Stop Asian Hate and Start the Inclusion
RPCV Health Crusade supports, admires, and recognizes the Asian communities as vital and valued Americans and Peace Corps community members. We emphatically denounce hate and attacks in all forms against Asian Americans and all other racial groups. It is long past time to Stop Asian Hate. Asian Americans are Americans!
The vicious attacks, murders, scapegoating, racial slurs, insults, exclusions, and harassment of Asian Americans did not start during the pandemic. The hateful rhetoric towards Asian Americans did not end with the last administration. It should not take tragedies like deaths and mass murders to shine a light on the treatment of Asian Americans.
For too long, the misperception is that Asians have had it easy, are affluent, and do not experience racism. Despite being untrue, this is the typical justification for excluding and discriminating against Asians. And then it becomes acceptable to deny Asians access to minority benefits, diversity considerations, racial discussions, or equal representation. And since Pacific Islanders are lumped with Asians, they also fall victim to the “model minority” myth and treated as outsiders despite being indigenous to this country.
Asians are often treated as “invisible people” in history books, in the news, and in daily living. Asian history (of painful struggles and incredible accomplishments/contributions) is still not a part of public consciousness or school studies. It is time to stop Asian hate and start the inclusion.
The Painful History of Racism Against Asians in America
Segregation laws targeted Blacks, Asians, Indigenous groups, and other non-Whites. All of these racial groups were denied access to whites-only schools, jobs, and services. But as the laws changed to recognize Blacks, new laws targeted and excluded Asians and other immigrants. Chinese were brought to the USA as cheap labor or indentured servants to replace the emancipated slaves. But the Chinese were instantly resented and repressed.
The Naturalization Act of 1870 extended citizenship rights only to African Americans (men). White and Black women had the right to vote by 1920. Indigenous men and women received citizenship rights by 1924. It took the Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 for Asian immigrants to be eligible to become citizens, vote, and serve on juries.
Because of the Foreign Miners Tax, only Chinese miners had to pay $5 Million to California to work in the mines. The Page Act, Geary Act, Angell Treaty, Chinese Exclusion Act, Immigration Act, etc. all only targeted Asians/Chinese. To this day, Asians (specifically Chinese) are still the only race in USA history with actual laws preventing immigration.
The Tacoma Expulsion Riot, Rock Springs Massacre, and Hells Canyon Massacre are only three of hundreds of noted acts of murders, attacks, or forcibly driving Chinese people from an area. The cruel methods used in Tacoma were so routinely duplicated across the country that they became known as the Tacoma Method. The Chinese massacre of 1871 is still the largest mass murder of a single race in Los Angeles history. It is also one of the largest mass-lynching incidents in U.S. history.
In 1879, California revised its constitution to restrict land ownership only to people who are “of the white race or of African descent”. Oregon passed a similar law in 1923.
In 1942, FDR signed an executive order to intern all people of Japanese descent. The government seized their property. Most lost their life savings. They could only take what they could carry. They watched as neighbors looted their homes. Approximately 120,000 human beings of Japanese descent crammed into 10 prison camps. Canada and Mexico enacted similar acts to also remove people of Japanese descent.
Utah and Wyoming housed most of the Japanese prison-internment camps. In 1943, they passed laws to prevent Japanese American prisoners from settling in the state if/when released. Arkansas, which housed two mass incarceration sites, passed similar laws.
The Japanese is still the only race to be imprisoned in the USA without being found guilty of actual crimes. This has to be one of the most atrocious violations of American civil rights in the 20th century.
Are Asian Americans More Supported and Included Today?
In 1913, California passed the first Alien Land Act to specifically deny Asians and other immigrants (not from Europe or Africa) from owning property or land. More than a dozen states enacted similar laws. The courts and voters did not repeal these discriminatory laws until at least the 1950s. But in 2008, Florida voters still voted down the attempt to remove Florida’s Alien Land Act. It took another 10 years before Florida voters agreed to repeal the last Alien Land Act in the country.
