The following article is a publication of the Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. Diversity Perspectives is a safe space for members in our community to share cultural insights from a personal perspective about current events.

Violence against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community

From the viewpoint of Jasmine Patel

Since the beginning of this pandemic, communities of color have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19, especially the Black, Latinx and Native American communities. There is another community of color that has been impacted by the pandemic in a different way — not only attacked by the virus, but also attacked by hateful rhetoric leading to discrimination and physical violence. In many ways, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community has been made out to be the villain in this situation, which has had very real, and in some cases deadly, consequences.

Being seen as the “other” or as perpetual foreigners is nothing new for Asian Americans. However, divisive and accusatory language such as calling COVID-19 the “China Virus” or the “Kung-Flu” has elevated the xenophobia and racism against Asian American communities over the past year. Searching for an outlet, some Americans have chosen to direct their anger and frustration regarding the pandemic toward those who were made out to be the face of the virus early on, the Asian American community. Consequently, violence against Asian Americans has skyrocketed in the past year. According to the legal and civil rights organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice, more than 3,000 hate incidents have been reported since April 2020. For context, the FBI noted 216 anti-Asian hate crime incidents in 2019 (the most recent year for which data is available).

More than 3,000 anti-Asian hate incidents have been reported since April 2020.

Asian Americans Advancing Justice

In the past few months, there has been a spike in this violence in California’s Bay Area and other parts of the country, bringing a deep sense of pain in a season that is typically marked by joyful celebrations of the Lunar New Year. It has been particularly heartbreaking to see that so many of those who have been attacked have been elderly members of the AAPI community. In late January of this year, an 84-year-old Thai man named Vicha Ratanapakdee was assaulted while taking a walk in San Francisco; he passed away two days later. A 64-year-old Vietnamese woman was robbed and assaulted in San Jose. A 91-year-old elder was violently attacked in Oakland. These are just a few of the many deeply disturbing incidents that have occurred in the last several months.

These stories must be shared, and actions must be taken to pursue justice for impacted individuals and communities. However, as many community leaders have pointed out, the answer to protecting Asian Americans from discrimination and violence cannot be rooted in anti-Blackness. Given the history of racial bias in law enforcement contributing to disproportionate harm against Black and brown communities, the first and only response cannot be to demand more policing. The solution is not found in turning communities of color against each other. I am inspired and encouraged by organizations that are exploring alternative approaches. For example, Compassion in Oakland is working to connect volunteer chaperones with Asian American elders as a way to provide them with protection.

I believe that Pacific’s commitment to seeking and promoting diversity, equity and inclusion doesn’t stop at just our campuses. It extends to the cities that our institution calls home — Stockton, San Francisco and Sacramento. It extends to the places that our students come from and to every place that our alumni go. We must not stay silent in response to hateful, xenophobic and racist rhetoric and actions.

My hope is that we can continue to be a community that is committed to learning alongside one another and protecting each other.

By Jasmine Patel
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