The downtown skyline of San Francisco is shown in the distance with a couple walking in the nearground in shadown.

A man and woman walk on a street in front of the skyline in San Francisco, March 2020.

Credit:

Jeff Chiu/AP

The Asian American Pacific Islander community has a website where people can report hate crimes in more than 10 Asian languages.  Russell Jeung, co-founder of StopAAPIHate.org, tells host Marco Werman about the increase of anti-Asian hate crimes in the US during the pandemic, and what steps his organization is taking to document them.


TRANSCRIPT

Marco Werman:
Let's stay in the Bay Area and I turn to Russell Jeung, he's co-founder of StopAAPIHate.org. The website is where people can report hate crimes against members of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Russell joins us now from San Francisco. So Stop AAPI Hate, Russell, it's been collecting incident reports for just about a year. What kinds of cases are you seeing?

Russell Jeung:
Well, it's been horrific, actually. Over the last year, we've collected over 3,000 self reported incidents of racism and hate. And people say such horrific, hateful things towards Asian-Americans at the moment. We've been told to go back to China, had slurs yelled at us — profanities. And that's just part of the type of racism. We've been physically assaulted. We've been coughed and spat upon. We're facing civil rights violations, getting mistreated at the workplace — denied rideshares. And there's a lot of online harassment as well.

Marco Werman:
The reports that we've seen in the news periodically are really troubling. Have you personally experienced anything you would report?

Russell Jeung:
Well, early in the pandemic, my wife was on a running trail in a park in Oakland and she saw a man approaching her and he actually just blocked her path and then deliberately coughed into her face, not a way, but into her face. And that's happened time and time again to Asian Americans across the nation. And you would never expect another adult to just cough onto your face. But that's what's happening. Six to 8% of our cases involve coughing and spitting at Asians. And people just treating us release sub-humanely.

Marco Werman:
So, as I said, you've been gathering these reports of hate crimes for about a year. We know from President Trump blame the coronavirus pandemic on China. He used terms like the "Wuhan flu" and "China virus" at his rallies, even from his podium at the White House. What was the impact of that?

Russell Jeung:
The impact of Trump's hate speech was clear. We have a strong correlation. His hate speech went viral. So the number of other people using that term "Chinese virus" rose hundredfold. And then that hate speech led to hate violence. And that's been correlated as well.

Marco Werman:
Can we unpack the phrase "Asian Americans" for a moment? Because many feel that doesn't do justice to a large, diverse group of people, as if people with roots in on the Asian continent are a single monolithic group. And then you have phrases like "model minority." Can you talk about the language, Russell, and how you think it feeds into problems across the US like that stereotype of the model minority?

Russell Jeung:
Right. The term Asian American doesn't do justice to the diversity of our population. Clearly, there's lots of different ethnic groups, lots of different languages. But actually, it's appropriate at this moment because we are being racially profiled as Asians, as especially East Asians. So only 40% of our respondents are Chinese. The other 60% are Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese who look East Asian. But we've had Latinos who are punched and shoved and told to go back to China. We've had indigenous people in Vancouver punched and shoved to go back to China. So others don't perceive us as being distinct and different. And so we are getting racially treated similarly. And in that way, we need to come together in power to fight this racism. And actually, the panethnic label actually works because we're learning from our South Asian brothers and sisters who went through similar experiences after 9/11. They were harassed, detained, deported, had to register with the government. So we've been working with Muslims, Arabs, South Asians to strategize, to use the same type of tracking systems. So I think there's a real strong solidarity within the Asian American community right now. I'm seeing that if one group is oppressed, then others will also be oppressed. And it's not the model minority stereotype that's shaping us. It's actually the perpetual foreigner stereotype that's much more operative, much more insidious, much more dangerous, so that we're being killed because people see us as not belonging — as foreigners to be excluded. And because we're not real Americans, we could be mistreated so badly.

Marco Werman:
I know a lot of people, and not just Asian Americans, who see this as an urgent problem that is not getting nearly enough attention, but it needs more discussion. Can you talk about solutions? Where do you start? Because there's the past year to confront, but also from what you've been saying, whole history to deal with.

Russell Jeung:
So we want to get at the historic roots and the current roots of racism, not just put Band-Aids with maybe more patrolling or more police to stop crime. So education is key, especially as kids get bullied a lot at schools, as parents are afraid to send their kids back to schools. We need ethnic studies. We want to have expanded civil rights protections. When we get harassed at stores and can shop, we're getting denied public accommodations, the safe access to goods and we want restorative justice that could really break the cycle of violence. Rather than just incarcerating people with hate crimes — most incidents aren't to the level of crime. We need to just bring people together to hold perpetrators accountable, but help heal victims and bring groups together again.

Marco Werman:
Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, speaking with us about his work with StopAAPIHate.org. Professor Jones, thank you very much for your time.

Russell Jeung:
Thank you.

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