By Kendra Williams
On Tuesday, March 16, a series of mass shootings occurred at three massage parlors in Atlanta, Georgia. Among the mass shootings, eight people were found dead and injured. Six of the victims who passed were Asian women. However, the shooting has not been classified as a hate crime yet.
Amidst the emergence of these hate crimes, many Asian Americans have started to fear for their lives.
“It brought a sense of panic for my own life,” said Kris Magtibay, a senior sociology major.
“It was very evident that Asian women were targeted.” Jhandrei Tuliao, a junior communications major at Saint Petersburg College and Target employee.“For someone who works with a lot of different customers, you never know anyone’s motives,” says Tuliao. “It could have been me, or it could have been a friend.”
This isn’t the first among Asian hate crimes recently. From 2019 to 2020, the overall hate crime rate declined, while hate crimes towards Asians increased. “I don’t think it was just one incident,” says Man Le, president of Tampa Bay’s chapter of the National Association of Asian American Professionals. “Some incidents are not reported. We are just hearing about the ones reported to the news.”
On Friday, March 19, a 68-year-old Sri Lankan man was called a racial slur and hit in the head on the Subway of New York. The next morning, a 66-year-old Asian man was hit in the face in the Lower East Side of New York.
“In just this year, over 500 Asian hate crimes have been reported,” said Le. “66% of those Asian hate crimes were targeting Asian women in particular.”
On social media, many people have started to spread awareness of the emergence of these hate crimes. Following the Atlanta shooting, many spoke out about the discrimination that Asian women have been facing for years.
“It didn’t hit me until I was thinking about it later,” said Magtibay. “I had to imagine what my own daughter would have to face when she is out in the world. The amount of fetisization and microagressions she would have to face is alarming.”
Xenophobia has been happening in America for decades, and is often overlooked because of Asian American’s proximity to whiteness. “A lot of the reason for that is because of the model minority myth placed upon Asian Americans,” said Magtibay. “It places a divide between us and other minorities. We are constantly told that our proximity to whiteness places any violence against our bodies that isn’t racist.”
On March 16, 2020, former President Donald Trump made a tweet referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese Virus”. A study has shown that after his tweet, there was a rise in anti-Asian tweets. After the former President’s refusal to stop saying this name out of blame on the Chinese government, many believe this only fueled Asian hate crimes.
“In my personal opinion, this is all happening because of the association with Asians and COVID-19,” said Tuliao.
On Thursday, March 25 at 4 p.m., hundreds gathered in the streets of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania to protest against the rise of Asian hate crimes. However, many want more than just protesting. Many demand that change is enacted.
“The thing about hate crimes is that not everything is reported or even considered a hate crime,” said Le. “This type of stuff happens everyday, like being called a racial slur walking down the street.”
The Tampa Bay chapter of NAAAP discussed what needs to take place in order to keep Asian Americans safe amidst the rise. “If you are seeing someone beating up an old person, you need to speak up. Saying nothing and just watching is unacceptable,” said Le.
For change to happen, many are calling on the public to take a stand in their own lives. “Are you willing to correct your friends, family members, and colleagues when you are witnessing them perpetuate microaggressions?” said Magtibay. “You can have sympathy, but it takes more than that. You have to make the decision to speak up.”
The NAAAP works to provide a sense of community and support for all Asian American professionals in the Tampa Bay area. Le calls on all to be more aware of their surroundings. “There needs to be a campaign to be more aware of what’s going on, and there needs to be an emphasis on educating the public,” said Le.
“Our government needs to address the fact that there are hate crimes. We need to shed more light on the issues and dangers Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders face,” said Tuliao.
“For those who take indulgence in our culture and take pleasure in Asian culture. Do not ignore the things that are happening right now,” said Magtibay. “Think about your own family members. What would you do, if their lives are potentially at risk?”