The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many obstacles upon the U.S. population, one of which has been around for a long time but has, until just recently, been incredibly silenced: Asian American hate.
According to PBS, racism against Asians has existed in America for over a century. In the late 1800’s the Chinese Exclusion Act legally banned Chinese people from migrating to the United States.
Filipinos were belittled in the early 1900’s based on the premise that they were “unclean and uncivilized.” Racism arose due to the Vietnam War during the mid 1950’s to the 1970’s.
Audrey Chhun, a Cambodian American student majoring in Kinesiology at CSU Bakersfield, spoke on how her mom has a history of dealing with anti-Asian racism.
“[My mom] used to own a donut shop in Oakland,” Chhun said. “A lot of times from when she worked there, and even when we moved to Bakersfield when she worked as a cashier at a gas station, [people] would tell her things like, ‘You’re Korean. Go back to your country. You don’t belong here. I don’t understand you.”
Chhun specified that she has not directly experienced any racism as her mom has. She said it hurts to hear her mom’s past experiences.
“I feel bad because my mom is like the nicest person… I don’t think anyone, not just my parents, should be treated that way,” Chhun said.
Anti-Asian racism is nothing new and the COVID-19 pandemic brought more attention to it.
Because the coronavirus originated in Wuhan, China, politicians such as former President Donald Trump and former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, publicly referring to the virus as the “Chinese virus” and the “Wuhan virus.”
Aaron Bounthong, a Laotion American student at CSUB majoring in Psychology, said he believes giving the virus those titles had an impact on Americans.
“I feel like calling it [the Chinese virus], coming from [former President Donald Trump], I think that made people more racist,” said Bounthong. “[His comments] probably did cause a spark up because then people are like, ‘Oh, Chinese virus. Asians. I hate them.’ [Anti-Asian racism] wasn’t completely because of [his comments], but it had an impact.”
According to the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism’s report on crime changes of the year 2020, increased by 149% in 2020 in 16 of America’s largest cities.
Lynna Ha, a Vietnamese and African American student at CSUB majoring in Human Biology, expressed how witnessing and viewing many of the hate crimes on social media affected them.
“I was already pretty stressed out because of the pandemic, closures, and the uncertainty of everything at the moment,” Ha said. “With the rise in Anti-Asian violence at the time, I became more stressed because I was balancing online schoolwork, trying to shop for basic necessities that were sold out, and worrying about the safety of my parents. My mom owns a nail salon…the salon window was broken one time when no one was working,” Ha said.
CSUB’s President’s Cabinet sent out a campus-wide email showing their support for the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) community on campus.
“As disturbing accounts of brutality against Asian-Americans and Pacific-Islanders increase, we ask for our university family to pause in solidarity with our own students, faculty and staff who might be feeling frightened or persecuted,” read the email.
Chhun noted that although she is not happy these hate crimes are happening, she is grateful it is giving Asian Americans a platform to speak upon their injustices.
“[Activists] are saying now’s the time to find our voice, and I’m actually all for that because [Asians] are normally told to just keep to ourselves. But, sometimes, when it’s something this traumatic, it’s always good to just say something rather than be silent about it,” Chhun said.
Ha expressed how this is not only an opportunity for Asian Americans to use their voices, but it is also an opportunity for everyone to show that they support the fight against anti-Asian racism.
“If you want to be an ally for the Asian American community, if you participate in our culture, our food, our media, I urge you to step up and speak up for those of us who can’t,” Ha said. “Donate to AAPI, support small Asian businesses, show us that we’re not fighting on our own.”
The email sent out by the President’s Cabinet offered campus resources such as the Counseling Center, the Employee Assistance Program, the Division of Equity, Inclusion, and Compliance, and the article: Racism and Xenophobia in the Age of COVID-19: CSU faculty members share tips on how to be part of the solution to any students, staff, and faculty who want more information about how to help.