Resources to Combat Anti-Asian Violence
Published: August 10, 2022 by Eori Tokunaga
It is imperative that we at the San José State University iSchool cultivate a justice-oriented and community-minded culture for our SJSU Spartans. While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the lives of our communities, it is important to address the increasing hostilities that have occurred as a result of the pandemic.
Beginning on March 19, 2020, over 9,000 hateful incidents towards Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders have been recorded, with a large majority of those reports coming from California. The Stop AAPI Hate Coalition has provided policy recommendations to the state of California in response to the growing number of AAPI hateful incidents (source: Stop AAPI Hate).
It is important to recognize that while the rising frequency of anti-Asian violent acts have coincided with the COVID-19 pandemic, these numbers are just a small part of the nation’s long history of harassment, discrimination, and violence towards Asian Americans. Anti-Asian sentiments in the United States have stemmed as far as back as the 19th century, with notable moments in history such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, as well as the racially motivated assault and murder of Vincent Chin. The nation’s long history of anti-Asian violence has now grown into national trends that we see with regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, impacting the lives of some of our students, staff, and faculty at SJSU.
Wun Wong’s Story
Currently based in New Haven, Connecticut, Wun Wong’s (pronouns: they/them/theirs) decision to enroll in the Master of Library and Information Science degree program at SJSU has stemmed from their experiences in advocacy and community organizing.
“The entirety of my life has been some form of socio-political advocacy and I think library advocacy is just another aspect of that. I’ve been organizing since high school, so over a decade at this point…I wanted to get an MLIS because of the work I’ve done fighting disinformation, media literacy, and unlearning harmful ideas.”
Wun’s advocacy work has greatly impacted how they see these violent acts that have been happening to their communities, and their own family, as well. “My parents owned a restaurant that got vandalized a couple times over the pandemic, and our house got broken into…they were specifically targeting Asian families.”
Unfortunately, these incidents coincide with nationwide trends: “Public streets (31.2% of incidents) and businesses (26.9% of incidents) remain the top sites of anti-AAPI hate” (source: Stop AAPI Hate National Report).
How are You Processing these Experiences?
While some people may be shocked at the rising number of anti-Asian violence seen on the news, Wun is not: “I’m angry, but I’m not surprised you know, and I’m not angry at the people who did it. I am more so angry at the system that has created the conditions that allow for people to have these ideas, because these ideas don’t come out of nowhere…which is why I use the term anti-Asian violence instead of anti-Asian crime because to imply that it’s just a crime implies that we should be arresting people. That just ends up with more people in jail and doesn’t actually solve the root of the problem of why the violence occurs. I think the idea of protecting ourselves within the Asian community has turned to a lot of anti-blackness and criminalization, and that’s another reason why I don’t want to call it a crime…sometimes I can’t talk about my experiences or say everything about it, because people will use the story for a different agenda.”
How are You and Your Family Members Moving Forward?
“I’m just moving forward with it, knowing that I can’t really have done anything to prevent it. It wasn’t my fault for not staying safe; everything was locked up so what else can you do? For me, I just really feel like [these experiences] are more motivation to keep organizing and also to have compassion for the people who may have committed this violence. It’s not to say that it’s an excuse, but we also have to give them a bit of grace and ask them what their motivations are.”
“Ultimately, the thing I would want people to understand, especially Asian people, is that the people who commit interpersonal anti-Asian violence against us aren’t the people who are reinforcing harmful ideas about us. Rather, their harmful ideas are brought upon by the system that causes our pain.”
As always, we at the SJSU iSchool want to reassure our students, alumni, faculty, and staff that their health and safety are of utmost importance. For folks who are also feeling affected by these violent acts, please know that we have resources available on-campus and off-campus that can help you process your feelings during these difficult times:
How Can iSchool Help?
As part of its new EDI symposium series, the iSchool conducted an AANHPI (Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander) online symposium featuring former American Library Association President Patty Wong. The iSchool is committed to equity, diversity, and inclusion for all members of our community and those that we work with and serve.
In addition, below are a list of resources that provide a starting point for conversations on how to tackle anti-Asian violence and be actively anti-racist:
- APALA Statement Against Anti-Asian Violence
- SJSU: Combating Systemic Racism
- SJSU ODEI Blog
- National Museum of African American History & Culture
- The Office for Intellectual Freedom of the American Library Association
- Vanderbilt University: AAPI Racial Justice Toolkit