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Op-Ed: Trump and the GOP put a bull’s-eye on the backs of Asian Americans

A protester holds a sign reading "#I am not a virus."
Demonstrators at a rally against anti-Asian violence at Los Angeles State Historic Park on Feb. 20.
(Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

A new report released by Stop AAPI Hate revealed that since March 19, 2020, there have been 3,795 hate incidents targeting Asian Americans. That figure barely scratches the surface as most hate crimes go unreported. The rash of violence is becoming a daily event.

The most recent occurred on Tuesday in the Atlanta area where a white man is suspected of shooting and killing six Asian women.

A few days ago, Nancy Toh, an 83-year-old grandmother, was assaulted by a man who spit in her face and then punched her in the nose in Westchester, N.Y.

Last week, a woman was charged with a crime for spitting at an Asian American man and yelling an ethnic slur at him as he dined outdoors in Silicon Valley.

On Monday, a white woman in New York City verbally assaulted an Asian American couple, yelling from a cab, “Go back to [expletive] communist China you [expletive].”

I remember being made fun of when I was a kid in elementary school for looking different. For the shape and slant of my eyes. I remember the taunts, the “ching” and “chong” refrains. It affected me so that for so many years after, I effectively rejected my South Korean heritage. It was something I felt ashamed about. Something I hid from. Something I wanted nothing to do with. Something that confused me.

What I didn’t know then — which I do now — was that those taunts to make me feel inferior because of my physical appearance were acts of hate and they were learned behaviors the kids picked up from their parents. What kind of person teaches another that it’s OK to attack someone in this way?

I never imagined back then that such hate would be so openly triggered by the leader of a political party, but that’s where we are today.

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In 1854, the California Supreme Court ruled that testimony from Chinese Americans was inadmissible because they “were a race of people whom nature has marked as inferior, and who are incapable of progress or intellectual development beyond a certain point.”

That kind of thinking seems to be alive and well today, egged on by the Republican Party. Last September, 164 Republicans in the House of Representatives voted against a resolution written by Rep. Grace Meng (D-N.Y.) to condemn racism against Asian Americans. It was a sobering reminder of how mainstream bigotry against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has become in the Republican Party. Meng reintroduced the resolution in late February.

Just last week, former President Trump issued a statement in which he once again used the phrase “China virus,” which has inflamed hatred toward Asian Americans since the pandemic began. In their effort to find a scapegoat for the coronavirus, Republicans effectively put a bull’s-eye on the backs of our community. The result is this torrent of violence.

If you look like me, you’ve almost certainly been told to “go back to China” by a white person at some point in your life. I think I’ve been told that so many times throughout my life that on some level I’ve become numb to it. But the more I think about that, the angrier I get. What does it say about this country that in the year 2021 a person can become so conditioned to outward displays of racism that he stops reacting to it?

Not anymore.

No more suffering in silence. No more waiting our turn. We’re speaking out. We’re mobilizing. No matter who you are, where you’re from, we need you to be part of the #StopAsianHate movement. As the Rev. Al Sharpton put it the other day, “You can’t stop hate against anyone unless you fight hate against everyone.”

@KurtBardella

Kurt Bardella, a Korean American, is a contributing writer to Opinion. He was spokesperson and senior advisor for the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee from 2009 to 2013.


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