Combating Anti-Asian Hate Crimes
Helping spread awareness, the Pacific Student Union has been working towards encouraging students to accept the differences between cultures
With 2020 being filled with events circulating around the Black Lives Matter Movement and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, another race-directed discriminatory hate epidemic has started to spread more rapidly against Asian Americans. Anti-Asian hate crimes have had an increased surge to about 150% around major cities in the US.
In order to combat and spread awareness on Asian American culture, students from Southwest have created a club to help Asian American students bond and relate to each other: the Pacific Student Union.
“PSU was created in order to share our cultures and see what we have in common, and then implement that with how we are living as Asian Americans,” senior Bea Tan said. “Regarding the attacks against the Asian community, obviously there’s a lot of evil in the world, and hate going on, and hate on top of hate doesn’t really bring out much. So, in order for PSU to fight and advocate against it, I believe that we’re starting to encourage acceptance and love, peace, and especially when it comes to understanding cultures and how they come from and where.”
Having experienced a traumatic incident when she was younger, Tan hopes that through PSU people can end the racial stigma around Asian Americans and learn to accept differences.
“I was with these two other girls who were lighter than me and they were play-kicking with the other instructor, and he was saying to stop it. I was far away from them, but my instructor pointed my finger at me and told me to stop it, even though I didn’t do anything,” Tan said. “She ignored whatever I said and everything I did. She helped the other two girls more and left me off, even when I was about to drown. Another Asian boy held me by my hand and helped me swim to the end. That was my first kind of approach, how people react to you just because of your skin. So as a club we are promoting acceptance and understanding of other cultures and my goal for PSU is to be a safe spot and to be very peaceful.”
Along with Tan, senior Chastine Tran, a member of PSU, has taken to social media to post about the recent Anti-Asian hate crimes and expresses her thoughts.
“The recent uprise of Anti-Asian hate is devastating. After countless discriminating historical events, we are once again reminded that minorities aren’t welcome in ‘the land of the free.’ It’s heartbreaking to realize that people are still ignorant in 2021, and public figures and media bias had a lot to contribute,” Tran said. “The best way to handle this crisis is to widen media coverage on Asian hate crimes and highlight the disastrous effects of these heinous acts. The Asian community has so much to contribute to society and people don’t realize that this issue concerns them as well.”
Being the voice for change, PSU has helped provide a safe space to Tran and others to talk about ideas on how they can bring about change during these hard times.
“PSU’s whole focus is to embrace our differences, but also find similarities within each culture. In finding those similarities, we’re shedding a positive light towards the differences in cultures, and we’re promoting acceptance between people. That positive energy translates through our club and will encourage people to accept other people for their differences and not spread hate. It’s a tragedy what’s been happening.”
PSU has been helping students on a school level, but on a citywide level, the ACLU, American Civil Liberties Union, has been raising awareness on the increase in anti-Asian hate crimes. Nikki Levy, Staff Attorney, has played a part in this.
“The U.S. has had a long history of scapegoating communities of color for bad things that happen that aren’t their fault, and sometimes aren’t anyone’s fault,” Levy said. “So we’ve been looking to make sure that primarily any laws or public health measures that have been enacted over the course of the last year that have been to prevent the spread of this virus are not racially discriminatory. From a legal standpoint, that’s something that we’ve been working on, but just from a general everyday [standpoint], the threat of violence that our Asian-American neighbors have been facing now and for the last year is really horrifying.”
The rise in anti-Asian crimes has been something that Levy has been monitoring with the ACLU since the beginning of the Coronavirus outbreak in the U.S.
“We saw as early as March 2020, when COVID-19 started to become a problem in the United States, people were immediately scapegoating our Asian-American neighbors, saying that this was a virus that came from them,” Levy said. “It’s a virus that happened to be first discovered in China but it’s not an Asian virus, it’s not a Chinese virus, it’s just a sickness.”
Although the ACLU helps with a larger platform, Levy still believes that everyone must play a part, despite how small or big their platform is.
“Everyone has a role to play in raising awareness and you have to reach out to your Asian-American friends and neighbors and let them know that you have their back,” Levy said. “There’s an obligation to correct the record if you hear someone making racist comments, or propagating this type of violent or hurtful behavior to step in, not necessarily against violence, everyone should be careful, but if you hear someone saying something racist [against] Asian-Americans, step in and say ‘That’s harmful,’ ‘That’s not true,’”
Stepping in during harmful situations is not the only way people can speak out. Levy also believes that people should have beneficial conversations about these topics with others.
“We all have a small platform, and even if we don’t have access to the news and things like that, we all have access to our own friends and family,” Levy said. “Around the school, I know everything’s still semi-virtual, but even when everything’s virtual, we’re still engaging with each other. School’s a really important place to have these conversations with your friends and listen to your friends if they’re Asian-American and they’re voicing their concerns.”
With organizations like the PSU and ACLU playing an important role in order to help raise awareness for and stop issues like this, Levy hopes change can occur.
“A group can reach out, and make coordinated calls to representatives, so that they understand that this is a problem, and see if there’s any resources they can provide,” Levy said. “I think those can be really powerful, and it’s fun to do those things together. Even a virtual phone bank, where you can still be safe and everyone is still taking care of themselves but you can all call and make sure that they are providing resources to keep our friends and neighbors safe. I always love the idea of everyone coming together and working on a direct action together.”
Lasting change is hard to reach, but ultimately everyone can use their platforms to push representatives to help create change and make communities more inclusive and diverse.
“A lot of times people just want to be seen,” Levy said. “They see that we are having these conversations about things that are harming their communities, so it’s really important that people outside of the Asian-American community understand what’s happening. This is a threat and a fear that they face every day, so we have to do whatever little we can do to make sure that they feel safer until this is over.”