In the year since the COVID-19 pandemic first swept the globe, incidents of violence and harassment against members of the Asian Pacific Islander (API) community have been on the rise. Just this past week, several horrific acts of violence were committed against elderly API citizens that resulted in their deaths. A recent research study in the American Journal of Criminal Justice found that between March and June 2020, there were 2,100 anti-Asian hate crimes related to COVID-19 reported. The report also noted that Asian Americans are more likely than other minority students to be the target of hate crimes in school environments.
The rise in attacks on the API community clearly relate to the hateful rhetoric that has been espoused by public leaders in linking the virus to China. Both this xenophobic language and the recent attacks further expose this country’s deeply-rooted history of racism and violence perpetrated against Asian Americans. This is a time that calls on leaders in higher education, industry, media, and government to name the racism and xenophobia that is so much a part of the American story. President Biden’s January 26 Executive Order to combat xenophobia against Asian Americans, especially in light of the pandemic, is a positive step and one that we must actively commit to enact.
Organizations such as Stop AAPI Hate and Stand Against Hatred provide places where those who have experienced anti-Asian bias or hate incidents can anonymously report their experiences. Stop AAPI Hate is led in part by faculty at San Francisco State University, which demonstrates the important role that institutions play in helping to fight discrimination. To the extent possible, NASPA encourages institutions to publicly articulate their support for their API students and provide tangible resources for those who have experienced harm and/or whose families have experienced this type of bias. These acts of harassment and discrimination have had deadly results, as in the death of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee, a Thai American, who was pushed to the ground by a 19-year-old assailant.
As Asian American activist and founder of RISE, Amanda Nguyen, said last week, “This may be the first time you are hearing about this violence if you are not following Asian American news because the mainstream media does not spotlight our stories. We matter. Racism Kills.” We must ensure that our API students and colleagues feel heard and supported, and that any acts of violence or harassment against API students be met with swift and decisive action by our colleges and universities. As America strives to recover from the physical and emotional strain of the pandemic, we must respond with solidarity, not fear, and with accountability, not ignorance. NASPA commits to continuing to work with our API community to shine light on and respond to racism, violence, oppression, and discrimination, and will share updates with you as we continue this work. It is incumbent upon all of us, especially student affairs professionals, to be aware of and address this increase in violence.