Anti-Asian hate crimes have spiked over the past year, leaving a trail of violent verbal and physical assaults against elderly Asians. Dating back to March of last year, around the time COVID-19 began surfacing in the U.S., a noticeable pattern of unwarranted attacks on Asian and Pacific Islander (API) individuals began. Many videos surfaced the internet showing elderly men, some in their 80s and 90s, being aggressively shoved to the ground –– leaving one man dead. Another video of a Filipino man being slashed across the face with a knife also made its rounds on the internet. Since 2020, there has been a 1,900% increase in hate crimes against Asian people in New York. Many believe the anti-Asian sentiment can be traced back to former President Donald Trump following his insistence on referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus.”
Summer Yim, a senior marketing major from Hong Kong and vice president of Han Tao, LMU’s Chinese and Chinese-American student organization, said that she first heard of the violence against Asians through Facebook groups her parents follow sharing information about people being attacked. Yim said she lives in San Francisco, as do her parents and grandparents, and worries about safety when it comes to leaving her home.
Jordan Fernandez, a junior communication studies major from Oakland, California, and president of Isang Bansa, the Filipino cultural club at LMU, said she’s in disbelief that these attacks are happening so close to her hometown.
“The fact that it’s happening to older people who are more vulnerable and can’t really defend themselves is heartbreaking,” said Fernandez.
Aristotle Mosier, the director of Asian Pacific Student Services (APSS), said that another challenging idea to grapple with is that they have been happening in broad daylight versus at night with less visibility and traffic.
“Imagine if this was your grandmother, your grandfather, your aunts and uncles that are walking in daylight being attacked for no reason. There’s not an outcry towards that,” said Mosier.
Fernandez said she mostly heard about the recent attacks from social media and other members of her club due to the lack of media coverage regarding the issue.
“One of our e-board members texted our group chat and was like ‘hey, I don’t know if you guys have been hearing about this, but I think we should speak up about it.’” Fernandez said their e-board gathered sources informing them on the issue and presented them to the rest of their club at their last meeting.
Similarly, Kevin Chang, a senior biochemistry major from Rocklin, California, and secretary of Han Tao echoed that he was disappointed at the exclusion of these stories from the mainstream media.
“In the minds of many in the mainstream media, we’re fine. But in reality I feel like with COVID and all of the hate crimes, there definitely are a lot of issues that plague the API community and go unreported in the mainstream media,” said Chang.
Teagan So, a sophomore screenwriting and psychology major from Irvine, California, and member liaison for Han Tao said that she feels Asian issues are often glossed over in the mainstream media and it’s not until long after an instance occurred that people learn about it.
Natalie Wong Christensen, a sophomore film and television production major from Virginia, said she is helping with a march against anti-Asian violence violence and is also putting together a march for Black and Asian solidarity. The Stand for Asians LA march was supposed to take place on Feb. 20 in Chinatown but has since been postponed. The Black and Asian solidarity march Christensen planned is scheduled for Feb. 27 at 2 p.m. at Central Park in Playa Vista.
Christensen said, “I saw that there wasn’t any direct action going on specifically about anti-Asian violence in Los Angeles, so I wanted to make a march for it.”
“My goal for it is to show solidarity between the Black and Asian community, to foster community there and honestly create an opportunity for us to show up for each other and for Black and Asian organizers to be able to connect and network,” said Christensen.
Similarly, Mosier said he has noticed there have been other community initiatives taken to ensure the safety of Asian elders such as solidarity rallies and sign-up lists to walk the elders in the community to their desired locations.
Faith Nishimura, a sophomore marketing major from Claremont, California, and organizational development chair of Han Tao, said, “I hope these marches show to the rest of the nation that Asian Americans aren’t going to be quiet about this. That Asian Americans are so much more a part of activism and political participation and social change than people think or expect.”
Mosier said, “There are resources on campus –– APSS, Student Psychological Services, Campus Ministry Asian-American faculty and staff –– there are people aware of these issues and people who are willing to sit down and talk … know that you’re not alone.”
“There’s that perception that Asian Americans are quiet and they’re just going to let things happen to them, but that’s really not true especially for the younger generation,” said Nishimura. “I hope the world sees that Asian Americans have a voice and we’re going to use it to enact change."