After 9/11, incidents of bigotry and violence spiked against South Asians. Harassment and aggression were masked as security concerns. The leery suspicions, intimidation, and endless comments of being terrorists continues. A 2017 survey shows 48% of Muslim Americans experienced at least one discrimination incident within the last year.
During the pandemic, Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities have experienced the highest increase of unemployment. Asian Americans are still being publicly scapegoated and blamed for the pandemic. The hate-fueled rhetoric was started and perpetuated by the country’s leaders. The exponential spike in visible hate acts towards Asian Americans reflects a present that has still has not learned from its past.
Filmmakers continue to use white actors to portray or replace Asians on screen. Hollywood rarely consider Asians for lead roles and then routinely pay Asians significantly less when they do. In 2017, CBS chose to let Grace Park and Daniel Dae Kim leave Hawaii Five-O instead of paying them equal to their white counterparts. CBS tried to shift blame by publicizing that they offered a “huge raise” (without any percentage points the counterparts receive) to get them closer in salary. Critics pointed out the significant pay gap for seven years and how the offered pay raise purposely did not reach pay parity.
In one study, researchers, posing as PhD students, sent emails to 6,500+ professors. Unfortunately, the professors were least likely to respond to those with Chinese or Indian names.
Currently, Asian Americans only make 2% of all US college presidents. In university academic research positions, Asian Americans make up less than 1% of the top earners. Asians are under-represented in sports, entertainment, business, and more. Of all women in corporate America, Asian American women are the least likely to be promoted to leadership positions. And yet, the continued mis-perception is that Asian Americans are privileged.
Are Crimes Against Asian Americans Considered Hate Crimes?
In 1982, two white men beat Vincent Chin to death while spewing racial slurs. The sentence was a $3,000 fine, court costs, and three years probation. But “no jail time” sent a clear message on the value of an Asian’s person life in America. Unfortunately, even white liberal lawyers including the Michigan ACLU claimed that civil rights laws were not intended to protect Asians or other immigrants.
How many crimes against Asians or Pacific Islanders are charged as hate crimes? After an attack on an Asian man, the police did not consider the attack (that resulted in death) in Chinatown as a hate crime because the attacker claimed it was not. In New York City, the only Anti-Asian crime prosecuted as a hate crime so far this year is against a Taiwanese man writing anti-Chinese graffiti. In Atlanta, the police explained the recent mass murder spree of Asians as the murderer “having a bad day”.
In March 2021, an elderly Filipino woman was viciously attacked in front of a luxury building in NYC. No one watching the attack called 911 for help or assisted the woman. In fact, the building staff shut the front door after the perpetrator walked away. After considerable national and world outrage, the New York Police Dept finally announced that all unprovoked attacks on people of Asian descent will now be referred for investigation as “possible hate crimes”.
Micro-Aggressions are Aggregressions
The aggression, exclusion, and rejection of Asians is so inherent in American culture today that some do not even recognize it as racism. So many Asian American have stories of racial slurs, exclusions, micro-aggressions, and sometimes also assaults. But many non-Asians do not even recognize those harmful and hurtful actions as racism.
Have you attended racial justice events with support for the Asian and Pacific Islander communities? Did you speak up when they didn’t? Have you used or heard the term People of Color that intentionally excluded Asians or Pacific Islanders?
Throughout the pandemic, were you willing to shop at Publix, Safeway, or Wal-mart but not at an Asian grocery store or market? Are you more consciously aware to stay 6 feet away when you see an Asian person?
Do you feel entitled to ask a person of Asian descent where they were born? Did you ignore the pause or sigh as you anticipate an answer of an Asian country or city? Did you even repeat the offensive question when the answer is a USA city? Have you asked an Asian person to read or write your name in “their language”? Did you provide any positive words to counter hateful ones from others like “go back to your country”? What about mocking comments on Asian languages, names, or facial features? Are these hateful and hurtful words brushed off as “jokes” or “just curious”?
