Violence Against Asian Americans Is on the Rise—But It’s Part of a Long HistoryBreaking News
tags: racism, documentary, Asian American History
In New York, a woman had acid thrown in her face. In California, a high schooler was beaten up and sent to the hospital. In Texas, a family of three was stabbed by a man who thought they were “Chinese and infecting people with the coronavirus.”
As COVID-19 has spread across the U.S. and around the world after first being identified in Wuhan, China, so have attacks against Asians and Asian Americans. In March, the FBI warned that there could be a surge in in hate crimes against Asian Americans, and data has reflected this: in New York, all 15 coronavirus-related hate crimes investigated by the NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force have been directed at Asian victims, according to NYPD detective Annette Shelton. Nationwide, one advocacy group has collected more than 1,200 reports of racist attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the outbreak.
But this wave of attacks is far from a new development. Asian Americans, a new docuseries that arrives on PBS on May 11, traces this history all the way back to the 18th century, when mobs committed mass murder on Chinese immigrants on the West Coast. Since then, Asian Americans, commonly thought of as an upwardly mobile model minority, have often been violently scapegoated for larger societal issues, with their attackers only vindicated or protected by institutional forces.
Asian Americans covers many aspects of history, from college campus protests to the rise of cultural icons like Anna May Wong and Margaret Cho. But its segments about prejudiced violence have particular resonance in this moment. Lee and producer Renee Tajima-Peña hope that the series will put the current attacks into perspective.
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