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    9 Ways You Can Help Prevent Asian American Hate Crimes

    How to combat a rise in violence against AAPI communities.

    Eighty-four-year-old Vicha Ratanapkdee was taking a leisurely afternoon stroll in San Francisco when he was violently shoved to the ground. Just days later, a 91-year-old man was attacked in the neighborhood he calls home. On the East Coast, 61-year-old Noel Quintana was slashed across the face riding the subway home. Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, hate crimes against the Asian American community have been on the rise. As we head into 2021, a sharp spike in violence against the AAPI community is sending community lawmakers scrambling for action.

    America has a long history of fear and xenophobia towards the Asian American community, with shifting attitudes mainly dictated by the global political landscape. From vandalizing Japanese farms during WWII to burning Chinese businesses during the gold rush, race-based violence easily escalates, particularly in times of global conflict and strife. Hate crimes are defined by the US federal government to include “crimes committed based on the victim’s perceived or actual race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, or disability.” Think about the group of men who kicked Asian American Air Force vet Denny Kim onto the curb this week and beat him up while yelling racial slurs — they committed a hate crime.

    Denny Kim is lucky he lives in a state that has hate crime laws. Arkansas, Indiana, South Carolina, and Wyoming do not. As regular citizens, we don’t have much control over US–China relations (besides voting certain people out). But we can stand up for innocent people being hurt. No matter what your political stance is, everybody should be able to agree that hurting a scared nonagenarian who doesn’t speak English is wrong.

    Here are some ways to speak up and help.

    1. Report Any Incident You See

    Asian American Protesters
    Ringo Chiu / Getty Images

    The first priority if you are a witness or target in any hate crime attacks, or if you have information regarding other ongoing hate crime investigations, is to immediately report it to the authorities. Immediately call your local police department, and then submit a report to the FBI.

    Reporting hate crimes emphasizes the need for stronger hate crime laws and penalties and relays the scope of the issue to law enforcement. This also helps police officers take the situation more seriously, and ensures there is a public record of the incident if further legal action needs to be taken.

    2. Encourage Intercultural Communication

    #I Am Not A Virus Sign
    Ringo Chiu / Getty Images

    As an Asian American, I'm the first to admit that our communities can be insular, cliquey, and closed. Those of us with non-English-speaking grandparents know what I'm talking about. It sounds cheesy, but strength does lie in numbers, particularly in a society where votes (still) matter.

    If you're an AAPI, educate your non-AAPI friends and work associates about your culture. Introduce them to your grandparents! Maybe try to open your older relatives up a little more to causes like BLM, and educate them on the history of minorities in America. As I noted before, division historically doesn't help anybody but white people. When Koreatown was burning during the 1992 L.A. riots and yellow and Black communities were pitted against each other, the cops were all up in Beverly Hills.

    3. Spread The Word

    #StandForAsians Yellow Sign
    Ringo Chiu / Getty Images

    While only sharing things on social media isn’t enough, sharing and reposting verified information on your platforms can spread awareness and help push authorities to take action to protect the APPI community. AAPI celebrities and community leaders like Daniel Dae Kim, Constance Wu, and Stop AAPI Hate are some accounts to follow.

    4. Escort Elders Home

    Elderly Asians In Restaurant
    Jimmyfam / Getty Images

    After watching a video of an 84-year-old man be fatally pushed to the curb, longtime Oakland resident Jacob Azevedo was sick to his stomach. He offered on social media to walk any elderly Asians in the Chinatown area home at night.

    The idea spread, and now more than 300 volunteers have joined a project to protect the community they've named "Compassion In Oakland." If you live in the Oakland area, you can sign up to volunteer. If you live somewhere else with a significant population of Asian elders, consider doing the same thing in your neighborhood.

    5. Support Asian Businesses

    masked waitress handing takeout to customer
    Jimmyfam / Getty Images

    Patronize your favorite Asian restaurants, grocery stores, and beauty parlors. Asian American businesses were hit especially hard during the COVID-19 pandemic, and many suffered the double punch of discrimination and vandalism. Asian American businesses are majority immigrant and family-owned, making them cornerstones of the ever-more-distant American Dream. Plus, our food is good and the lines are usually shorter.

    6. Know Your History

    Ringo Chiu / Getty Images

    Educate yourself on the historical consequences of anti-Asian racism in America: race-based immigration policies, outright theft of most of the best farmland in the West Coast from citizens who legally owned the land, and internment.

    As a woman of Chinese descent myself, I can understand why the term “Kung Flu” is considered funny. But a 61-year-old uncle getting his face slashed due to xenophobia isn’t. Seemingly innocuous jokes like this apple orchard owner buckling down on the “Chinese Virus” hide the fact that former president Trump essentially tried to reinstate a modern Chinese Exclusion Act.

    7. Donate

    Chinatown neighborhood
    Daniel Slim / Getty Images

    Show your support financially. A GoFundMe was started to support the family of Vicha Ratanapakdee, the 84-year-old who died due to a hate crime in San Francisco. There are also many other nonprofit civil rights organizations to donate to like Stop AAPI Hate, the Asian Pacific Environmental Network, and Asian Americans Advancing Justice.

    8. Advocate For Asian Unity

    Circle of Asian American men putting hands together
    Rifka Hayati / Getty Images

    My Korean friend's mom told her to speak Korean loudly to protect herself from people who may target her for being Chinese. Oh, the poor lady thinks that Americans can tell the difference between speaking Korean and Chinese. I get it, your average non-AAPI American can't tell East (or many Southeast) Asians apart. While the ethnicity guessing game is tired and annoying, in the current climate many non-ethnic Chinese may want to differentiate themselves. We Chinese Americans did the same during WWII, where they often wore "I'm Chinese" badges to avoid authorities putting them into internment camps, or to protect their businesses and houses from being burned.

    What came out of these attempts at distinctions? Vincent Chin was still murdered for being "Japanese." At the end of the day, yellow faces are yellow faces. Asian American communities, despite any historical animosities brought over from the motherland, need to support each other here in America, because there's no other choice.

    9. Vote Locally To Protect Your Community

    young person holding vote buttons
    Lpettet / Getty Images

    Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, vote. On Feb 19th, lawmakers in Washington gathered to propose the No Hate Act, which provides grants to states to improve hate crime reporting. Congressional bills are passed by the House and the Senate, but you can enact change right at home. Local elections dictate the policies that directly impact your everyday lives, and can affect the most immediate changes in your neighborhood. Show up to town halls. Pay attention to local elections. Let the local lawmakers know what you need from them to protect the AAPI community from hate crimes and violence.