After dropping off flowers Jesus Estrella, left, and Shelby S., right, stand in support of the Asian and Hispanic community outside Youngs Asian Massage parlor where four people were killed, March 17, in Acworth, Ga. A white gunman was charged with killing eight people at three Atlanta-area massage parlors in an attack that sent terror through the Asian-American community that’s increasingly been targeted during the coronavirus pandemic. (Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP)

By Wayne Dawkins
Special to the AFRO

Violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) increased 150% in 2020 compared to the previous year, and two thirds of those assaults were against women, reported the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism. Also, the reporting forum Stop AAPI Hate counted 3,800 attacks in the past year.

Violence against Asian American Pacific Islanders must be condemned. And African Americans and other citizens of color must stand in solidarity and in a united front against the hoodlum and White nationalist, terroristic onslaught.

When the COVID-19 pandemic shut down America and the rest of the world, violence against AAPIs climbed. The statistics became horrifically real when last week a 21-year-old White gunman visited three Atlanta-area massage parlors and killed eight people, including six Asian women. 

The suspect blamed the shooting rampage on his sex addiction. Then a tone-deaf Capt. Jay Baker of the Cherokee County, Georgia Sheriff’s Office said the adolescent “had a bad day.” Reporting soon revealed that before the lethal attacks, the lawman had been displaying T-shirts depicting “Chy-na virus.” Unconscious bias?

He must have been following the bad example set by former President Donald Trump, who blamed the global COVID-19 pandemic on China. Yes, the disabling, deadly virus was discovered in Wuhan, China, but No. 45 chose to demonize people when the moment screamed out for minimizing fear mongering and for problem solving, not trumpeting a “Kung Flu.” 

Individuals took Trump’s cues to randomly assault Asians on American streets, like the elder man in California who was knocked to the pavement and suffered permanent head injuries, or the elder Asian woman, 70, also in California, who was punched in the face at an intersection by a young man. Fearing for her life, the elder fought back furiously in self-defense and sent the assailant to the hospital in a stretcher.

Violence against Asian Americans is not new. Nearly 40 years ago in the early 1980s, when the American car industry was in serious decline and fuel efficient, long-lasting Toyotas, Nissans and Hondas were saturating the U.S. economy, there was a backlash against Asians. 

It was a bad idea in 1982 for Asian-American men to walk Detroit streets. Michael Douglas parroted such animus as a character in the 1992 movie “Falling Down.” In time however, the backlash abated, partly because the U.S. automobile industry retooled and was able to compete and win back market share with Asian and European imports.

By the way, when last week’s Atlanta-area rampage broke and suspect Robert Aaron Long was at large, I could not help but notice this irony: before launching one of his three alleged attacks, he hovered against a Hyundai SUV, the now popular Korean import.

Once exploited, then restricted, Asian Americans over the past 50 years have emerged as a substantial minority group. It was evident in the 2020 Presidential election and Jan. 5 Georgia U.S. Senate special elections when citizens in the Atlanta suburbs came out in record numbers, encouraged by voting activist Stacey Abrams

In the 1800s, Chinese laborers were imported to build America’s coast-to-coast railroad. By the early 1900s, Japanese couples were encouraged to come to Southern California and make the desert bloom with citrus fruit. The Philippines, Guam, Samoa and Hawaii became U.S. colonies. 

After 1965, the United States erased laws that restricted immigration and limited Asians to 100 people per year. Their numbers have grown – to 6 percent of the total U.S. population – and they are integrated, not exotic seen-but-not-be heard “model minorities.”

Attacks against them, and Black folk, are attacks on everyone. Stand together, denounce and resist racially motivated attacks. As the Lutheran pastor Martin Niemoller famously lamented:

First they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
     Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

The writer is a professor of professional practice at Morgan State University School of Global Journalism and Communication.

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