On the floor of Market Street, San Francisco, she lightly touches her eyes, where the pain is coming from. When she tries to open her eyes, to see what happened, all she sees is darkness.
Her body is shivering with anger, Cantonese phrases mumbling from her mouth. Though she can’t see, she is still a fighter. She stands up, and with her unwounded eye, she rushes to the man in front of her. Bam! She punches him back in the face.
The attacker, Steven Jenkins, age 37, had been involved in multiple crimes targeting Asians. Xiao Zhen Xie, a 75 year-old Asian woman, is the victim of this incident, but this time, she turns the tables on Jenkins, leaving him with injuries.
In the past year, anti-Asian hate crimes have risen 149% between 2019 and 2020, fueled by a pandemic of COVID-19. Though the confirmed cases are significantly declining, the virus is still around. The hatred, violence, and racism have divided the country at a time when uniting is the best way for society to return back to normal. This situation has required governments and local institutions to take urgent steps to prevent the continuation of violence.
Pasadena City College has released a Statement of Solidarity Against Anti-Asian Racism and Xenophobia to students, staff, and faculty raising awareness of the issues and providing resources.
The first part of the statement addressed the increased presence of racism, inflammatory and xenophobic rhetoric, and violence targeting Asian American and Pacific Islander persons, families, and communities.
Dr. Cynthia Olivo, Vice President of Student Services, Dr. Rebecca Cobb, Dean of Student Life, and Dr. Kari Bolen, Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Office authorized the statement in solidarity, to take a stand against racially motivated hate, intimidation, threats, and violence.
Dr. Tooktook Thongthiraj, the President of Coalition of Asian Pacific Employees, and Olivia Loo, the Communications Chair of Coalition of Asian Pacific Employees reacted to the statement with pleasure and inspiration.
“The statement lets Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) students and staff know that the campus sees them and that they belong,” said Thongthiraj. “It conveys the right message that campus leaders condemn the violence and hatred, and it is helpful because it provides additional resources for students and employees.”
In addition to the statement, staff and faculty have also been discussing and developing ways to mitigate the situation.
“Our faculty and staff members participate in equity-minded conferences and training to find ways to bridge the divide,” said Loo. “More importantly, PCC as a campus has actively committed to developing curriculum and programs that encourage learning and dialogue as we speak.”
Loo added that faculty and staff participated in Professional Development Day recently, where sessions took place that aimed at dismantling systems of oppression and educating them on the root of racial discord in the U.S.
Cases of violence against AAPIs have occurred across the country. Hundreds of innocent people have been attacked or killed by those filled with xenophobia.
“This news saddens me, but it does not surprise me,” said Thongthiraj. “The history of this violence has roots in the mid-1800s when the Chinese immigrated to the U.S., when Japanese Americans were interned during World War II, and when Filipino farm workers resisted. It also reminds me of when Vincent Chin was brutally killed in Detroit, Michigan because his attackers assumed he was Japanese.”
Topics relating to race always bring up tensions, especially after a summer filled with Black Lives Matter protests. Moreover, during this seemingly endless quarantine, the virus has divided races further apart.
“I am shocked by the increase in violence against AAPIs here in the U.S. Anti-Asian or any type of discriminatory and racist actions have no place in this day and age, yet these incidents are still happening,” said Loo.
“Just like today, AAPIs are scapegoats for the country’s ills and frustrations. In the case of the Atlanta mass shootings, the victims were targeted because of the racialized narratives about Asian men and women, even though the perpetrator insists that it had nothing to do with race,” Thongthiraj added.
As a part of the Coalition of Asian Pacific Employees, both Thongthiraj and Loo explained that they have been racially discriminated against.
“I think every person of Asian descent has been a victim of anti-Asian racism,” said Thongthiraj. “Too often, AAPIs are a hidden minoritized population because they are perceived as the model minority. In other words, they are perceived as having overcome racism, as evident in their high success rates and perceived wealth. However, the number of AAPIs who have achieved success and wealth is small, and even those who have these achievements still face racism.”
Some stereotypes of AAPIs are perpetuated even outside of the U.S. Growing up in Panama, Loo also experienced racism.
“Personally, I grew up abroad in Panama, and Asians (Chinese) are minorities in a country that is primarily made up of mixed races. My experiences are a bit different from AAPIs in the U.S., yet I can tell you stories and stories of being taunted and called racist names for being Chinese. Racism is a bit more overt and laws condemning discrimination are not as heavily enforced,” Loo shared.
PCC acknowledged the potential threat that AAPIs students and parents may face when returning to school. Therefore, organizations representing various races such as the Coalition of Asian Pacific Employees, the Association of Latino Employees, The Association of Black Employees, and PCC Joint Armenia Network are working in accordance to create awareness, to discuss, learn, and heal for all members of the PCC community.
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