“Your voice matters”: being an active ally to the Asian American and Pacific Islander community

By Olivia Montes

Lifestyle Editor

On Tuesday, March 16, eight people were killed in shootings at three small businesses, including Aromatherapy Spa, Gold Spa, and Young’s Asian Massage, in Atlanta, Ga., six of whom were Asian women. 

According to a report from The New York Times, 110 incidents of anti-Asian violence have been reported in the state of New York since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020, including those against elderly Asian, Asian American, and Pacific I citizens ranging from racial slurs to physical attacks.

While anti-Asian, Asian American, and Pacific Islander sentiment in the U.S. is not new, physical and verbal attacks against AAPI citizens significantly rose during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

According to the 2020-2021 National Report written by the non-profit social organization Stop AAPI Hate, from March 19, 2020 to Feb. 28, 2021, a total of 3,795 hate incidents have been reported, including those involving verbal harassment, physical battery, and civil rights violations, demonstrating an ongoing vulnerability that continues to target the Asian American community. 

“This targeting, which has been widely publicized as of recent, has included unprovoked physical attacks, verbal assaults, discrimination, and widespread and pervasive attempts to stigmatize Asians being blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic,” Amy Y. Karpf, Esq. said. “We need people to speak up and help bring awareness to what is happening to all Asian [people].”

Here are ways those looking to aid and assist the AAPI community can further support the cause. 

Educate yourself. 

Before taking immediate action, the first step is to learn about the history and significance behind anti-AAPI sentiment in the U.S. This can include watching documentaries, such as the five-hour PBS film series “Asian Americans” (2021); reading books written by AAPI authors; and keeping up with recent news articles and statistics concerning the subject. 

On the Washington College campus, students can join the Chinese Cultural Club for upcoming events, which, according to junior and Chinese Cultural Club member Huiling Hu, allows for students of all identities to not only “[get] students interested in Chinese culture and willing to share it with people around them,” but also to develop “respect for different cultures and be willing to accept new cultural backgrounds.” 

“The overall mission of [this club] is to provide unity for…Asian students on campus,” junior and Chinese Cultural Club president Tim Yao said. “I hope that [students] can learn more about Asian culture because…most do not know what is going on.” 

For learning more about the impacts of racism on a larger scale, students are also encouraged to participate in Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion workshop initiatives. 

Their next training session, which is scheduled for April 20 at 5 p.m. via Zoom, strives to, according to the initial email sent by the JEDI Executive Board, “provide participants… [the opportunity to] further evolve along the anti-racist continuum by fostering a safe space for the exploration of racism and anti-racism at levels from individual to systemic,” in addition to unlearning the discriminatory actions and behaviors that both individual people and entire communities have normalized for centuries. Students can sign up on the registration link via the campus-wide email sent by JEDI. 

By further pushing yourself to both actively learn and unlearn, you will not only gain an understanding as to how to support and help the AAPI community, but how to further educate and engage others into learning alongside you. 

Call out and check in.

Upon educating yourself about this ongoing, targeted violence — and reviewing your active bystander skills — if you should witness those of AAPI descent being targeted with bouts of racist actions or behaviors, immediately call those perpetrators out. 

According to tips provided by Stop AAPI Hate, first “introduce yourself…[then] ask before taking any actions and respect the targeted person’s wishes…[and] using your discretion, attempt to calm the situation by using your voice, body language, or distractions” to distance yourselves from the attackers. 

However, should the situation escalate further, according to Stop AAPI Hate, “invite the targeted person to join you in leaving [and] ask them how they are feeling,” and continue to abide by their wishes as to what they want to do next, particularly regarding reporting the incident. 

You can also reach out to and check in on fellow AAPI peers or students to further demonstrate support; however, be careful with your choice of words, as, according to author Kim Tran, “asking someone an open-ended question — ‘how are you feeling?’ or ‘is there anything I can do for you?’ — can create an emotional burden for the recipient in their response.”

“Instead…acknowledge that the news is distressing, and then offer to take a meeting off their plate, extend a deadline or pitch in on a project,” Tran said to CNBC reporter Jennifer Liu on Feb. 19. “Let the person impacted dictate how they want to do their work…and at the same time be explicit in your offer of support based on what they need.” 

Support as much as you can. 

As anti-AAPI xenophobia within the U.S. has continued to grow throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, current and potential allies alike ranging across multiple creeds and identities are strongly encouraged to actively — and consistently — combat and call for change. 

Whether it be a post on social media, shopping at AAPI-owned businesses, or donating to or taking part in advocacy groups such as Stop AAPI HateAsian Americans Advancing Justice, and AAPI Women Lead, what is important is to continue to support the AAPI community, thus not only to effectively challenge the U.S.’s entrenched racist ideals, but also to further create an inclusive environment for all. 

“We are a country of diversity, not division. We are a nation of many ethnicities that stand side-by-side helping each other and working together in police departments, hospitals, the military, factories, restaurants, and every other type of industry throughout the U.S.,” Karpf said. “More than ever now, we need to stand united and be vocal.”

Featured Photo caption: For those looking to further support the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, here are a few ways to strengthen allyship. Photo Courtesy of Jason Leung.

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