HomeCommunity IssuesCoronavirus racism Against Asians spills into Australia

Coronavirus racism Against Asians spills into Australia

By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer

These are just some of the incidents that have happened in Australia, proving violence against Asians has become a global pandemic not limited to North America.

A newly released report from the Asian Australian Alliance (AAA), an advocacy network, analyzed data from 541 reported incidents from April 2, 2020 through June 28, 2021.

Here are a few highlights from the report:

TYPES OF INCIDENTS 

  • Direct racial slur/name calling (“Go back to China”, “Stop eating bats/dogs”, “Ching Chong” etc) (35.7%)
  • Online harassment (25.7%)
  • Verbal threats – i.e. making a targeted racist comment/statement with verbal intent to cause harm (8.9%)
  • Getting spat/sneezed/coughed on (7.78%)
  • Physical intimidation/harassment (7.03%) 

LOCATION OF INCIDENTS 

  • Public street/sidewalk (27.1%)
  • Business: supermarket/grocery store/general stores (15.1%) 
  • Public Transport (9.6%)
  • Shopping centres (8.7%) 

OTHER TRENDS

  • In terms of gender, those who identified as female (60.1%) were the largest number of respondents, followed by those who identified as male (34.1%). Respondents from those who identified as being neither female or male  – constituted (3.8%) of respondents.
  • In terms of reporting to the authorities – i.e. reporting to the police or any type of regulatory body, (84.8%) reported that they did not report their incident.
Photo from Erin Chew

When launched, the survey was the first of its kind in Australia to track anti-Asian hate. The report demonstrated many of these incidents have been inspired by the false association between the virus and China/Chinese people.

This occurred against a backdrop of rising anti-China sentiment that began prior to the pandemic as a result of the deterioration in Sino-Australian relations, leading Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to call out attacks on the Asian community. This call out by the Australian Prime Minister is the only thing the Australian Government has done on this issue.

Mainstream Australia still denies that anti-Asian racism is a major issue. Community leaders in the Asian Australian community say this is extremely concerning, considering the number of incidents recorded in the survey,

In comparison, incidents in the United States are worse in terms of the nature ( Atlanta spa shooting, attacks on the Asian elderly in Oakland and New York, and other physical attacks and robberies), but in terms of the anti-Asian racism being an issue – it is the same.

It is just that Asian Americans are more united and mobilized around this issue with not just AAPI advocacy groups, but celebrities, politicians and influencers using their huge platforms to raise awareness and urgency of the issue.

A good example of this would be the documentary The Race Epidemic, created by Ronald W. Wong – the founder of the Asian Pacific American Leadership Foundation (APALF). Last month APALF held a virtual presentation in launching the documentary and had a whole host of prominent AAPIs present to not only talk about the documentary, but to also discuss the current situation at hand.

The documentary basically talks about the racism and explores how a global viral pandemic can be associated with an entire race of people.

Former California State Treasurer John Chiang spoke eloquently about his painful memories of racism growing up in Chicago at the virtual presentation:

“My memories growing up in Chicago as a child are extremely painful. I remember when local kids and adults hurling anti-Asian slurs towards me and my family, and having rocks and other things thrown at our house, all because we didn’t look like them”.

California Attorney General Rob Bonta spoke about the importance of unity and fighting together against the pandemic of racism at the virtual presentation:

“We need to move towards collective action. This will move us forward and work closer to a more perfect union of justice, inclusion and equality”.

This is one initiative of many that are underway in the United States to spread awareness and urgency of anti-Asian hate. It demonstrates how advanced, mobilized and unified the AAPI voice is and that racism is seen as a social justice and human rights issue.

This is a stark contrast to what is happening in Australia, where “racism” as an issue is seen as “too political” to open up publicly about by those who have influence and platforms, according to AAA. The group says this definitely needs to change.

This change is already beginning to occur. Prior to the launch of this comprehensive report, the #StopAsianHateAus campaign launched earlier at the start of June in a collaborative effort between the Asian Australian Alliance (AAA) and GoFundMe Australia. Its purpose is to spread awareness and educate the populous that the anti-Asian sentiment in Australia isn’t isolated and that it is actually a major problem.

The #StopAsianHate campaign in Australia was adopted from the campaign of the same name which started in the US. Now this campaign has expanded to the UK and Canada in addition to Australia.

The #StopAsianHate Australia is being fronted by some big name Asian Australian celebrities including Chris Pang (Crazy Rich Asians), Remy Hii (Crazy Rich Asians), Pallavi Sharda ( Lion ) and Arka Das (Lion, Mulan). So far both Pang and Hii have fronted The Australian media pledging their support to the campaign and acting as the campaign’s ambassadors.Pang, Hii, Das and Sharda have international acting careers, and it was so important to hear their personal experiences and their voice.

On June 1, Pang spoke to the discussion news show The Project about the #StopAsianHate Australia campaign and shared his personal thoughts and opinions on the issue itself:

“I just didn’t become Asian, I have been Asian my whole life, so I wasn’t really surprised to see the number of anti-Asian attacks in Australia. I know how often it happens, I have experienced it growing up. I am proud to be Asian, and I am constantly reminded everyday that I am Asian. This campaign is extremely important to support Australia.”

Also on June 1, Hii spoke to news show ABC News Breakfast about why he is supportive of the campaign and what it means to be Asian in Australia:

“As a proud Asian Australian, I have thought about all this since the pandemic started and it disappoints me to see the rise of racism against Asians here at home and across the board overseas. Quite frankly, it is not good enough and and I am really happy to partner up with AAA and GoFundme, and what we are doing is trying to spread the awareness of this issue and getting people to understand that around 90% of these attacks go unreported.”

AAA graphic

Prior to the launch of the #StopAsianHateAus campaign, the Asian Australian Alliance in partnership with Kozziecom ( everything Korean Australian) coordinated the first #StopAsianHate events in Australia. These events were vigils with the first one held on April 24 in Sydney, May 23 in Melbourne and May 29 in Brisbane. The purpose of these vigils was to make a solidarity stance with other similar events held in the US, NZ and other parts of the world, as well as highlight that COVID-19 racism is not just isolated as an “American” thing, and it is a real problem impacting on Asians in Australia. All three vigils attracted a total of 500-600 people, with the majority being Asian Australians attending a public event like this for the first time.

More work has to be done in Australia and the efforts need to be magnified to something similar to what the AAPIs in the US are doing. As Bonta says in the documentary The Race Pandemic – this effort needs to be a collective and unified approach. This is so true, and hence the fight in Australia goes on.

(Editor Note: Erin Chew is a leader in the AAA movement)

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