How Hate Speech Triggered Anti-Asian Violence Worldwide

By Tahreem Ashraf 

     Anti-Asian hate crimes are not new in United States, but the newborn social and political dilemma which inflamed its essence is destructive not only for the country but the whole world which is already dealing with the COVID crisis. The Atlanta shooting resonates with the Page Act of 1875 when Chinese women were tagged as prostitutes and accused to act as a temptation for white men. As being the “bearer of disease”, the new immigrants, specially women were tested and mostly sent back as a result of implication of racism as well as sexism. In 1882, chinese men were also exiled and in 1933 a mob of white men attacked Filipino farmeorkers in California and the next year Congress restricted Filipino immigration to 50 people per year. This didn’t end here but continued to islamophobia and anti-South asian hate in the coming decades. 

     On March 16, 2020, Trump’s tweet of the “Chinese virus” was a trigger to the violence that took place after a year on the same date in Atlanta. Where it was warned that the term may result in xenophobia, Trump was adamant that, “It’s not racist at all.” The eight women died ranging from the age of 33 to 74 were the victim of hate and classism. The accused called this violence sexual addiction and justified his act narrating it as “temptation”. “He was pretty much fed up and had been kind of at the end of his rope. Yesterday was a really bad day for him, and this is what he did,” said Capt. Jay Baker, a former spokesperson on this case who was stripped off from the position because of his whitewashed remarks. This provides us the hint of the extent of discrimination among law enforcement. 

     According to Stop AAPI Hate National Report Asian women faced 2.3 times more hate incidents than men concluding women as an easy target. From March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021, there were 3,795 hate incidents in the form of verbal harassment, shunning, physical assault, civil rights violations and online harassment. “Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American studies at San Francisco State University and the forum’s founder, told NBC Asian America that the coalescence of racism and sexism, including the stereotype that Asian women are meek and subservient, likely factors into this disparity” wrote Kimmy Yam on NBC news website. The bullies target youth and elderly who are the most vulnerable in front of them. 

     Online harassment spiked when xenophobia inflamed in all the corners of internet. Anti-Asian groups hurled racist memes and posts on a messaging app Telegram where they defended Atlanta violence as a “justified retaliation for Covid.” According to the Stop AAPI report, “Chinese are the largest ethnic group (42.2%) that report experiencing hate, followed by Koreans (14.8%), Vietnamese (8.5%), and Filipinos (7.9%).” On Facebook and Twitter, posts expressing anti-Asian sentiments have often been woven into conspiracy theory groups such as QAnon and in white nationalist and pro-Trump enclaves. Alex Goldenberg, an analyst at the Network Contagion Research Institute at Rutgers University, which tracks misinformation and extremism online, said that forms of hatred against Black people and Jews have deep roots in extremism in the United States and that the anti-Asian memes and tropes have been more ‘opportunistically weaponized,’” wrote Davy Alba in The New York Times. 

     According to Human Rights Watch, “Several political parties and groups, including in the United States, United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, Greece, France, and Germany have also latched onto the Covid-19 crisis to advance anti-immigrant, white supremacist, ultra-nationalist, anti-semitic, and xenophobic conspiracy theories that demonize refugees, foreigners, prominent individuals, and political leaders.” Where governments should act more responsibly by avoiding the promotion of hate speech, unfortunately the officials failed to handle the fire and continued to fuel it otherwise. While defending Trump’s “Chinese Virus” John Cornyn criticized Chinese for eating snakes. Mike Pompeo’s use of “Wuhan virus” equally triggered hate speech and current violence within the country. Luca Zaia, governor of the Veneto region of Italy told the journalists that Italians would handle the virus better than Chinese because of Italian’s “culturally strong attention to hygiene” and they have seen “Chinese eating mice alive”. 

    In United Kingdom teens attacked a student who was told, “We don’t want your coronavirus in our country.” Another student’s jaw was dislocated by thugs as he faced racial violence and taunts. In Australia, Chinese international students were bashed and told to, “Go back to your country- [because] you don’t belong here.” Canada is also facing increased hate crimes and most of the cases involves anti-asian discrimination. According to New Zealand Human Rights research, “Four in ten respondents (39%) report having experienced discrimination since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak, with higher rates for Tangata Whenua (55%), Chinese (54%), Pacific (50%), and Asian (49%) respondents.” 

     All these incidents indicate that racism was always there buried deep within the hearts and waiting to precipitate. Senate passed S.936 COVID 19 Hate Crimes Act in order to exclude hate and discrimination from America but what about the roots that couldn’t be expunged from the system that is intact by the people. Such racism does not belong to one nation or group but different parts of the world, dividing nations and hearts apart in the times where the need to stay united is stonger than ever 


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