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Naming Anti-Asian Hate Crimes

February 17, 2021


Dear St. Paul’s Families,

Today marks the sixth day of the Lunar New Year (which is 15 days, ending on February 26). My family and I gathered outdoors at my brother’s home over the weekend to celebrate together. Each household prepared foods that carry symbolic meaning in our culture and during the new year, including noodles (happiness and longevity), dumplings (prosperity), whole steamed fish (surplus of fortune from the previous year), and whole chicken (family coming together). While we missed our children, it was wonderful to share in the experience of cooking and celebrating outdoors, just before the weather turned, with my parents and brother’s family. 

The conversation focused on all that we’ve experienced and observed in this past year and what we hope for in the coming year. And, our thoughts turned to the news (when does it not?), and the rally in Oakland’s Madison Park this past Saturday (which my brother’s family attended). A multiracial crowd of hundreds (Black, Brown, and other communities) came together in solidarity against the recent trend of violence against older Asian-Americans in the Bay Area. 

Last Thursday, St. Paul’s celebrated and highlighted Black culture and history because as a community we know we need to lift up narratives that have been oppressed. The Black experience is central to our community experience, one that sees and holds up the perspectives, stories, and experiences of all of our community members. At St. Paul’s, we will continue to advocate for Black and Asian solidarity.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans across the country have risen sharply since COVID-19 was termed the “Chinese virus” or the “Kung flu” by the 45th President of the United States. There have been over 2,500 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents related to COVID-19 between March and September 2020. As the pandemic has evolved, I’ve experienced the suspicion and veiled and verbal threats in areas outside of my immediate community bubble, especially in the first few months of the pandemic when mask wearing was just becoming more commonplace. My phenotype with a mask, prior to the mask mandate, was very much a call-out of being Chinese and in the climate of the pandemic, potentially “sick.” My friends and family members have experienced these same kinds of interactions, in and outside of the Bay Area. 

This is not about comparing my experience to that of other Black Indigenous People of Color (BIPOC), but simply to share that these incidents are touching people in our immediate community. There are many attacks that have been reported, but the scale of media coverage is not commensurate to the crimes. Law enforcement does not regularly investigate these reports. The latest rash of assaults on elderly community members in Oakland's Chinatown have sparked attention from Asian Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) celebrities who end up using their visibility to put pressure on accountability. The two most prominent recent assaults are the ones that have been captured on video. In Oakland’s Chinatown, a 91-year old Chinese man was pushed into the curb. The 28-year old perpetrator was arrested earlier last week. In San Francisco, an 84-year old Thai man was violently shoved to the ground and later died from the injuries he sustained.

President Joe Biden signed an executive order on January 26 targeting xenophobia against Asian Americans. Vice President Kamala Harris tweeted on the first day of the Lunar New Year that “[we] must continue to commit ourselves to combating racism and discrimination” as part of her response to the surge of violence against Asian Americans. But to effectively combat racism and discrimination, we must shine a light on what is happening and not ignore the violence against a community that is frequently perceived as passive, “the model minority,” and “white adjacent.” The term, model minority, and the focus on Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) adjacency to whiteness is a structure of white supremacy and has set up the paradigm that violence against our bodies is not racist. As a school and community that seeks to engage in active anti-racism, we need to acknowledge and disrupt this bias. 

As we know, silence erases our humanity. 

Be well and stay safe,
Cheryl
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St. Paul's Episcopal School
116 Montecito Avenue
Oakland, CA 94610
510.285.9600