Insistent chants rang out across South Berkeley Wednesday evening as a crowd of students and community members gathered to condemn a string of violent attacks on the Asian American and Pacific Islander, or AAPI, community.
Winding through Berkeley’s streets, protestors voiced their grief and anger over what has been a most tumultuous and traumatic year for AAPI communities.
Nationwide, Asian Americans reported almost 4,000 hate incidents in the past year, ranging from microaggressions to verbal harassment to physical assault. Nearly half of these incidents occurred in California. Countless more went unreported.
The Bay Area has seen an alarming uptick in anti-Asian racial violence in recent months, particularly against elderly AAPI residents. Other attacks have been reported in Berkeley and neighboring Oakland. Just last week, UC Berkeley students of Asian descent were harassed in University Village.
For many, this violence has come frighteningly close to home.
Some attribute a marked rise in anti-Asian racism to the bigotry and inflammatory rhetoric surrounding the pandemic, and, as a result, discussions of anti-Asian racism have, in recent weeks, become virtually inseparable from discussions of COVID-19. But it’s important to recognize that the racism many Asian Americans face today, while perhaps more frequent and severe, is not radically different from that which they’ve experienced throughout U.S. history.
Because the AAPI community is often wrongly assumed to be a relatively privileged monolith, the particular challenges faced by ethnic subgroups have been consistently minimized, or dismissed altogether.
But that doesn’t mean they do not exist. And our collective failure to acknowledge such disparities demonstrates how anti-Asian racism, like all forms of racism, has become deeply embedded in the institutions and culture of this country.
Longtime Berkeley residents may recall that, back in 1968, the Asian American Movement blossomed right here on the UC Berkeley campus, marking the first time AAPI subgroups gathered in solidarity under the mantle of “Asian American.” The group went on to join Black, Latinx and Indigenous collectives to form the Third World Liberation Front, pushing back against the dominant belief that they did not belong.
Fifty years later, it’s clear how much work there is left to do. And just like the Asian American Movement did decades ago, we must confront anti-Asian racism today boldly and in solidarity.
Strengthening ethnic studies requirements — the lasting legacy of the Third World Liberation Front at UC Berkeley — in high school and college campuses will help ensure that students learn about a plethora of cultures different from their own. Education is, perhaps, the most powerful tool to fight prejudice. It’s time schools nationwide appropriately recognized this power.
AAPI communities are also in dire need of financial support. In blatant acts of xenophobia, many diners have avoided Asian restaurants during the pandemic. Chinatowns in Oakland and San Francisco — and across the country — are struggling. So, too, are our AAPI friends and neighbors.
They need our support.
Resources List: Donations and other forms of support are strongly encouraged.
- Stop AAPI Hate is a reporting center for hate against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. You can report incidents and find other resources, such as how to get involved in your local community or provide a donation.
- Save Our Chinatowns is an initiative that helps Chinatowns in the Bay Area by supporting local art and culture and also raising money. Donations may be made here.
- Asian Pacific American Student Development (APASD) “serves the diverse and changing needs of Asian American, Pacific Islander, South Asian, Southwest Asian and North African (AA/PI/SSWANA) communities,” on the UC Berkeley campus. They host events as well as provide resources and services for students.
- REACH! API Recruitment & Retention Center promotes the recruitment and retention of Asian and Pacific Islander students at UC Berkeley through a variety of programs.
- Pilipinx Academic Student Services (PASS) is a student-run organization that expands access to resources and opportunities for Pilipinx students at UC Berkeley. Donations to PASS may be made here.
- Journalist Sarah Belle Lin compiled this extensive guide for how you can support the AAPI community during these concerning times.
- AYPAL seeks “to empower Oakland’s low-income Asian & Pacific Islander immigrant and refugee families to be leaders for school reform and neighborhood change.” Get involved or donate to help further their initiatives.
- The East Bay Asian Youth Center provides educational and civic engagement opportunities for young people to promote safe and responsible lifestyles. Donations can be made here.
- Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy builds philanthropy to help meet the needs of AAPI communities. You can donate or become a member.
- APA Family Support Services promotes “healthy children and families by providing family support services to prevent child abuse and domestic violence.” They offer educational and community-building programs. Donations can be made here.
The above resources are just a start. Those who stand in solidarity with AAPI communities should continue to educate themselves about the particular hardships these communities face today and have always faced. Listening to and supporting the stated needs of local organizations working to confront anti-Asian racial violence is one important way, of many, that you can help.