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Thursday, June 17, 2021

The Asian American and Pacific Islander college community speak up

Hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community have increased since March 2020, creating waves of protests across the country.

Pierce College librarian Michael Habata wrote in an email that during the COVID-19 pandemic, discrimination and racism towards AAPI was exacerbated by the scapegoating and blaming by former President Donald Trump.

“His blaming of the virus on China calling it the “China virus” and the “Wuhan virus” helped create the climate that existed when the pandemic started,” Habata said. 

Habata also said that racism and discrimination are so deeply rooted in this country’s history, and it’s difficult to have a multicultural society where systematic racism can be overcome. 

“It’s important for us not to normalize hatred or scapegoating against members of a group,” Habata said. “It’s never okay to commit acts of violence and hatred against members of a community, whether it’s on racial, ethnic, gender-based, religion or sexual identity.”

Habata said he wrote a resolution for the Academic Senate on March 22 in support of AAPI faculty, staff, and students. 

“The resolution calls on all campus leaders including faculty and administrators as well as the student body to promote respect, inclusion, and a welcoming climate, and reject acts of hatred and intimidation,” Habata said.

Chemistry professor Benny Ng said through a Zoom interview that it isn’t clear why people behave a certain way. 

“Anything that has to do with violence is not acceptable in any means in our society,” Ng said. “Violence against any group, not just AAPI or African Americans, is unacceptable especially with the behavior and aggression.”

Ng said that the movement brings more attention to the issue and it has been ongoing for a long time.

“I think we need cognitive effort through different education to get the facts correct, and for the law, legislation and enforcement to really stop that.”

Ng said there’s no evidence that COVID-19 actually originated from China.

“I think that also has to do with the media, reporting and how people keep referring to it as the kung flu, China virus or the Wuhan virus,” Ng said. “That really gave a bet on notation or implicit implication, and that belief got into people’s heads.” 

Ng expressed the only reason the hate crimes against the AAPI community are noticed and acknowledged is because in recent news, it’s more violent.

“Back then, you walk past someone who says something to you, and it wasn’t to this level of crime to where they’re shooting people, pushing elders and looking for the weakest victim to try to pick upon,” Ng said. “It’s just not the way it’s supposed to be. I hope things get better.” 

Pierce student Lauren Eldib wrote through email on how it is to be an Asian American living and growing up in the U.S.

“Invisibility is a word I would use to summarize the Asian American experience and the way Asian Americans have been treated by American society,” Eldib said. 

Eldib adds that lack of Asian American representation is severe in politics, Hollywood, entertainment, and media. 

“Us Asian Americans have few popular actors, singers, models, and politicians to look up to and see ourselves in,” Eldib said. “As a political science major, it is painstakingly obvious that Asian Americans are missing from politics.” 

Eldib said that during the election, Asian American votes are rarely heard even though they are making up more of the country’s population. 

“If you ask someone if they know an Asian politician, they may say Andrew Yang or may even tell you they’ve never heard of one,” Eldib said. “That means non-Asians are making laws decisions for Asian Americans on our behalf, and I think this invisibility comes from the assumption that Asians are quiet, docile, nerdy and lack leadership skills.” 

Eldib said that she fears for her mother, grandfather, and uncle who lives in San Francisco. 

“Our voices go unheard and our history seems erased based on the extent to which it’s taught,” Eldib said. “Asian American oppression has existed ever since Chinese immigrants came to America in the 19th century. They don’t even teach about the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 in most schools, in which Chinese people were banned from coming to America for years, much like former President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban.”

CSUN student Reema Haque spoke about the xenophobia and discrimination on Asian Americans in a Zoom interview.

“With the rise of hate crimes against Asian Americans, it’s not an isolated incident,” Haque said. “This xenophobic ideology has been happening for centuries, and I definitely think what is rooted in this is white supremacy.”

Haque said elected officials have even expressed those universal big ideologies.

“When it’s from Asia, people are always so against us,” Haque said. “We’ve been called being dirty or being curry lovers, and these stereotypes have gone on for centuries and especially in this pandemic. It only proves how much there is a huge prevalent problem and xenophobia in America.” 

Haque expressed that she hopes this movement against the hate crimes is not something people treat as a trend.

“It’s great we’re spreading awareness, but I hope we are very consistent with bringing that awareness to these hate crimes,” Haque said. “I’m Bengali Muslim, and so people characterize Muslims as terrorists. Growing up it made me a little scared going outside.”

Haque said the first time she encountered a whole group of people against her was in 2019 when she witnessed a protest in Woodland Hills against Illhan Omar while she was in town.

“They were shouting ‘terrorist go home, terrorist go home!’” Haque said. “I felt like I didn’t belong here, and this pandemic only proves further as to why.”

Haque spoke about the importance of the safety of AAPI on campus and what Pierce and other colleges should do to support.

“Colleges and Universities should provide a lot of resources for us to come and speak about our concerns,” Haque said. “I wish institutions would do a lot more than putting out a statement that says they’re [standing in solidarity] with AAPI.”

Haque said that she feels like a lot of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders can relate to staying silent to survive. 

“It’s sad but it’s true because if we do speak up, we’ll face consequences for it,” Haque said. “It’s upsetting, and I want to personally argue with people who have these racist ideologies. My parents tell me ‘no, you have to step back,’ and they’re not saying it because they support it. They’re doing it to protect me.”

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