Ever since last summer, protests in hopes for equity for all have been big around the United States. Since the beginning of 2020, the amount of anti-Asian attacks across the country has risen 150%. A large percent was due to the coronavirus pandemic. Many activists and government officials have said that many attacks were a result of former president Donald Trump, who frequently used racial slurs and remarks in referring to Asians and the coronavirus. In result of these attacks, activist group Stop Asian Hate was formed in March of last year. The group collects data on hate and harassment incidents against the AAPI community. According to a recent New York Times article, “The Stop Asian Hate group had received reports of 3,795 incidents between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021. But it said the number could be higher because not all incidents are reported. Most of the incidents compiled by Stop Asian Hate took place against women, in businesses and on public sidewalks or streets. Other events included civil rights violations such as workplace discrimination or refusal of service and online harassment. And about 11 percent of the reports involved physical assault.”
I remember the first time I saw one of these attacks. It was after school, right before schools shut down due to COVID-19. My friends and I were going out to get food, like we did every day before we had our after-school clubs and obligations. When we were walking across the street we witnessed a student from a school in our building shove an older Asian man down in the middle of the street and run away laughing. My friends and I were not only taken aback by the action but also extremely angered by it. We then confronted the kid who pushed the man down and he proceeded to look at us like we were crazy, and I think that was the scariest part.
Being that my school is 98% Asian, after that day I started to progressively notice the fear instilled in my classmates concerning their safety. Who could blame them, considering at that time even our own president wasn't on their side. It was things like that that motivated me to make this project. As an African-American female, I’ve experienced a lot of the same emotions and anger towards the same kind of racist experiences that the AAPI community is currently facing and I feel like it’s really important to document and share things like this. Way too many people have been attacked or lost their lives and way too many Asian Americans have to live in fear over things they can't control like the color of their skin. What I hope to do with my project is introduce a different perspective to topics like this. Through interviewing people in the community and having experienced things like this myself, I find that often the response to racist attacks are, “Oh, that wasn't my intention,” or, “I didn’t know that's how they felt,” but those responses are far from being enough. We have to do more for minority communities all over the world, and I think that this project has allowed a way for me to do my part.
This is a portrait of my childhood best friend, Angelica Hori, whom I attended many protests with. In an interview, I asked her how these attacks had affected her mental health.
“I have felt myself become more desensitized to violence towards Asians, not because I want to, but because I’m so exhausted by the fact that that is a burden I have to carry.”
One of my close friends, Kaitlynn Leung, while we were out in Chinatown. I asked her how the attacks on AAPI people have affected her personal life.
“They've changed the way I live ,and the comfort I used to have of knowing I was safe. I no longer feel that comfort anymore, I feel scared half the time just because of who I am.”