Eighty-four-year-old Vicha Ratanapkdee was taking a leisurely afternoon stroll in San Francisco when he was violently shoved to the ground. Just days later, a 91-year-old man was attacked in the neighborhood he calls home. On the East Coast, 61-year-old Noel Quintana was slashed across the face riding the subway home. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, hate crimes against the Asian American community have been on the rise. As we head into 2021, a sharp spike in violence against the AAPI community is sending community lawmakers scrambling for action.
America has a long history of fear and xenophobia towards the Asian American community, with shifting attitudes mainly dictated by the global political landscape. From vandalizing Japanese farms during WWII to burning Chinese businesses during the gold rush, race-based violence easily escalates, particularly in times of global conflict and strife. Hate crimes are defined by the US federal government to include “crimes committed based on the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” Think about the group of men who kicked Asian American Air Force vet Denny Kim onto the curb this week and beat him up while yelling racial slurs — they committed a hate crime.
Denny Kim is lucky he lives in a state that has hate crime laws. Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming do not. As regular citizens, we don’t have much control over US–China relations (besides voting certain people out). But we can stand up for innocent people being hurt. No matter what your political stance is, everybody should be able to agree that hurting a scared nonagenarian who doesn’t speak English is wrong.
Here are some ways to speak up and help.