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.

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