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Mar 15, 2021 | Insights

Statement on the Rise in Anti-Asian Violence and Resources for Supporting Communities

Update March 17, 2021: Massachusetts organizations supporting Asian American communities have released a statement about the murders in Atlanta and the rise in anti-Asian violence. The full statement, which we have co-signed, can be read at bit.ly/MassAARStatement. You are also invited to join the Anti-Asian Violence Town Hall on March 25, register at http://bit.ly/townhallaar

Around 8:00 a.m. on a February morning, 61-year-old Noel Quintana, a Filipino-American, boarded the New York City subway. As Mr. Quintana silently stood on the train, praying with his rosary beads, another man began kicking his tote bag. When the man persisted in kicking the bag after Mr. Quintana moved it and then asked him to stop, the man attacked him with a box cutter, slicing his face.  

This isn’t an isolated incident. Attacks directed toward Asian Americans have become increasingly common over the last year. Since the emergence of COVID-19, anti-Asian rhetoric and conspiracy theories have led to almost 3000 reported attacks against Asian Americans in all 50 states, an increase of 150% in the last year.

While the increase in violent acts may be surprising to some, we cannot allow ourselves to attribute it solely to mislaid anger over the pandemic or view it as an anomaly. Anti-Asian rhetoric and violence has historical roots tracing back to the 1800s. Fear of the “yellow peril” led to the notorious anti-immigrant legislation known as the Chinese Exclusion Act. Until the more recent anti-Muslim immigration ban, Asians bore the dubious honor as the only racial or ethnic group to have legislation banning them from entering the United States. That law was in effect from 1882 until 1943, when it was repealed to allow for a trickle of 105 Chinese immigrants to enter the United States annually (a quota finally removed through the 1965 Immigration Act). This xenophobic response is not limited to anti-Asian hate either. The recent closing of the southern border and caging of families from Central America echo the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War.

The recent anti-Asian rhetoric during the pandemic is an example of the racist attitudes that have always been present in American culture. Sometimes it is in plain view like in recent times, and sometimes it simmers just under the surface. And like our Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPoC) friends and family, many of our Asian friends, neighbors, and coworkers can readily share examples of situations in which they’ve felt unsafe, “othered” or threatened.

As a Chinese American, I was schooled in Boston during the busing era of the 1970s; later, as a young person, I experienced the wave of anti-Asian hate predicated on the rise of the 1980s Japanese economy. I have many personal experiences of anti-Asian racism. Many of these experiences were tied to shifting American perspectives based on economics, educational equity, misinformation, and plain fear. My own personal experience isn’t far from my mind when I see that 1-in-4 Asian American youth report having experienced harassment since the beginning of the pandemic.

We cannot let racism, fear, and ignorance win. Our mission is to build a just and equitable society through continuing education for ourselves and the sector at large, supporting BIPoC community leaders, and bolstering organizations that work to ensure social justice and equity. The Black Lives Matter movement, need for police reform, fair wage and paid sick leave policies, public education reform, and the growing proliferation of anti-Asian attacks all illustrate the urgency and necessity of our work.

Elaine Ng, CEO

Resources to Support AAPI Communities

We have gathered the following resources for people to learn about the history of anti-Asian racism and ways that they can take action.