Anti-Chinese mobs in San Francisco.
Writing in the New York Times, Qian Julie Wang describes the experience of being Asian in America.
The last time I took the train to work, in March, a man put his face inches away from mine and shouted “chink” while looking me dead in the eyes. Not one person came to my defense. The slur rang through my ears, transporting me back to my childhood. I haven’t set foot on a train or a bus since.
I’m far from alone. The United States has had a surge in violence against Asian-Americans during the pandemic. Between March and December 2020, Stop AAPI Hate, an initiative that tracks and responds to reported incidents of violence and discrimination directed at Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, received more than 2,800 reports of incidents against Asian-Americans. Stop AAPI Hate also found that women are twice as likely as men to report coronavirus-related harassment.
Though Anti-Asian sentiment has increased during the pandemic, it is woven into the very fabric of this country. The Page Act of 1875 effectively barred Chinese women, who were believed to spread sexual disease and to pose a threat to white values, lives and futures, from entering the country. The Chinese Exclusion Act, which was signed into law in 1882, was the first and only enacted legislation to prohibit immigration of all individuals of a particular national origin. The exclusion laws weren’t repealed until 1943, when Congress established an immigration quota for China of about 105 visas per year.
The country’s legal framework dehumanized Asian immigrants, and in turn emboldened Americans to brutalize us. In the Chinese Massacre of 1871, a white mob hanged nearly 20 Chinese immigrants in makeshift gallows in Los Angeles. In 1930, hundreds of white men roamed the streets of Watsonville, Calif., terrorizing Filipino farmworkers for days before killing a man. After Pearl Harbor, an angry nation used Japanese-Americans as a scapegoat. After the Vietnam War, the Ku Klux Klan tried to drive Vietnamese-Americans out of Texas by burning their houses and boats — a symptom of anti-Vietnamese sentiment across the country.
The recent spate of attacks is targeting the most vulnerable members of our community. Two assailants slapped an 89-year-old woman in the face and set her shirt on fire in Brooklyn last fall. In January, an 84-year-old man died after he was brutally attackedwhile on a morning walk in San Francisco. This week a 52-year-old woman waiting in line outside a bakery in Flushing, Queens, was rushed to the hospital after she was violently shoved and blacked out.