One year after the Atlanta Spa Shootings- where are we now?
SAFIA MALHOTRA, ‘24. GRAPHICS BY MEGAN MCKINNEY ‘22.
Some of my core memories feature my grandmother’s kitchen. She would tell me stories about her childhood growing up in Agra, India as we cooked foods I could barely pronounce. It wasn’t often that I connected with my Indian heritage, and I grew to cherish those moments with her. I remember sitting down for lunch one day in middle school and being so incredibly excited to eat what my grandma and I had cooked the night before. However, as I opened the containers, one of my friends started to laugh and plug her nose, making some offhand comment about the “smell.” Another one of my friends used the end of her fork to poke at all my food before stealing my naan and declaring it to be the only “relatively normal food” in my lunch. About a year later I brought my friends a selection of Indian sweets for them to try. It took about two minutes before somebody made a show of spitting theirs into the trash can while everybody around us laughed.
Racial inequity and discrimination of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (also known as APPIs) is an integral part of American history. According to the Stop APPI Hate Organization, of all racially motivated incidents against the APPI community, 63% include verbal harassment, 16.2% include physical assault and 16.1% represent “deliberate avoidance of APPIs.” Verbal harassment includes microaggressions that comprise a large percentage of assaults on AAPIs.
Microaggressions can be defined as, “a statement, action, or incident regarded as an instance of indirect, subtle, or unintentional discrimination against members of a marginalized group such as a racial or ethnic minority,” according to the Oxford Dictionary. Microaggressions aimed at AAPIs are often manifestations of harmful stereotypes projected on Asian Americans and the belief that Asians (particularly East Asians) pose a threat to Western values, power and culture.
While Asian Americans are no strangers to microaggressions, the recent rise in microaggressions is certainly a new development. The FBI has reported a 6% increase in racism against minorities from 2019 to 2021, and the number of hate crimes reported in 2021 was higher than any other year since 2008. The number of reported hate incidents against AAPI persons increased by 149% from 2020 to 2021, and San Francisco alone experienced a 567% increase in hate crimes targeted at the APPI community in the past year. As alarming as even these numbers are, they are likely an underestimate as most hate crimes are not reported.
The rise in xenophobia towards AAPIs in recent years is largely due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the fact that the first documented COVID-19 case was discovered in China, the virus was immediately coined the ‘Chinese virus’ and the ‘kung flu’ by Former President Donald Trump. The blatant racism expressed by Trump not only allowed but encouraged anti-AAPI racism across the country.
Just over one year ago, eight people lost their lives in the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings. The victims included Daoyou Feng, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Paul Andre Michels, Soon Chung Park, Xiaojie “Emily” Tan, Yong Ae Yue and Delaina Ashley Yaun, six of whom were women of Asian descent. This incident has since been classified as racially motivated and heightened fear in Asian American and Pacific Islander Americans who were already facing increasing hostility since the of COVID-19 pandemic.
As an Asian American, this palpable increase in violent hate crimes towards AAPIs within the past two years has been terrifying to witness. Michelle Alyssa Go was killed on Jan. 17 after being intentionally pushed in front of an oncoming Times Square subway. Vicha Ratanapakdee was violently shoved to the ground in a daylight attack on Jan. 28 and died shortly after his arrival to the hospital. Christina Yuna Lee was stalked and stabbed to death in her NYC apartment on Feb. 13. Steven Zajonc, a 28 year old man from New York, was arrested for assaulting seven Asian American women over the span of two hours on Feb. 27. These incidents merely represent a small degree of the violence AAPIs experience daily. Racism, discrimination and xenophobia are curated by a cycle of ignorance and avoidance of history. As we enter AAPI Heritage Month, it’s important not only to celebrate the AAPI community but to take the time to learn more about APPI history and honor those whose lives have been lost in the centuries-long struggle against racism.
For more information visit https://stopaapihate.org/. If you would like to join UAHS’ AAPI committee, contact Elizabeth Liu at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Frau Fellinger at email@example.com.