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Stop AAPI Hate finds nearly 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans in past year

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The group Stop AAPI Hate has found nearly 3,800 racial incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders were reported from March 2020 to February 2021. Diane Fujino, a professor of Asian American studies at UC Santa Barbara, spoke with CBSN's "Red & Blue" about the hate targeting this population and its long history in the U.S.

Video Transcript

ELAINE QUIJANO: Authorities are still investigating the motive behind the deadly shootings at Atlanta area spas Tuesday. The gunman was charged in the killing of eight people at three different spas. Six of the victims were of Asian descent. And seven were women. The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, has been charged with murder. The Cherokee County Sheriff's Office said, he claims his crimes were not racially motivated. They say he indicated that he saw the spas as a temptation that he wanted to eliminate.

Police say Long was on his way to Florida to potentially carry out similar acts of violence when authorities found him. The deadly shootings in Georgia come as racist attacks against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community are seeing a dramatic spike. The group Stop AAPI Hate says there have been nearly 3,800 reported racist attacks on the community since March of 2020, back when the coronavirus pandemic began.

I want to bring in Diane Fujino. She is a professor of Asian-American Studies, and a former director of the Center for Black Studies research at UC Santa Barbara. Professor, welcome. Thanks very much for being with us.

DIANE FUJINO: Thank you for having me.

ELAINE QUIJANO: There has been a dramatic increase in reported racist incidents against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the past year. But what can you tell us about the racism they've historically faced in the United States long before this pandemic?

DIANE FUJINO: Yeah. That is very important that this isn't something new just since the pandemic started, although that has exacerbated things greatly. We know that in 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act is the first Immigration Act that specifically names and targets through racist provisions barring Chinese. In 1875, Congress passed the Page Law which assumed that all Chinese women who were prostitutes or otherwise considered immoral. And it effectively barred Chinese women from entry.

We know that during World War II of course, Japanese-Americans were mass incarcerated off the West Coast in Vietnam. The US military used Asian women as to provide sexual services to US military personnel. There's a very long history of anti Asian racism.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well Stop AAPI Hate found the majority of reported victims of anti Asian hate over the past year were women. Why are women more likely to be targeted? Is that clear?

DIANE FUJINO: Yeah. I think that we are looking at intersectional oppression of women and being marked by patriarchy, both in Asian societies and the US, and racialized patriarchy. And when we saw this with Elliot Rodgers here in-- I'm in Santa Barbara, in Isla Vista in 2014 where he targeted women, also the first people he killed were his roommates who were Asian-American. And so I think we see the intersection of racist gendered violence happening.

And yes, 2/3 of the people who have reported these hate incidences have been women.

ELAINE QUIJANO: Well, can you explain, professor, what the quote unquote "model minority" myth is? How has that affected perceptions of racism against Asian-Americans?

DIANE FUJINO: Yes, this is very important. The model minority image and logic states that despite disadvantages, Asian-Americans have been able to gain upward mobility in US society and have been able to do so primarily because they do not engage in protest, doing so through education, and just putting your nose to the grindstone. This is very problematic in that it invisiblizes problems against Asian-Americans. It makes things like anti Asian racism and anti Asian violence invisible, and why despite many long years of anti Asian violence, it rarely gets covered.

I mean, it also injures our relations with other communities who should be our allies, with Black communities, and Indigenous, and Latinx communities. And it signals that protest is not necessary. You should just go through other means. And my view, as a social movement scholar, is that most of the significant changes that we've gained have come through social movement protests and mobilizations.

ELAINE QUIJANO: That being said, though, I wonder professor in our final minute here, what institutional changes do you think need to be made to protect the AAPI community against racial harassment and violence?

DIANE FUJINO: This is crucial. People focus on individual change, which we need to deal with. They talk about hate crimes as individual attitudes. But we need to think about community infrastructure, about governments, and corporations funneling investments into communities, into social movements. I ask how can we condemn individual instances of violence when we have ongoing police violence against our communities and ongoing military violence abroad?

ELAINE QUIJANO: All right. Well, there's so much more to unpack here. But this conversation certainly will continue. Professor Diane Fujino. Professor, thank you very much.

DIANE FUJINO: Thank you.