America, since before its founding, has always endured hating “the other.” This hatred of “the other” led to Native American genocide, slavery, Jim Crow, Japanese interment during World War II, and a spate of racially and ethnically motivated mass killings over the past five years. These murders, by white males, killed African Americans and Jews worshiping, Latinos shopping at a Walmart, and now Asians working in massage parlors.
The white supremacists who murdered the African Americans worshiping at the Emanuel African Episcopal Church in Charleston and killed the Latinos shopping at the El Paso Walmart echoed racist memes spread by Donald Trump. Obviously, Trump did not create the hatred; he used it for his own political purposes. However, by labeling the coronavirus the “Chinese virus” and calling it the “kung flu” (which he did as recently as March 16 on a Fox News interview), he focused white hatred of “the other” directly on Asians.
Not to minimize the current divide in U.S.-China relations, they were at an all-time low under Trump. His “Kung Flu” campaign was a diversion to distract from his inept handling of the pandemic by shifting blame to China. It is not a coincidence that hate crimes against Asian Americans spiked 149 percent between 2019 and 2020 during Trump’s anti-China campaign. Nor should it be a surprise that six out of the eight people massacred at the Atlanta area massage parlors were Asian women. Kamala Harris is our first female vice-president. She is of Asian, and Black, decent. She has been called a jezebel by two right-wing Southern Baptist preachers, and a white man was arrested outside her home with a gun in his car.
While the violence directed at Asian-American seniors at the beginning of the year caught the public’s attention, research released by Stop Asian American Pacific Islanders Hate (Stop AAPI Hate) showed that of the nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents reported, between 2019 and 2020, 68 percent were against women. Research revealed that incidents like the following are becoming commonplace in the U.S.: a Chinese-American woman reported that a “man on the subway slapped my hands … then said get the f— out of NYC”; a Filipino woman reported a man shouting “Chinese b—-” at her while threatening to harm her.
Asian immigration to the United States began with the Chinese during the California Gold Rush of 1845-1855. People of Japanese, Vietnamese, Thai, and other Asian nationalities followed. They, like the rest of us, were immigrants and refugees. They didn’t bring hate with them. It was here waiting for them. Unfortunately, but predictably, to a segment of white America, including the massage parlor killer, Asians are included as “the other.”
It is my belief that, in this racially charged environment, those doing the attacking and killing don’t understand, or care, that not all Asians are Chinese. In their ignorance and hatred, they see all Asians as the “Kung-Flu Chinese.”
President Biden and Vice-President Harris should continue speaking out against the racial violence. Biden’s signing a memorandum that issued guidance on how the Justice Department should respond to the heightened number of anti-Asian incidents was clearly the right thing to do. His urging Congress to “swiftly” pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would expedite the federal government’s response to the rise of hate crimes during the pandemic, would be a good start. The Violence Against Women Act reauthorization passed the House with bipartisan support (244-172). It should also become law.
America’s white majority is becoming the minority. By the mid-2040s, the country’s population will be “minority-majority.” It’s no accident that the racial murders of the past several years were committed by disaffected white men, or that the majority of the January 6 insurrections, some carrying Confederate flags, some wearing “Camp Auschwitz” T-shirts, were white men.
The President and Vice-President taking a leadership role in addressing this pandemic of hate violence is essential. The media focusing on the issue is necessary. The Senate should pass the COVID-19 Hate Crimes and Violence Against Women Acts. We should all combat people focusing hate on “the other” wherever we find it.