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Asian Americans face a wave of discrimination during the pandemic

March 12, 2021


UPDATE: On Tuesday, March 16, a 21-year-old man allegedly shot and killed eight people including six Asian women at spas across the Atlanta metro area. Though police have said motive is not yet known, though many suspect these were racially motivated shootings. More information is available here

A recent string of attacks on elderly Asian Americans has brought attention to the rise of violence and harassment of Asian Americans. Just since the pandemic began, more than 3,000 anti-Asian “hate incidents” have been reported in the U.S., according to the group Stop AAPI Hate.

  • Some attackers looking for someone to blame for the coronavirus pandemic may partly explain the rise of violence against Asian Americans and highlights the long history of blame and scapegoating of Asian Americans in America. 
  • “I was part of a very similar time in the 1980s, when a Chinese American man named Vincent Chin was killed in Detroit because Japan was being blamed for the economic crisis in America,” Helen Zia, activist, author and former journalist stated.
  • It’s a fog of terror, quite honestly, of, when people walk out the door, they don’t know if they’re going to get attacked and from where they’re going to get attacked, right?,” said Amanda Nguyen, social entrepreneur and civil rights activist and CEO and founder of Rise, a nongovernmental civil rights organization. Nguyen said she doesn’t think mainstream media is covering the attacks on Asian Americans and has turned to social media instead. 

Five Facts

  • Who is this story addressing?
  • What is one effect of this violence?
  • Where are these recent attacks happening?
  • When did this issue get worse and why according to some experts?
  • How does this story illuminate broader issues of hate crime in the country?

Focus Questions

The hatred and violence directed toward Asian Americans comes from an ignorance of history, according to Helen Zia, including the genocide of indigenous people in the U.S. and systemic racism.

What are important measures each of us can take to combat ignorance in ourselves and others close to us?

What are necessary steps our country needs to take on a national level to combat racism, xenophobia and all forms of hate?

Media literacy: There has not been a lot of mainstream media coverage on these attacks against Asian Americans, according to Amanda Nguyen, including the upward trend of violence since the pandemic began. Why do you think this is? 

For More

  1. Read and discuss this article on how to address the surge of anti-Asian hate crimes.
  2. Learn more about Asian American history in the U.S. with this lesson plan, and examine how the attack on Pearl Harbor led to xenophobia against Asian Americans similar to what the coronavirus has caused. 
  3. Check out this lesson plan to examine how different groups of people have been affected differently by the coronavirus.