As hate crimes towards the Asian American and Pacific Islander community have risen across America, PCC held a panel with guest speakers from the AAPI community to honor their history in America as well as provide a deeper understanding of racism and hate crimes.
Held in celebration of Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, the event titled “Asian American Resistance: 150 Years and Counting” highlighted the struggles and perseverance of the AAPI community, specifically recounting the prejudiced past of Los Angeles.
“We are in need of today’s space. Where stories are offered not by the dominant culture but by the heroes of those stories, by individuals who have shown resilience in the face of racism,” said Dr. Kari Bolen, the Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Officer at PCC.
Since the start of the pandemic there has been a steady incline of Asian hate crimes, fueled by former President Trump’s use of racial slurs as well as blaming China for the spreading of the virus.
The guest speakers of the event discussed the darker aspects of American history, telling the Asian American Pasific Islander’s experience in America, shedding a light on how unfortunate circumstances can befall the AAPI community, and explaining how the crimes against their community are nothing new.
Dr. Gay Q. Yuen, the president of the Friends of the Chinese American Museum and Asian Youth Center, spoke about the event in which 19 Chinese Americans were lynched in old Chinatown, which is now the location of the Chinese American Museum. The Chinese Massacre of 1871 was the first mass lynching in American history. It began with the accidental shooting of a white man by two Chinese men, who were in a scuffle over a woman. Once word had spread of the shooting of the white man, a mob of 500 white and Hispanic people gathered in old Chinatown, which resulted in the killing of 19 Chinese Americans.
“I do want to infuse some cultural aspects as we talk about some of these different events, so that we might have a deeper interpretation of why things happen the way they happen,” Yuen said.
Yuen said that the Chinese American Museum will “honor, recognize and remember these 19 people” with the creation of the memorial garden.
Professor Marshall Wong spoke about the legal definition of a hate crime and how the statistics of hate crimes are only the tip of the iceberg.
“The FBI requests hate crime data from every law enforcement agency in the country, but it’s voluntary,” Wong said.
85% of police departments across the US are either not reporting their data or state that they have not had any instances of hate crimes Wong went on to say, which shows how the statistics aren’t providing accurate data.
A lot of hate crimes go unreported for a multitude of reasons. Along with the underreported data from police agencies, many victims choose not to report the crimes themselves for several reasons. Such factors include the fear of retaliation, publicity, cultural or linguistic isolation, immigration status, unfamiliarity with the law and mistrust of law enforcement.
“Living in the U.S. culture, the values are very different. In the U.S. culture, the squeaky wheel gets the grease and might is right. What you have is a cultural class that has conditioned us to behave differently depending on which group you belong to,” Yuen said.
The panelists spoke about ideas for change such as stricter gun control laws, ethnic study requirements in colleges, as well as how social media entities could remove hateful propaganda and investigate algorithms that promote white supremacy.
In regards to how allies of the AAPI community could help Wong stated, “ask what can I do, as opposed to, well I’m not the one yelling racial epithets.”
With a better understanding of the history of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in America as well as the endemic of hate crime towards their community, the AAPI panelists hope to make a positive change for the future.