Over the past year, Asian Americans have experienced racist rhetoric and violent hate crimes at an alarming rate. To Gabby Taylor, Dr. Yune Tran and Abby Szatmary, these occurrences are personal and have even caused them to fear for their lives.
Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic began last March, hate crimes toward Asian Americans increased by 150% according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. In fact, former President Donald Trump referred to the virus as the “China virus” or “kung-flu” throughout his presidency.
Taylor, a junior television and digital media major with a concentration in television production, said the former president’s rhetoric had an impact on the rise in racist attacks.
“President Trump’s press briefings definitely contributed to the uptick in violence towards Asians, specifically in America,” Taylor said. “The impact there [with his words] has been countless attacks on Asian Americans in the country.”
When the deadly shooting in Atlanta took place last month in March that killed six Asian women, Georgia’s Sheriff Capt. Robert Aaron Long said in the press briefing that the shooter “had a very bad day” while executing the attack. Taylor, who is of Korean descent, said Long’s comments were a slap in the face.
“I feel like that really is a slap to the face to the public in general, not just Asian individuals,” Taylor said. “That’s not someone having a bad day.”
Violence toward Asian Americans is not the only type of racism that has happened over the past year. Tran, who is the Associate Dean for Academic Affairs at the College of Education and Human Services (CHS) at Montclair State University, said she experienced racism early on in the pandemic at a park on her daily run.
“I recall these two females weighing me down after I had passed them and they told me directly behaviorally and really explicitly: ‘you need to remember to wear your mask or keep your distance and be away from us,’” Tran said. “At that time, things were getting called out nationally that this was the ‘China virus’ and clearly I’m Asian. So they didn’t want to contract it because they believed that they probably assumed that I had the virus.”
Tran, who is Vietnamese, confirmed that the two women who stopped her on her run that day were Caucasian.
According to a forum released by Stop AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) Hate, Asian women made up for 68% of reported hate crimes, whereas 29% of Asian men make up the rest of the reports. When asked if she is afraid to go out due to the surge in hate crimes, Tran did not hesitate to respond.
“Absolutely. I also represent the population due to this increase,” Tran said. “They’re [women] used as sex objects. There are a lot of implicit biases that we’re vulnerable, very passive, we don’t fight back — so those are really wrong.”
Many Americans across the country have taken to protest and joined the “Stop the Hate” movement due to the recent attacks against Asian Americans. In the Montclair State community, Szatmary, a junior studying visual communication design, is the vice president of the Montclair Unified Filipino American Student Association (MUFASA) and is doing her part by creating a safe place for members of the club who are grieving because of the most recent events in Atlanta.
“We hosted a general body meeting in light of the shooting and at this meeting, we had a space for our members to talk about what happened and their feelings about it,” Szatmary said. “Right now especially, it’s important to be reminded that you have a community that supports you.”
Asian Americans have had a target on their back over the past year due to racist rhetoric and biases from people around the country. With the sharp increase in hate crimes over the past year, the movement to stop Asian hate will continue to fight to end violent crimes and racist rhetoric, so members of the Asian community no longer have to live in fear.