Asian American Students React to Increase in Hate Crimes Across the U.S.
Crimes targeting Asian Americans have risen dramatically since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition that tracks incidents of violence and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S., reported nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians in the past year. The actual number could be much higher.
This month, the NHS Maroon and Gray chose to highlight the reactions of Asian American students to the ongoing violence.
Please note: Student comments have been edited for length, but otherwise appear as they were originally stated.
Arista Buddhani (Sophomore, 16)
“I look back to when I was a kid and realize that I was experiencing racism and micro-aggressions even then. My grandma packed my lunches with Thai food that the kids at my lunch table would say looked and smelled weird. I started begging my parents to let me buy lunch from the school or get Lunchables from the grocery store. When they continued to give me Thai food, I started throwing it out and just not eating for the day.
I remember always wanting to be white, have blonde hair and blue eyes, and be what the people at school thought was beautiful. I remember being the only Asian kid in my classes and once in the halls I still felt like the only one.
I’ve never been so afraid to leave my own house as I am now. My parents work in the city and I’m worried about them all the time. I see attacks on the daily and think that my mom could be next. She rides the subway. Just the other day an old man was attacked and called racial slurs. He was riding the subway too.
I look at my TikTok and see people trying to pin races against one another. Over the summer we saw the national movement for Black lives. Now as people post videos about protecting Asian lives, I see comments like, “well don’t you think that Black lives matter too?” They are trying to create division between minorities all fighting for the same thing. Every life, despite race, should matter. Every minority faces its own forms of oppression. We need to join together to combat it rather than attack one another and let the hate continue on.”
Sarah Nugiel (Sophomore, 16)
“I think it's really important to remember that racism against our community is not a new concept. Lately a lot of news outlets and people on social media have been covering the issue but the Coronavirus has been around for a year now and the systemic hate against Asian-Americans for longer. Even before the Coronavirus, we were seen as this “model minority” being erased from American culture.
There have been a lot of harmful stereotypes about us. I heard this one being tossed around, “Asians are bad drivers.” I've heard it a lot and it messed with me while I was studying for my driver's test. I don’t think many of my classmates felt they had to prove a stereotype wrong while simply learning to drive.
You look at the history of Asians in America and you can Japanese-Americans are shipped off into internment camps. I find that the issue is less about direct hate and more about invisibility.
Again the whole “model minority” myth, I think, is why my community has experienced our voices being silenced up until this point where we're being featured on social media almost every day for some new attack. It's really important to remember that these things have been happening before social media decided it was “trending.” Reposting things on social media is not the only thing you can do. While it does spread shock and sometimes successful awareness, it’s not what will make your community anti-racist. I think taking direct action is very important.”
Jordan Baluyot (Sophomore, 16)
“For me, and I bet for so many people, the recent events in the news have been so heartbreaking. Each day there’s another post with another child, elder, adult or teenager getting attacked. For so long it felt like it wasn’t hitting too close to home. I still felt safe. But as the numbers began to rise, I started thinking to myself, this could happen to me. My mom told me a few days ago that she wanted to dye and style her hair differently so she wouldn’t look “as Asian.” Hearing this was absolutely crazy to me. I worry for my older relatives who are still working in public spaces including my own parents. Anything could happen to them and anything could happen to me as well.
Living in a dominantly white town helped me see things differently. I’ve seen a lot of effort to help, but also a lot of ignorance. To me this ignorance is nothing new.
I do understand that I have privilege, I speak English well and was born and raised in America. It’s sad to know that those things could be what prevents you from being targeted.
All of these events have been hard to witness because in my life no one has really identified racism toward Asians as a big issue. In so many ways it has been normalized. As much as our ethnicities have an impact on our identities, it should not be the one thing that defines us.”
Kat Guimary (Junior, 16)
“I of course believe that the recent events we have been witnessing are terrible and that a spotlight needs to be on them, but the thing is, and what we have learned from the BLM movement, is that showing the videos of people being brutalized at the hands of racism and bigotry does not accomplish what we think it does. It does not educate people, it only shocks them. I feel it disrespectful to the people attacked and their families to continue to recreate the traumatic experience by reposting videos of their attack.
Think about it, what are you accomplishing when you simply repost something? It is just a tie to preformative activism. We need to start considering the lesson we are trying to teach when reposting. Resharing a video of some being harassed, beaten or brutalized, what are you learning from that? That it happens? Of course it happens. We know it is and has been happening.
When I look at Instagram, I am glad to see people are engaging with the content they need to see in order to grasp the severity of the situation. It’s just that we need to be very respectful and tactful with our use of these platforms. It’s about learning social literacy before all else. We think we are spreading awareness but I feel that the awareness is not really doing anything. Impact will always supersede intent. Are you acting to combat the racism at hand or are you just saying that it happens? Everyone needs to answer that question.”
We should be talking about what to do to stop this injustice, what to do to educate. We should be actively going against the stereotypes and notions that Asian people caused the coronavirus.
Covid does not discriminate by race. It is an equal opportunity offender that could affect you without caring what race you are. It’s mind blowing that our previous presidential administration was able to make people think otherwise. And what’s even more bothersome to me is that despite the change in administrations we are still in the same place. It goes to show the President Biden and his team have not put in the needed efforts to debunk these racist theories. We need to rectify this. We are American citizens. Watching the government not care just makes me see we need to reform the ways we address the brutalization of any person.
Jazel Campomanes (Sophomore, 15)
“It hurts to see people not accept the different races that come to America to find peace in the world and help out in non-fulfilled occupations here. Stereotyping or inflicting any harm to the AAPI (Asian American and Pacific Islander) community just makes America look bad and won't help stop the pandemic. It's a scary world out there and it hurts that my parents warn me about being careful in public places. Studies even show that most people from the APPI community opted out from returning to in-person school due to the targeted racism, which is disappointingly the safe decision. When you're younger it's all about letting the jokes/bullying pass so you "fit in", but you gain a sense of self respect or racial pride as you grow older. This is what we need to uplift the AAPI community.”
Kate Buddhani (Freshman, 14)
“The start of the pandemic made me self-conscious. Since the beginning, it’s been normal to joke about Covid. A simple cough made people laugh, but then jokes started getting racial insensitive. I never surrounded myself with people who made those jokes, so it never really hit too hard but as the hate crimes have been skyrocketing this past month, it did.
Asian culture always emphasizes the respect of elders, so when I saw many elderly people hurt, crying and bleeding I cried too because that could have been my own grandparents. They’re so vulnerable. I’d rather it be me than them. I feel even more powerless then I have seeing elderly Asian men and women getting beaten. More people are now being targeted. Children and middle aged people weren’t safe anymore.
My parents have been working from home since the pandemic, but my mom has started going back to the city recently and it scares me so much. One day she might not come home and be in a hospital bed instead. The city isn’t safe anymore, and you can see that in all the videos online.
I don’t want to talk about my own family’s safety every night as we’re eating dinner. Who would?
Since I live in a predominantly white suburban town, I’m not that worried about hate crimes here. Maybe just plain racism, but not hate crimes. I truly hope that these crimes will decrease and people will find valid sources and ways to help. I know that we can’t prevent the hate crimes themselves, but the best thing we can do is support the AAPI community and the families of the people who have suffered from them. Educate yourself and others.”