[Editor’s Note: The following statement was released by the JACL Executive Director Director David Inoue and VP Public Affairs Sarah Baker.]
On this May 18th, as we celebrate what would be Vincent Chin’s 65th birthday, the world looks very different from what it did a year ago. As 2020 began we saw the nation celebrate the achievements of the Asian and Asian American community when “Parasite” won best picture at the Academy Awards, “Mulan” was on the verge of releasing in theaters, and countless organizations prepared for perhaps one of the largest Asian Pacific American Heritage Months in recent years. But all of this changed as COVID-19 became a global pandemic and Asian Americans, as a result, became the targets of racism and hate. This is why JACL partners with Act to Change, a national nonprofit dedicated to ending bullying in the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, in recognizing the 2nd annual AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate.
In the first weeks of March, when the nation learned just how far-reaching the virus had become, the AAPI community saw an increase in anti-Asian sentiment. The website, Stop AAPI Hate, during its first week of operation from March 19-25, saw 673 hate crime reports. The FBI warned that “hate crime incidents against Asian Americans likely will surge across the United States, due to the spread of coronavirus disease … endangering Asian American communities.” In the two months since, we’ve continued to see incidents of hate crimes, bullying, racism and xenophobia rise across the nation. We witnessed it when an Asian American woman was kicked in the face waiting for the bus, when a Filipina woman was harassed on the subway, when stores in San Francisco Chinatown were vandalized, and when an Asian American reporter was told to “go ask China” when asking questions on our government’s response to COVID-19.
For the JACL we’ve also seen the disturbing rise in comparisons between quarantine and stay-at-home orders with the mass incarceration of the Japanese American community during World War II. The surgeon general had called the nation’s response to COVID-19 similar to Pearl Harbor and 9/11, and a court justice in Wisconsin made the claim that the stay at home orders are unconstitutional just as the incarceration was. Both instances neglect to understand the trauma and emotional impact these events had on the Japanese American and Muslim American communities. And while these times are not easy for anyone in our nation, we want to spare more members of the AAPI community from facing trauma and further hardship as a result of the increasing attacks on our community.
While the future of the world remains unclear, we have a responsibility to ourselves and others to fight for the changes we want to see today. Bullying and hate should never be tolerated; we must stand together as a community to ensure that those who come after us no longer have to face the injustices we did. We remember how Vincent Chin’s death brought the AAPI community together as it never had been before. Now that a new obstacle threatens our communities, we will remember our history and move forward together, reminding everyone that while we may be distant we are never alone.
You can join Act of Change for their Event for AAPI Day Against Bullying and Hate here.
For more information about what you can do to stop bullying in your community, go to the Act to Change website at https://acttochange.org/.
To download the AAPI Bullying Prevention Task Force report go to the Education Department’s website at https://www.stopbullying.gov/sites/default/files/2017-10/AAPI-Bullying-Prevention-Task-Force-Report-2014-2016.pdf