Leaders of Asian American groups at the College said they have reacted to the spike in anti-Asian violence and racism since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic with frustration and sadness, but not surprise.
Since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic — which is said to have originated in Wuhan, China — anti-Asian hate crimes and racism have skyrocketed. A New York City Police Department report that was widely circulated on social media reported that anti-Asian hate crimes had spiked 1,900 percent in 2020.
Stop AAPI Hate, a new organization formed in March, said it received over 2,800 reports of discrimination and racism against Asian-Americans between March 19 and Dec. 31, 2020.
The Harvard Vietnamese Association published a statement on Instagram last week citing the above reports to condemn the recent violence, but also noted that the United States had historically always tried to “erase” Asian Americans.
Ryan D. Nguyen ’25, who helped draft the statement with HVA, said he had been following the reports of “thousands upon thousands” of anti-Asian hate crimes since the onset of the pandemic and had been inspired to act.
“I shouldn't have to worry that my grandfather will be set on fire while putting out the trash. I shouldn’t have to worry that my grandmother will be slammed to the ground and killed on her morning walk,” he said. “But here I am worrying.”
Linda K. Lin ’24, education and political chair of the Asian American Association, said the racism she has experienced throughout the pandemic has made her feel “othered” and “excluded.”
“I come from a province near Wuhan and people were like, ‘Oh, don’t talk to Linda,’” Lin said. “I think the main issue of racism is within the Asian community that I have experienced is a lot about microaggressions.”
For Lin, the pandemic has reinforced her belief that a “misconception about Asian Americans as a model minority” has fed into anti-Asian racism.
“This demographic is so diverse,” she said. “If you look at the different ethnic groups like the Burmese, and other Asian American ethnic groups, and minorities, they’re not doing so well and they don’t get attention.”
Kathy Ling ’22, co-president of the Chinese Students Association, also said that though the hate crimes were “not surprising,” it was still challenging to see this “widespread tragedy.”
For fellow CSA co-president Matthew Ho ’22, the recent spike in anti-Asian crime “feels a lot more personal” because he worries his own family members could be affected.
Emily A. Meng ’23, a member of CSA’s Senior Council, said an anti-Asian hate crime became directly impactful for them and their family when it occurred in their hometown of Wellesley, Mass.
“A white woman spit in the face of a Chinese woman who lived in Wellesley and really kind of drew the attention of the Chinese community in my town,” they said.
Isabelle L. Guillaume ’24, a Crimson Business associate and diversity co-chair for the AAA, said now is a time for Harvard students to “lend an ear” to their Asian American friends and classmates.
“We are going through things that a lot of people don’t necessarily pay attention to,” Guillaume said. “It has come to light recently, but the thing is, being anti-racist should not be a trend.”
Tram Nguyen ’22, a Harvard Vietnamese Association adviser who also helped write the organization’s statement, called on students to not only donate, but also raise awareness around the issue through social media and conversations with family members and those outside the Asian American community.
Ryan Nguyen said though he is “disheartened” by the uptick in anti-Asian American sentiment across the country, he remains “hopeful” about the progress of the country.
“My parents love America. I love this country, too. I just really wish it would love us back. And I wish that it would hear us. So there’s a lot of change to be made,” he said. “But I’m hopeful that within 20 years or 30 years, we’ll definitely see progress.”
—Staff writer Audrey M. Apollon can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Leah J. Teichholtz can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LeahTeichholtz.