By Lindsay Wang, AsAmNews Associate Editor
“It’s not just one race,” District Leader candidate Esther Yang said. “Injustice somewhere is injustice everywhere.”
Over 80 participants gathered over Zoom on Thursday night to participate in Esther Yang’s Stop Anti-Asian Violence webinar, which featured guest speakers such as New York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and District Leader William Allen.
Throughout the course of the event, various local leaders and governmental officials spoke on the necessity of concrete action from the government, community and individual during a time when anti-AAPI hate crimes have increased by nearly 150% since 2019, according to data from California State University San Bernardino.
The event was held days after a series of shootings in spas in Atlanta, Ga., where six of the eight victims were Asian American women. The brutality of the shootings, perpetrated by a White male who claimed to have suffered from a “sexual addiction” that he was attempting to eliminate through targeting Asian spas he often frequented, shocked the national conscience, drawing mainstream attention to an issue that, though historically present even before the COVID-19 pandemic, is often swept under the rug.
“It’s kind of the Asian American experience, being invisible and being ignored,” activist William Lex Ham said. “For many of us across the country, this is not something new… The violence that we’ve been facing has been going on for decades, and usually in silence.”
Andrew Yang saw echoes of this erasure even within the outburst of media coverage of the Atlanta shootings. “Now it’s come out of the shadows, in part because of these tragic deaths in Atlanta, which are so horrific that no one can ignore them,” he said. “And I will speak for my wife Evelyn … that we’ve been furious about the treatment of these deaths, where there still seems to be a desire to minimize the nature of the crime, to minimize the women’s lives concerned.”
Many of the speakers similarly acknowledged the importance of recognizing the increased danger, insecurity and anxiety that members of the AAPI community with intersectional identities face. Candidate for Manhattan Defense Attorney Lucy Lang said, “It is vital to recognize the intersectionality of this terrible tragedy … That it reflects not just the outrageous rise in hate crime against Asian American communities, but [also] a culture of misogyny, of white supremacy, and, critically, failures around gun control.”
As panelists outlined key next steps to be taken to protect and support AAPI communities, a recurring theme was the importance of Black-Asian allyship. A racial divide has long been recognized to exist between the two groups, one fueled and perpetuated by White supremacism and harmful stereotypes such as the model minority myth. However, events of the past year revealing the deadly consequences of power structures like white supremacism and privilege on all minority groups have led to a call for Black-Asian allyship.
“We all need to come together as a community,” District Leader Allen said. “How we all came together [after George Floyd]: Black, White, Asian, young people, old people — we all came together, and we need to have that consistent response to any injustice that happens to any of us.”
Part of these plans to work together in support of AAPI communities is the assistance and revitalization of Chinatown and Asian-owned businesses, which have been disproportionately negatively affected due to a combination of concerns about health and safety during the COVID-19 pandemic and racism.
“Tourists cleared out — that was way before there was any notion that we were going to have a shutdown,” Brewer said. “Chinatown has been hit the hardest.”
In the face of anti-AAPI violence and national indifference, many panelists found inspiration in the uprising of AAPI communities in the fight for recognition of their lives and rights. “There’s going to be a real awakening,” Andrew Yang said. “I want to be a part of it… Hopefully, that will be something that is positive that comes out of this heartbreak, and I believe that that transformation is also one that’s going to be here to stay — this political awakening is going to be permanent. It’s going to transform politics here in New York City and around the country.”
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