HAGERSTOWN, Md. (WDVM) — Over the last year, the United States saw a surge of violence, prejudice, and racism directed towards members of the Asian American Pacific Islander or AAPI community. The Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center received over 6,600 incident reports from March of 2020 to March of 2021.
Anita Kuang emigrated to the United States from China when she was two years old. She says she has experienced racism throughout her life growing up in Howard County, Maryland and remembers one particular incident when she was simply riding the Metro. Kuang explained she was riding the train while completing a chapter reading for one of her classes when a group of children riding the train dumped what she believed to be Gatorade over her head.
“[It was] I think like, the stop right before mine right as like, we came to a stop and the doors open. I think it was like Gatorade or something, but they basically poured it all over my head. It got all over me and my and my books,” Kuang said. “And they were like yelling at me like slurs and like calling me ‘chink’ and like telling me like, go back where I came from like stuff like that.”
Kuang described her shock and horror during the experience. She explained other riders on the train asked if she was okay.
"I was just like so in shock at that moment because I didn't speak a word to them."
Kuang, whose traditional Mandarin name is Xiao Lin, finds the recent attacks on Asian Americans particularly difficult to process. She explained that when she saw the elderly woman being attacked in San Francisco, she could hear and understand what the woman was saying.
“It was so hard for me that she couldn’t communicate that across the language barrier that existed,” Kuang said. “And it made me realize I was like, ‘you know what if they have been getting attacked all these years, and they just haven’t been able to speak out about it because, because they cannot?’”
Leo ‘Loc’ Nguyen organized a rally in Washington D.C. in March to denounce AAPI hate. He wanted to provide a safe space for people to grieve and connect after the string of shootings at three Atlanta-area spas and a year of racist remarks, attacks, and even racially motivated discourse by government officials.
“The shooting was an unfortunate event that caused people to outrage. So it’s not something that we would like to be, you know, being community over,” Nguyen explained. “We would rather you know, celebrating festivals that are very nation lives that are built by celebrating Asian success, rather than, you know, mourning, a massacre.”
Nguyen was born in Saigon, Vietnam and never experienced racism until emigrating to Kansas as a teenager. But he is thankful for the experience. Nguyen explained if he had not left Vietnam, he would have never learned about racism or microaggressions like the ones he faced and still encounters while living in the United States.
He explained that it is a low bar to set for a society or a community when a member of a minority group calls themselves lucky to not have encountered racism.
“I could have stayed in Vietnam and I would have never learned about racism or microaggression. Because I am a part of the majority there. Even though I say that I wake up and I find it foreign to be in this country, I appreciate America,” Nguyen said. “The reason I’m doing these rallies, the reason I’m out there talking to people and trying to raise awareness, because I really appreciate this community.”
“But I refuse to let racism being the overarching experience of my time in America.”Leo ‘Loc’ Nguyen
Elizabeth Chung is the Executive Director of the Asian American Center of Frederick. She believes education is one of the keys to combating racism. Mrs. Chung explained many history books in primary and secondary education systems do not include or even highlight the contributions made by Asians and Asian Americans to society or to the progress of the nation as a whole.
“This country was built by immigrants, [it] was built by all of us.”
She also went on to explain many displays of racism stem from a lack of education or a lack of knowledge about a race or community. She highlighted people need to know that the violence that has unfolded over the last year are truly hate crimes.
“We also need to educate, not just ourselves, but also others about this hate crime. Learn to give awareness to their own peers,” Chung explained. “You can talk to your friend and say ‘hey, if you see something that’s wrong. You need to have, you know, don’t call them out or get help.’”
Mrs. Chung stated some of her staff have been victims of racism over the last year. Some have received verbal or physical gestures of racism.
"Yes, we are going to take precautions. But, why on Earth that we are just any other American have to feel this sense of insecurity?”
For information on combating AAPI hate and for more in-depth hate crime reports, please visit the Stop AAPI Hate website. For resources offered from the Asian American Center of Frederick, please visit their website.