Anti-Asian violence continues to grow

Framing anti-Asian violence as "un-American" ignores the root of the problem, says Iyko Day, associate professor of English.

By Keely Savoie Sexton 

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it an increase in hate incidents against Asians. 

According to a July report from  Pew Research Center, 31% of Asian adults said they had been subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the outbreak began. This was compared with 21% of Black adults and 15% of Hispanic adults. Stop AAPI Hate, an Asian and Pacific Islander monitoring group, reported that nearly 3,800 Asians have experienced hate incidents since the pandemic began in March 2020. 

Iyko Day, associate professor of English, sees anti-Asian violence as woven into the fabric of the United States.

In the wake of the Atlanta shooting of six women of Asian descent, Day spoke to Connecting Point’s Zydalis Bauer about the dehumanization of Asians in the U.S.. Connecting Point is a production of New England Public Media. 

“There has been profound anger and despair across Asian communities,” said Day. “There has been a lot of outrage over the way the Atlanta sheriff first decided to prioritize the humanity of the white male shooter. ... The women he targeted were workers, mothers, daughters, sisters and wives. But the sheriff reduced their humanity to the racist, misogynist fantasies of the killer.”

While the Biden administration offers starkly different viewpoints on race and racism than the previous administration, Day said, it frames tragedies like the targeting of Asian women as “un-American.”

That framing itself is problematic, according to Day, who sees it as a way to avoid responsibility for the historical and contemporary ways in which the U.S. has supported racism.

“All we need to do is to review the history to determine what is America or un-American about anti-Asian violence,” said Day, listing the Chinese labor movement, the 1875 Chinese Exclusion Act, and the World War II-era abuses of Japanese Americans, among numerous other examples of America antipathy toward those of Asian descent.

“In a nutshell, anti-Asian racism has in fact been all too American,” said Day. “Saying anti-Asian racism is un-American is actually a way of avoiding a systemic analysis of the roots of this violence, which would involve implicating white supremacy, xenophobia and U.S. imperial violence.”

Watch the interview.

Related News

Andrew G. Reiter, associate professor of politics and international relations, talks to NOVA.

The United States must help in Haiti

Mount Holyoke professor Andrew Reiter wrote in the Boston Globe on the moral — and political – imperative for US intervention in the Carribean country.

Photo of Patricia Brennan

The evolutionary payout for prickly sex

Mount Holyoke expert Patricia Brennan explains that both males and females benefit from the thorny genital arms race in seed beetles.

Paul Staiti

Trump takes spot in National Portrait Gallery

The placement of Donald Trump’s presidential image invites “heated conversation,” says Mount Holyoke art professor Paul Staiti.

Photo of Patricia Brennan

Separating the baby from the backwater

Anuses segregate babies from back ends, says Patricia Brennan, Mount Holyoke College assistant professor of biology.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, Mount Holyoke’s Harriet L. Weissman and Paul M. Weissman Distinguished Fellow in Leadership, spoke to USA Today about the tragic history and wave of violence facing society’s most vulnerable.

The deadliest year

Mount Holyoke Fellow Carmen Yulín Cruz, former San Juan mayor, spoke with  USA Today about the violence against the transgender community in Puerto Rico.

Find more stories >