ReboundManaging the Pressure


Advocacy group raises awareness of Asian-American harassment amid COVID-19

Posted at 2:18 PM, Sep 08, 2020

Since the COVID-19 pandemic started, hate-related incidents directed towards Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have risen drastically.

According to Stop Asian-American and Pacific Islander Hate, an advocacy group working to raise awareness about the issue, 2,538 have been documented since March.

The group, based in the San Francisco Bay Area, says incidents are self-reported, as well as taken from news reports across the country.

“Surveys have shown that over three-quarters of Asian Americans are aware and fear racial bias at the moment,” said Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian-American Studies at San Francisco State University, who tracks the incidents for Stop AAPI Hate.

Jeung says his research has found the President Donald Trump’s use of the term “China virus” is having a direct impact on the harassment, as 30 percent of the incidents reported say the language used has mirrored the president’s.

“We’re seeing vulnerable populations being targeted,” said Jeung. “Women are harassed 2.4 times more than men. Youth make up 14 percent of our cases so that means there’s a lot of school bullying going on, a lot of online cyber-bullying."

“We’ve seen incidents of spitting, vandalism, hostility towards Asian-owned businesses during this time,” said Jay Cheng, a member of the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce.

Two months ago four Asian-owned businesses were vandalized and robbed in the city’s Outer Balboa neighborhood, one of San Francisco’s most diverse areas. Windows were smashed and derogatory language was written on several storefronts.

“San Francisco is, in many ways, the capital of Asian-America, so this is the last place you would expect to see that type of racism,” said Cheng.

Jeung says in Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities across the country, the harassment causes apprehension and pain knowing once an illness hits, these communities get blamed.

“It’s not unexpected. I was ready, but I find the hate palpable and horrific,” said Jeung. “It’s just really sad to me that people are so angry, so fearful, and that they’re scapegoating other people for the pandemic rather than blaming it as a natural virus.”

Jeung says the way forward is recognizing that words matter. He says a group similar to Stop AAPI Hate based in Australia has reported cases of Anti-Asian and Pacific Islander harassment that mirrors President’s Trump use of the term “China virus."

“This November, there is going to be a very clear statement about whether or not this language, this type of attitude, is acceptable or not,” said Cheng.