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Leaders call on educators to help stop spread of anti-Asian racism

Community groups and San Francisco leaders are calling on schools to stand up to racism against students of Asian and Pacific Islander descent, especially as the school year kicks off.

At a press conference Wednesday, organizers from Beyond Differences and the Community Youth Center of San Francisco partnered in a campaign called Standup for Asian American Pacific Islander Youth During Covid and are asking schools to join the campaign due to a rise of verbal and physical racist attacks against Asian communities across the nation in the wake of the pandemic.

The incidents have been documented through a collaboration between San Francisco State University’s Asian American Studies Department, Chinese for Affirmative Action and Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. They have created a website that allows the public to share their experiences with racist encounters.

Since the launch of the Stop AAPI Hate website on March 19, the group said they have received a total of 2,583 incident reports as of Aug. 5, including attacks on children, women and men of the AAPI community. Seven out of 10 incidents involved verbal harassment, including racial slurs and profanity.

Physical assaults made up 9 percent of the incidents and another 8 percent were reports of some form of workplace discrimination and being prohibited from entering establishments and using public transporation. 

California made up 46 percent of all reports, followed by New York with 14 percent, Washington at 4 percent and Illinois and Texas with 3 percent.

U.S. Census Burea Asian alone and Asian in combination population distributions by state and county, according to the U.S. Census Bureau in 2010.

Vice presidential candidate and Sen. Kamala Harris, who is of Asian descent, shared her support for the campaign:

“In this moment where there’s so many powerful forces trying to sow hate and division and engage in xenophobic rhetoric, we know the strength of unity. “We know the strength of lifting up our young leaders and doing everything that we can to support them and their families.”

Community members and organizations have pointed to President Donald Trump’s rhetoric when speaking of the virus, known as Covid-19. During many of Trump’s press briefings earlier this year, he called the coronavirus the “Chinese virus.”

He temporarily stopped using the term and even posted a Twitter message supporting Asian Americans, but he has since reverted back and has used terms like “kung-flu” virus and “China” virus at campaign rallies.

Now, with the return of school, albeit mostly online, community groups express fear that the harassment will carry over to AAPI students when they return to in-person learning.

Entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang said:

“Unfortunately, this is all too real for so many Asian American youth around the country where I’ve heard from friends and family that they too are afraid to go back to school, go to work, show themselves in public, and it shouldn’t be this way.”

Yang said it was inspiring to see people to come together to stand up for what he believes are the most vulnerable population right now, which are school children.

Mayor London Breed said she personally knows the pain of racism. As a Black woman, especially one in the public eyes, she said she’s had to deal with hateful verbal attacks.

Urging residents to report incidents, she said:

“We have to report racial discrimination, particularly everything that’s going on since this Covid-19 pandemic began.”

Adding that she knows many Asian American victims remain silent about hurtful incidents, she said:

“I do think it’s important that we report them and we as city leaders do a better job to make sure that we are putting messages out there that unite our communities and not continue to tear us apart.”

The mayor also pointed out that businesses in Chinatown have especially suffered since the virus took hold as people have avoided the area.

Assemblyman David Chiu said words like “chink” have been used at him a number of times and that racism against the Asian community is nothing new.

Chiu said:

“The Chinese Exclusion Act, the Japanese American internment. What happened to our Muslim brothers and sisters after 911, the murder of Vincent Chen. These are the markers of our community.”

State Superintendent Tony Thurmond, who is currently working to rebuild curriculum around ethnic studies, said the Trump Administration has exacerbated racial discrimination against the AAPI community by naming the virus incorrectly.

He added:

“I’m sorry that any of our AAPI students have had to deal with bullying, name calling, or stereotyping. We need to send the message to the president and to others that we need to stand together.”

Hudson Yang, who played Eddie Huang in television comedy series “Fresh Off the Boat”, said while his character endured AAPI stereotypes, the show offered teachable moments to address many of the stereotypes. 

However, the actor acknowledged that the show was scripted but real-life experiences are not.

He said:

“I am upset to see the hate and attacks on my fellow AAPI teens and adults in real life and I want to do something about it.”

Yang joined the council of the anti-bullying nonprofit Act to Change as a way to speak out.

He said:

“Right now, I think it’s most important to actually educate people, especially students about the culture differences and importance of speaking out against racism and bullying.”

More information about the campaign can be found at the Beyond Differences website.

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