Throughout the course of US history, minorities, especially Asian minorities, have suffered from oppression. This persecution has risen to unprecedented levels in the Trump era, and has been exacerbated by difficult economic conditions, as well as the demonization of Asian countries. There are also other causes that have built up over history and ultimately produced stereotyping, rejection, and discrimination against Asian-American communities in the US. The characteristics of this escalating racist violence against Asians in the US can be summarized as follows:
1. Renewed Anti-Asian violence: The recent killing of six Asian-Americans in an armed attack in Atlanta has compounded the crisis that Asian-Americans face. This attack is one of 3800 bias attacks against Asian-Americans in the US. This incident occurred in the context of the escalating COVID-19 pandemic and former president Donald Trump’s insistence on using the phrase “the Chinese virus,” signaling that there was a connection between the virus and Asian people.
2. Asian minorities suffer from oppression: Over the last century, US political leaders have viewed Japan as an enemy and key strategic and economic rival, which has contributed to increased hostility within the US towards all Asians. Thus, we cannot blame Trump alone for the issue of escalating violence against Asians.
Current and former US political leadership has also stoked these flames by labelling China as the economic enemy and major threat to the US. All Asian-Americans suffer as a result of these prejudices and stereotypes, since there is no distinction made in this hostility between governments and the people.
3. Lack of anti-Russian or anti-European sentiment: Although the US constantly antagonizes Russia, and has recently accused Russia of plotting wide-reaching cyberattacks, as well as trying to meddle in US elections, no Americans of Russian descent have been targeted by the kind of attacks and aggression that the Asian community currently faces in the US. This demonstrates there is a racist dimension to this crisis. Likewise, the economic competition between the US and the European Union does not lead to racist incidents against persons of European descent.
4. Prevalence of racial and ethnic stereotyping in US society: The former President Barack Obama and current President Joe Biden have spent a significant part of their careers helping circulate the kinds of ideas Trump promoted, which strengthened racist and anti-Asian sentiment in the US. Nevertheless, Obama and Biden have also denounced violence against Asian communities.
Biden has recently vowed to fight the Chinese threat and to develop policies to halt Chinese expansionism. This includes an initiative that human rights organizations say will open the door to further racial stereotyping of Chinese-Americans, through imposing more stringent checks on their tax filings, visa applications, and other documents.
Additionally, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin recently said that China is Washington’s “pacing threat.” The news is also full of paranoia about Asian-Americans and Asian immigrants, while the media tries to drum up accusations against certain prominent Asian-Americans and claim that they are spies.
It is worth mentioning that in 1999, Wen Ho Lee was accused of sharing nuclear secrets with China, and was imprisoned for nine months, until a judge eventually ruled that he should be released. Studies show that innocent Asian-Americans fall under suspicion simply because of their ethnicities or their Asian last names. Similar practices also exacerbate racial stereotyping against Blacks and Latinos.
5. Increased discrimination during periods of crisis: Asian-American “model minority” stereotypes usually include academic achievement and a high income. Additionally, during times of economic downtown and uncertainty about the international standing of the US, many Americans connect Asian appearance with foreign threats. During the 1980s, there was frustration regarding Japan’s control over the car industry, which led to increasing rates of hate crimes against Asian-Americans, including the murder of Chinese-American Vincent Chin in 1982 at the hands of two autoworkers who thought he was Japanese.
In the 1990s, there were other racist incidents against Asian-Americans generally and Japanese-Americans in particular. The recent data from voter surveys of Asian-Americans show that more than half of Asian-Americans, regardless of national origin, were concerned about growing rates of hate crimes and harassment during the previous summer.
In conclusion, it is clear that anti-Asian violence in the US is rooted in American culture. We cannot only blame Trump or Biden for this, even if the latter’s activities have led to the demonization of China since Biden took office in January, which led to an increase in racially-motivated violence against Asian-Americans in the US.