLU of Washington. Civil rights advocates across the land have been fighting to increase the visibility of this issue. Often falling on the deaf ears of those who would like to ignore what makes them uncomfortable. 

Speaking to Brian Lock, Co-Chair of the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition of South Puget Sound Chapter, it becomes clear that this issue, while currently exacerbated, is nothing

new. “ I have had white people pick fights with me going back as a kid growing up in Mason County. Some were quick to yell slurs and comments about why their kids weren’t able to go to college because of me or why we suck up their taxpayer dollars because we are always on welfare.” Such hateful and baseless claims have no place in the United States of America. When it comes to who is at fault for the recent rise in hate however, Mr. Lock doesn’t mince words. “There is a direct correlation of violence/intolerance following the use of “dog whistle” comments made by the former president. When you blame a whole country or ethnic community for a worldwide pandemic it doesn’t help in developing a worldwide solution or cure.” Mr. Lock adds, referring to former President Trump’s use of the terms “Kung-flu” and “China virus” to describe Covid-19. These comments coincided with a widely reported rise in anti-Asian verbal and physical attacks in the United States. 

So what can individuals do to help the Asian American community combat hate? “Not a lot of people are aware of how much discrimination Asian Americans face. Helping out starts with being informed.” Says Capital High School senior, and Vietnamese American, Andrea Pham. Brian Lock echoes that sentiment. “We can only fight racism if we let others know. It is fearful for us to do because of fear of retaliation. However, only when others hear about this and it becomes public can action be taken.” Olympia High School’s own Kaylee Shen offers a powerful call to action; “To anyone who is reading this, I implore you to stand up the next time you see an Asian American student (or honestly any student) being targeted or harassed for their background, heritage, or physical appearance. It really doesn’t take much, and the impact that you will have on the victim is tremendous. For every single time I have been targeted, I remember clearly who was there, who stood up for me, and who didn’t. And for those who stood

up for me, while I may not have said anything at the time, I am eternally grateful.” Remember this, remember to stand up for those in need, Olympia, we can and must do better.