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Recent Attacks on Asian Americans Emphasize the Need for Change

$1.4 million dollars. That is how much money the state of California is pledging to crack down on rising attacks on Asian American lives during the pandemic. However, that is not enough. Monetary value does not make up for the loss of a human life. Simply using a sum of money as a metaphorical sealant for racially-motivated violence will only prolong the damage and increase the time and effort needed to reverse these effects.

Although the battle for racial equality, equity and justice persists in our heavily prejudiced systems for all members of the Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) community, the severe uptick of hate crimes on Asian Americans exemplifies just how harmful misinformation and disinformation can be. Additionally, with so few measures being taken to alleviate the conflict of racial disparities, slipping money into this national issue does not promise a future of policy change and action. Rather, it is a one-time solution to America’s ongoing problem with racism and consequently hinders the prospect of change. 

Recent high-profile attacks on Asians have been successful in garnering nationwide attention to such violence. In one instance, Vichar Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man living in San Francisco, was violently shoved to the ground while walking in his neighborhood in January. Ratanapakdee suffered a brain hemorrhage and never regained consciousness. Less than one week later, Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino man, was slashed across the face with a boxcutter in a subway station in Manhattan. 

Like Ratanapakdee’s and Quintana’s family, Asian families across the country are grieving over attacks on their loved ones, in a society of growing discrimimation, prejudice, and hate. In fact, in just the timeframe of the pandemic alone, there have been 700 anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the Bay Area alone. Thus, using this $1.4 million pledge as an example of acclaimed progress is in no way helpful; instead, it poses as an excuse to delay action. Worse, this money can be used as a barrier to withhold or replace the implementation of substantive action. Thus, this effectively undermines efforts to identify and correct the flaws in our systems. 

Many of these reports do not factor in instances of harassment, discrimination, and microagression, leaving evidence to believe that the numbers of racially-charged incidents against Asians are being severely undercounted. The spread of COVID-19 and the subsequent uncertainty that followed has accentuated the truly harmful effects of racial biases and discrimination. Moreover, the hateful anti-Chinese rhetoric that former President Donald Trump perpetuated during his presidency has since led to brutal accounts of death and destruction. People of Asian descent have also been called derogatory terms such as “dirty f***ing dog eater,” accused of being “full of f***ing bats” and blamed for the “China virus” and “Kung Flu,” offensive terms that refer to COVID-19. Physical attacks and other hate crimes have skyrocketed in the last year. Not only that, but these attacks have long-term consequences that infringe on Asians’ and other BIPOC’s rights to freely express and present themselves in society.

Therefore, America, as a society and nation, also suffers for the inability to both accept and provide for individuals who need it. This essentially undermines the very values that founded and built up our country in the first place and forces us to turn towards measures that our current system has yet to implement.

Actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu coordinated a $25,000 reward to capture and identify the perpetrator that instigated an assault on a 91-year-old man in Oakland’s Chinatown, who then also instigated attacks on two additional senior citizens on the same day. However, it is not enough to rely on individual investigations to tackle the larger issue of anti-Asian racism. Coordination and collaboration must begin with the government and extend to the people and organizations in our communities to maintain such efforts. 

In response to the increase in attacks, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a bill on Feb. 23, which allocates $1.4 million to research efforts to strategize effective responses to this issue. However, for more positive progressive change to transform the world we currently live in, we must also implement efforts to educate people to alleviate the stigma and prejudices that exist concurrently with ignorance. 

Incorporating classes that teach about Asian history and communities, expanding research on efforts to sustain equitable measures for Asians and implementing legislative policies that guarantee fair and equal treatment of all individuals are just a few steps our schools, universities and government can take to educate individuals and fight against prejudices. 

Another possible solution proposed by Stop AAPI Hate, an organization dedicated to fighting racism against Asian American and Pacific Islander groups in America, aims to topple language barriers, collect data and find methods to encourage reporting hate crimes when they have occurred. 

However, for this effort to be even remotely successful, the issue must also branch out to reflect the action that needs to be taken on behalf of other BIPOC and marginalized groups. It is significant that we are exposed to different perspectives and learn to accept diversity.

Whether it be for our Asian American communities or for our broader BIPOC members, it is no longer enough to extend a hand and to only distribute empty promises. Monetary reparations are not the solution to these societal inequalities — we must take action through active intervention. If we remain complacent, the distance between the vision of desired change and the reality BIPOC folks yearn for will only continue to grow. 

Andy Ketsiri is an Opinion Intern for the Winter 2021 quarter. She can be reached at aketsiri@uci.edu.