The following is a guest contribution and reflects the author’s views alone. For information on how to submit an article to the Opinion Section, click here.
In April of 2020, we wrote an opinion piece in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, declaring our solidarity with not only the Asian, Pacific Islander, and Desi American (APIDA) community, but also our global community. The pandemic has devastated these communities, costing millions of people their lives and livelihoods and putting essential workers at risk every day. It has arguably reduced the quality of education as schools and universities moved to virtual instruction, inhibiting social interaction typically vital to our prosperity, and adversely impacting our collective mental well-being. It has taken a disproportionate toll on marginalized communities, including racial and ethnic minorities, people of lower socioeconomic status, and the incarcerated.
As of Feb. 28, 2021, there have been half a million deaths in the United States and 2.53 million deaths worldwide due to COVID-19. Although vaccine distribution has begun, for many communities, vaccines are still not easily accessible. The pandemic is ongoing, and we are still experiencing its harmful effects.
In our April 2020 article, we described a massive increase in the number of racist attacks against Asian Americans in the United States. Stop AAPI Hate reported over 1,100 racist attacks from the start of the COVID-19 pandemic to the spring of 2020. Since then, between March 19 and Dec. 31, 2020, Stop AAPI Hate received 2,808 reports of anti-Asian discrimination. The NYPD reports that anti-Asian hate crimes increased by 1,900 percent in New York City during 2020.
Nearly two months into 2021, we are still witnessing these distressing attacks — and this time, they are specifically targeting elderly Asian Americans. In January and February of 2021, around the time of the traditionally joyous Lunar New Year, shocking videos of violent assaults against Asian Americans emerged on social media and in the news. As described by Eugene Lee Yang, targeting elderly Asian Americans is especially shocking and incredibly cruel because elderly Asians often minimize their pain and presence to unburden those around them. They are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 due to their advanced age, and, like the rest of us, are simply trying to survive this pandemic. The recent attacks are a crushing, callous blow to a community already ravaged by crisis.
Below, we have listed some instances of the recent attacks on Asian Americans, but there have been numerous assaults, robberies, and other violent crimes perpetrated against Asian Americans that are not reported here.
- Jan. 15: $10,000 worth of cash and important documents were stolen from a family-owned Korean restaurant in San Francisco.
- Jan. 28: Vichar Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai man, was assaulted in a San Francisco street. He died two days later.
- Jan. 31: A 91-year-old Asian man was violently shoved to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown.
- Feb. 3: Noel Quintana, a 61-year-old Filipino man, was slashed across the face on the subway in New York.
- Feb. 3: A 64-year-old grandmother, carrying $1,000 in cash for Lunar New Year, was robbed in San Jose.
- Feb. 6: A Chinese man’s vehicle was stolen while he was making a food delivery. His one-year-old and four-year-old children, still inside the vehicle, were kidnapped.
These attacks were undoubtedly fueled by the racist, xenophobic, and intolerant culture of an increasingly polarized America. Recently, politicians and media figures fanned the flames of anti-Asian sentiment when they referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” in harmful tweets and speeches. Flagrantly racist rhetoric, when left unchecked, escalates into violent hate crimes that have no place in our communities.
We, the Princeton University Asian American Students Association Executive Board, condemn the recent immoral, repulsive, and devastating attacks on Asian Americans, and we urge our fellow Princetonians to carefully consider how our words and actions impact not just APIDA but all marginalized communities, especially amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. We have compiled some resources regarding ways we can educate ourselves, call on our public officials to enact change, and support communities in need. We implore our fellow Tigers to take a look at these resources, take action, and refuse to be complicit in anti-Asian hate. We also encourage our community members to reach out to us with any questions or concerns, or just to have an open conversation.
The AASA E-Board
Written and signed by Jessica Wang ’24, AASA Policy & Service Advocate
Jennifer Lee ’23, Co-President
Kesavan Srivilliputhur ’23, Co-President
Nelson Chow ’23, Vice-President
Sophia Zheng ’23, Secretary
Sophia Chen ’24, Treasurer
Jerry Jiao ’24, Outreach Chair
Daniel Hu ’24, Cultural Advocate
Noori Zubieta ’24, Cultural Advocate
Akaneh Wang ’24, Social Chair
Warren Quan ’24, Social Media Chair