As schools begin to slowly lift COVID-19 restrictions and students return to in person learning, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) youth organizations have joined opposition to anti-Asian hate and over the weekend hosted a press conference in the San Gabriel Valley encouraging local teens to speak up against hate of any kind.
“Our goal today is to offer help to everyone throughout this difficult time. No matter if you are an immigrant or a Native, you are all welcome here. If you ever face discrimination in the workplace or in school or in any part of your community, we want to help you,” said Cheery Chen, president of C&D Global Humanity Foundation, a nonprofit organization helping local communities during the pandemic.
Chen continued, “The younger generation are also part of this community and we do believe we can make a difference.”
Earlier this year, Chen and two other local high school students, David and Daniel, who make up the C&D Global Humanity Foundation were recognized by Los Angeles Fifth District Supervisor Kathryn Barger for donating 1 million gloves to help local communities stay safe during the pandemic. The foundation will also be donating personal protective equipment to L.A. County vaccination sites and the Los Angeles Unified School District.
I asked Chen if she felt safe going back to school and she shared that while she feels safe, not everyone may feel the same way. “There have been conversations among Asian teens of instances where people have experienced mistreatment, mostly involving verbal COVID-related harassment and or being told to ‘stay away’ from people,” she said.
A couple of teen sisters who attended the press conference with their parents shared that while they are not active social media users and have been mostly in isolation during the pandemic, they are fully aware of the anti-Asian hate crimes happening in their community and fear that they or their parents could be the next victims.
The press conference, titled “Asian Teen Voices Matter,” had a recognizable list of local elected officials including Congresswoman Judy Chu who has been leading a national call for action and healing in response to the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. She encouraged everyone in attendance to continue having events to raise awareness hate in local communities,
“I want you all to urge everybody that you know if there is an AAPI that is a victim of a hate crime to overcome their fear and report it and stop AAPI hate. And I want to urge everybody who can, take bystander intervention training in case you are a witness of an AAPI hate crime and learn the tools to stop that hate crim,” was part Chu’s message.
During an 18-week period, the Stop AAPI Hate organization received a total 341 cases nationwide of youth experiencing anti-Asian discrimination in 2020. A youth incident report from the group reports that over 80% of young adults reported being bullied or verbally harassed, 24% experienced shunning and social isolation, and 8% of incidents reported by youth were of physical assaults.
Since the pandemic began, there have been numerous news articles documenting Asian students’ experiences with racism at school before shutdowns, during virtual learning and in public areas across the nation.
Early last year, former Los Angeles news anchor Leyna Nguyen shared that her son, who was an eighth grader at Walter Reed Middle School at the time, was sent to the nurse’s office after he coughed in class while swallowing water. Nguyen attributed the teacher’s decision to coronavirus concerns. ““He actually said to me, ‘all the other students who are coughing, they don’t get sent out.’ But they’re not Asian,” Nguyen told Fox LA.
Other news reports described a racist incident during a second grade zoom meeting at a school in Orange County. A student told the class that he did not like, “China or Chinese people because they started this quarantine.”
A poster for the movie “Mulan” was vandalized in Pasadena last year with a white mask sprayed painted over the character’s mouth along with the words ‘Toxic Made In Wuhan,’ reported NBC.
According to a recent article by CNN, various variables account for why hate crimes in the U.S. are under reported in general but in Asian communities, hate crimes are not reported due to a long history of distrust of law enforcement, language barriers and immigration status.
Local advocates are trying to fill in the gaps and encourage the community to report a hate crime. Stop AAPI Hate offers user-friendly tools to report. Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Hollaback! have partnered up to provide workshops and bystander intervention virtual trainings.