When you heard about the exponential rise in attacks on Asian Americans, did you feel sympathetic but disconnected from the victims? Did you recognize that the attacks are on Americans? Did the news of these attacks increase fear for your own safety?
Unfortunately, many of these aggressions are based on the deep-seeded mentality that Asians are not Americans but “outsiders”. The hate and exclusion experienced by Asian Americans is not new. But it is time to Stop Asian Hate!
Racial Groups Should Not Compete with Each Other
Unfortunately, Asians continue to be denied minority scholarships, diversity-hire position, venture capitalist investments, etc. Harvard, Yale, and other universities developed entrance rating systems intended to limit the number of Asians. In 2020, the courts ruled that Harvard can legally use race as a factor to essentially reject or limit Asian attendees. But instead of outrage, other racial groups agreed with the continued repression of Asian Americans to increase enrollment of non-Asian applicants. Few questioned why the system is setup so that one (“minority”) racial group can only increase enrollment at the expense of another.
It has been a long-used tactic by racist extremist groups to pit racial groups against each other. The goal is to foster resentment and competition. Racial groups fight each other over the one piece of bread offered to not notice the rest of the loaf set aside. Fostering the “model minority” myth ensures other racial groups resent and exclude Asians. This prevents different racial groups working together for a stronger voice and more effective efforts. Overcoming racism is so much harder when approached as a zero-sum-game. Diversity and inclusion is the greatest weapon against racism. A rising tide should raise all ships.
Currently, there are no cabinet secretaries of Asian or Pacific Islander descent in President Biden’s administration. They claimed there is more diversity representation than any past administration. But, how can Biden’s pledge for the cabinet to “look like America” be met without any Americans of Asian or Pacific Island descent?
The only two Asian American Senators, Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono, anounced they would no longer vote to confirm white nominees without more AAPI representation. They did not refuse to vote for nominees from other non-white racial groups. They recognized that you do not have to take from one racial group to recognize another.
Can the Peace Corps Community Do More To Stop Asian Hate and Begin the Inclusion?
Physical attacks and murders of East Asians are in recent national news because of the link to the pandemic and former administration that are in the headlines. This lengthy article contains only a blip of the history and current reality of Asian Americans. Will the awareness and support dissipate with the next news cycle? Will there be a conscious and permanent change of attitude and exclusion of all racial groups, including Asians?
Do you realize that Asian PCVs typically have very different service experiences than PCVs of other races? Are you surprised that HCNs, PC staff, and other PCVs treat Asian American PCVs differently than non-Asian PCVs? Are PCVs aware of the history of past treatment and interactions with Asians in their host country? In the history of Peace Corps, how many Country Directors are of Asian or Pacific Islander descent?
How many RPCV groups have Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders, or Indigenous group representation on their board or in key leadership roles? Can there be more recognition, inclusion, and support of all racial and diversity groups internally within the Peace Corps community?
We are renewing and building on our call from last year:
- for the Peace Corps to recognize and pursue candidates across racial and diversity groups
- for more training and awareness to prevent “white saviorism” in service and after
- to address the unique health needs and risks of/to different racial and diversity groups
- for more training on the history of Asian interactions, contributions, and treatment in host countries
- to recognize and address our own biases and actions
- to increase inclusion of Asians, Pacific Islanders, and all other racial groups in racial discussions and representation
RPCV Health Crusade recognize that different racial/ethnic groups (Black, Pacific Islander, Hispanic, Asian, Indigenous, etc.) and diversity groups (LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, etc.) each brings something unique and significant to the program, to the USA, and to the world.
We will continue to self-reflect, learn, and grow. Since we are still in the very early stages, it may take a few tries to figure things out. We will recognize and account for differences in respect to needed healthcare. And we will continue to nudge ourselves and the Peace Corps community to be as inclusive as possible.