The past year has brought a shocking surge in anti-Asian racism across the U.S. Hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders soared 145% in 2020. Almost 3,800 first-hand incidents of racism and discrimination were reported to the organization Stop AAPI hate during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic – likely just a fraction of actual occurrences. Recent high-profile assaults, including the horrific murders in Atlanta of eight people, six of them women of Asian ancestry, show the tragic consequences of racism, xenophobia, and misogyny.
This increase in anti-Asian racism during the COVID-19 pandemic is no coincidence. During this health crisis, AAPIs have been singled out for particular suspicion and scapegoating by many, with some elected officials stoking fear and hatred with race-baiting rhetoric and using terms such as “China virus” and “kung flu.” But anti-Asian racism is not new. It has a long and shameful history in America. From the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to Japanese American incarceration during WW II, from KKK terrorism of Vietnamese American shrimpers in the 1980s to post-9/11 hatred directed at South Asians, people of Asian descent have long been targets for racism and bigotry.
The attacks directed against AAPIs is an urgent reminder to pay more attention to the challenges they face. The fastest growing segment of the U.S. population, AAPIs are often viewed as a monolithic group and stereotyped as well-educated and successful. That “model minority” myth ignores the diversity of the AAPI population and the wide disparities between Asian groups with vast differences in history, language, culture, and socioeconomic status. In fact, Asian Americans have the largest income gap between the top and bottom 10% of households. Some AAPI groups have shockingly high poverty and high school dropout rates. Nearly two-thirds of U.S. Asians are foreign-born, and Asians make up 13% of the 11.1 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. Asian women, like some of the Atlanta victims, are among the most vulnerable members of their communities due to their intersectional identities as immigrants, single mothers, and workers at low-wage jobs where they are subject to abuse, exploitation, and stigmatization. All too often, AAPIs are marginalized, exoticized, invisibilized, and treated as perpetual foreigners, while their very real needs and problems are ignored.
The California Access to Justice Commission is committed to addressing racism and all forms of oppression and denial of opportunity. Our mission of achieving full access to civil justice for all Californians is informed by our understanding of the ways in which systemic racism, social and economic inequality, and other factors intersect to create and contribute to ongoing lack of access to justice, causing yet more injustice.
We condemn anti-Asian racism and stand in solidarity with the AAPI community to oppose racist violence and hate crimes. We resolve to continue our work to combat the systemic inequities in our civil justice process that affect many, but weigh especially heavily on AAPI and other and other BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities and prevent their full access to justice and the opportunity to live without fear of racist violence.