Like many of us in the Bay Area in the past year, the Asian American and Pacific Islander community has experienced extreme anxiety from the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, as many AAPI families have lost loved ones and have had to shut the doors of their beloved small businesses. However, AAPI individuals are simultaneously combating another crisis.
Between 2019 and 2020, anti-AAPI hate crimes increased by at least 50% in major cities in California, including San Francisco and San Jose. Asian elders such as my grandparents, who used to preach the values of humility and friendliness, are now scrambling to protect themselves and are in need of urgent help.
Instead of remaining silent, the AAPI community decided to speak up against ruthless acts of hate through the Unity Against Hate rallies held across the nation May 15. I was fortunate to attend the Oakland Chinatown rally virtually and immediately felt the energy and solidarity of the crowd as the rally began.
There, people of all ages and from different ethnic backgrounds, united by a common cause, waved their homemade posters and flags, blew their whistles and marched in the historic Oakland Chinatown streets. It was enlightening and refreshing to hear from Asian changemakers of all trades, from actor Daniel Wu to California Attorney General Rob Bonta, about their efforts against hate crimes and their advice on how to empower the AAPI community.
Most encouragingly, I noticed a sizable presence of young people, as AAPI children showed their hand-drawn, bilingual posters and chanted “How do we do it? Vote!” as loud as anyone else at the rally. They are the future of the AAPI community, and they are also the generation that may live in a truly inclusive and equitable society if we all act together now.
“We have too much that is in common with all of us to divide us,” said Keith Carson, Alameda County supervisor, at the Oakland rally. In truth, ending anti-Asian hate requires compassion and support from all of us, regardless of ethnic identity, age or occupation.
The rally ignited sparks of hope among the Asian community. Now, it is up to all of us to continue the momentum of the rally and to embrace diversity as the Bay Area’s strength. Whether you vote for a candidate from an underrepresented community, attend future rallies to demand systemic change or simply learn a bit more about their experiences and cultural backgrounds when you chat with your AAPI neighbors, you are taking a stand against anti-Asian hate and a step closer to a more inclusive tomorrow.
Leon Chen is a junior at UC Berkeley majoring in economics and legal studies.