Dear Beach Family:
While Asian Americans and Asian immigrants have encountered hate crimes, threats and bigotry throughout their history in the United States, there is a new wave of violence targeting those communities.
Media reports of violence have come from all over the United States, including in California. Our campus community is proud to be almost 30% Asian/Pacific Islander, and I worry about our students’ and colleagues’ dread and anxiety at this turn of events. Attacks have been physical, verbal and symbolic. Any intimidation is unacceptable, and we must redouble our commitment to combatting racism and discrimination.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans have increased during the COVID-19 pandemic. Between March and September of last year, there was a huge upswing, with more than 2,500 reports (nationally) of anti-Asian hate incidents related to the pandemic. Sadly – but not surprisingly – officials believe that the actual number is much, much larger because most instances go unreported.
As horrifying and repulsive as all this is, it’s nothing new. Historically, diseases and epidemics have often been blamed on the “other.” This blame is used to normalize/institutionalize racism and xenophobia against Asian Americans, immigrants and other perceived “out” groups. Of course, the victims of these crimes have nothing to do with the disease itself. Perpetrators are scapegoating others as a way to quell their own anxieties, while acting out the basest of human emotions – jealousy, bigotry, hate, avarice, misogyny, and xenophobia – to name just a few.
According to a recent report by the Los Angeles County Commission on Human Relations, violent acts of hate (in LA County) grew to the highest rate since 2008. Among the most notable increases came in violent crimes against people of Middle Eastern descent (142%); Jewish descent (89%); Asian descent (32%); and transgender persons (64%). These numbers are chilling. These are crimes of domestic terrorism with Americans turning hateful speech and violent actions against fellow citizens and immigrants.
This trend is a serious matter and one that must be better addressed by political leaders, law enforcement, educators, the media and others. We must be part of a solution by pledging our efforts to put a stop to hate, reporting instances of observed hate crimes, and making an extra effort to be welcoming to our Asian and immigrant community members. Let’s stand together to bring attention to the issue and be models of tolerance and love.
Our country cannot thrive when whole populations of people are targeted because of the color of their skin, the shape of their faces, or because of whom they love or how they identify. We know from history and logic that a “house divided against itself cannot stand,” (Abraham Lincoln). We also know that humans will not thrive if they indulge their weaknesses rather than their strengths.
I write today to condemn hate and lift up love. I understand the sources of both and know that we can be in charge of which path we take. It’s not easy to shake off toxic environments of false information and make the effort to feed our best internal angels. It is the way, however, to protect our communities from devolving into warring factions where there are no winners, only losers.
We must stay alert to gratitude, positive opportunities, the kindness of others, and our own competence and positive aspirations. When we can stay attentive to these parts of us, we can accept others as fellow humans who share many more similarities that should unite us, rather than differences that can divide us.
We are OneBeach.
Jane Close Conoley, Ph.D.