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We Must End Anti-Asian Violence and Racism

By Anjana Malhotra, NCLEJ Senior Staff Attorney

The National Center for Law and Economic Justice joins in solidarity with Asian American communities in opposing racist violence. We honor the lives of all Asian Americans lost to systemic oppression. We mourn the six Asian women and two other victims who were fatally shot on March 16 by a white gunman in North Georgia. We honor the life of an 84-year-old Thai man who died in San Francisco after being shoved to the ground. And we condemn the brutal violence against a Korean American military veteran in Los Angeles, and the vicious attack last week in New York on a Filipina American woman in broad daylight. We also acknowledge the many unreported and unknown anti-Asian hate crimes that have happened.

This violence is unacceptable and has created a pervasive sense of fear and outrage among Asian American communities. Many are scared to leave their homes.

Asian American communities are being terrorized by harassment and violence across the country. As racism and fear spread, many are wrongfully scapegoating and blaming Asian Americans for Covid-19. Since the pandemic began, organizations have recorded an whopping 3,795 hate incidents against Asian Americans. Hate crimes fell generally in 2020, yet those against Asian Americans grew by almost 150 percent in the U.S.’ 16 biggest cities. Women have been targeted twice as often as men. And people 60 and older were disproportionately targeted with physical violence.

This rise in anti-Asian racism and hate crimes is part of our nation’s painful and vicious history of racism. Asian Americans have long been targets of violence, exclusion, and labor exploitation in the U.S. Violence historically worsens in times of national upheaval and economic crisis. After a massacre and hundreds of attacks on Chinese Americans, the U.S. passed the nation’s first restrictive immigration laws. First, the Page Act in 1875 effectively prohibited immigration by Chinese women by branding them sex workers. Then the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882 blocked migration of Chinese immigrants. Later legislation blocked all Asian immigration to the country.

The violence continued. During World War II, the U.S. government detained over 120,000 Japanese Americans in camps for years. Half of those in internment camps were children. In the 1980s, Asian Americans were violently targeted when white workers felt economic insecurity. Vincent Chin was brutally killed in 1982 by two laid off white autoworkers. His murderers were fined a meager $3,000 and sentenced to probation. After September 11, Muslims, South Asians, and Arabs, were targeted, unjustifiably detained, and now continue to experience harassment.

When can we begin to truly reckon with this country’s long history of Asian American bigotry?

As the pandemic took hold, anti-Asian American hate crimes surged. President Donald Trump popularized anti-Asian myths around the coronavirus, crudely referring to “the China virus” as recently as a March 16 Fox News interview. This was on the same day the six Asian American women were tragically killed in Atlanta. According to studies, incidents spiked when former President Trump used racist terms to refer to the Coronavirus during speeches.

Not only does sweeping, racist, and irresponsible rhetoric fuel physical harm, it denies Asian Americans humanity, dignity, and equality.

It is critical to end and counteract the racist rhetoric fomenting these attacks. We must also disrupt and dismantle the structural inequalities that drive this racism. The solution to violence and real safety is investing in community resources. It’s time for effective interventions that address the root causes of crime and violence: systemic racism, white supremacy, and economic and racial inequities.

True public safety is not possible when economic opportunity, housing, education, health care and mental health support are not available to all. We can change norms and create equity by

investing in neighborhoods, increasing access to education, housing, medical needs, and food. We must disrupt inequity in all of its forms, build solidarity, and focus on the most vulnerable among us.

We commit to centering Asian Americans and people of color and putting them at the forefront of our movement for justice.

Anjana Malhotra NCLEJ Senior Staff Attorney