We are here, again, mourning and honoring the lives of eight individuals that we lost through a horrific act of hate and violence. Seven of the victims were women and six of them were Asian Americans. This act did not occur in a vacuum and it was not an isolated incident. It has been bred by a system of oppression that is deeply rooted in our society. One that sows hate and distrust of those who are different and propagates beliefs that seek to divide us and have certain people look to the BIPOC community as the cause of their misfortunes.
Over the past year, we have seen our nation’s highest institutions foster hateful and intolerant rhetoric when referring to the pandemic. It should not surprise us that it has also corresponded with a rise in hate and harassment aimed at Asian Americans. In 2020, the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism released a survey of police data from 16 of America’s largest cities which showed that Anti-Asian Hate Crimes increased by 149%. In Boston, while overall reported hate crimes decreased by 14% those reported hate crimes geared towards Asian Americans saw an increase of 133%. This has been another page in the long history of hate dispensed to and experienced by Asian Americans in this country.
As the nation processes what occurred, those interested in treating the root cause of this violence must take an intersectional lens and look at how colonialism, racism, and misogyny have been interwoven throughout our history to create a unique form of oppression and exploitation. American culture has had a long history of fetishizing Asian American women into colonialist stereotypes, seeing them as submissive, exotic, hypersexual, and less than people. Out of the 3,800 anti-Asian hate incidents that were reported to Stop AAPI Hate, 68% of those incidents were directed at women. Right now, across the country, many are vulnerable to the predatory actions of those willing to forgo their humanity in order to oppress and exploit.
Once more we mourn. However, while we take the time to grieve those whose lives were taken by violence, we do not remain silent. At SIF, we are looking to our Social Innovators working in Asian communities that are addressing hate and discrimination on the front lines. We think of our friends at Cambodian Mutual Assistance Association (CMAA) (2016 - Social Innovator). Only a day after the shootings, at the Roberto Clemente Park in Lowell, CMAA hosted a #STOPASIANHATE Candlelight Vigil which brought the City of Lowell together to honor the lives lost and to take a stand against white supremacy culture, hate, and discrimination. Listening to Sovanna Pouv, Executive Director of CMAA and SIF Alumni Council Member, thank organizers and attendees through Facebook brought us hope and demonstrated the importance of our work. This act of unity, fellowship, and tenacity was just one of the many sparks of light that have illuminated our communities.
Last week over 2,000 people joined a Town Hall Meeting on Anti-Asian Racism organized by the Asian and Pacific Islanders Civic Action Network (APIs CAN). APIs CAN is a network of organizations that “advance the interests of Massachusetts' Asian and Pacific Islander American communities by promoting a shared agenda to further equity and oppose discrimination through year-round civic action.” We were not surprised to find Social Innovators and Capacity Camp participants like CMAA, VietAid (2004 - Social Innovator), and Boston Chinatown Neighborhood Center (2020 - Capacity Camp Participant) as some of their members. This large convening, conducted in 4 different languages, was a demonstration of the strength of the Asian and Pacific American community and the solidarity of their allies. This moving and instructive conversation affirms that the struggle to end white supremacy is a burden that is not placed on any one community but on all that choose to call this country home.
We need to continue learning more about dismantling white supremacy culture, educate others on what we have learned, advocate for policies that promote equitable and just communities, and also make sure to donate time and money to organizations doing the work.
LEARN, EDUCATE & ADVOCATE: APIs CAN have assembled an incredible resource guide full of literature, videos, films, podcasts, and trainings that can be essential tools for those interested in learning more, educating others, or in becoming an advocate: Massachusetts Town Hall on Anti-Asian Racism Resource Guide
DONATE: Take a moment to donate to some of the organizations in our network that are recognized for their advocacy in the fight for justice for all Asian American communities.