One Voice: Raising Awareness of Violence Against Asian Americans
The Asian Students Association (ASA) virtually hosted an open discussion on the violence against Asian Americans. Students across the MCPHS Worcester campus came together to share their stories.
3,795. That’s the number of Asian-hate incidents reported by Stop AAPI Hate between March 19, 2020 and February 28, 2021. In less than one year, close to 4,000 individuals were victims of discrimination so severe that it was reported. This number only reflects a shadow of the reality that Asian Americans face in terms of racism, as many victims—especially among the elderly—choose not to report their attacks, for cultural reasons. Following 2019, which saw the highest level of hate crimes in over a decade, 2020 brought a year full of animosity toward Asians, largely resulting from the first coronavirus case in Wuhan, China. But the origin of the coronavirus is not what caused these hate incidents; rather, it provided a catalyst for preexisting racist notions to be spurred into action. According to NYPD reports, New York saw a 1,900% uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020. The rise in hate crimes has spanned the country, from numerous assaults on the elderly in the San Francisco Bay Area to the elderly Filipino woman who was kicked and stomped on by a man in New York. To bring awareness to this rise in violence, the Asian Students Association (ASA) hosted an open discussion on April 13th, 2021 for all members of the MCPHS Community.
President of the ASA Alex Wang, PharmD ’22, opened the event by introducing the MCPHS-Worcester 2020-2021 ASA executive board, which includes Vice President Seung Hee (Karla) Cho, PharmD ’22; Treasurer Pedro Rodriguez-Flores, PharmD ’22; Outreach Chair Michelle Hoang, PharmD ’22; Social Chair Ignatius Nguyen, PharmD ’22; Historian Jingwan Gu, MAc ’22; and Cultural Chair Tien Van Le, PharmD ’22. On the board but unable to present were Secretary Erica Kim, PharmD ’22, and Event Coordinator Joo Young (Chloe) Song, PharmD ’22. The current e-board, which will transition over to new leadership in May, curated the organization’s mission statement for 2020-2021: “To encourage and support the diversity of MCPHS by uniting all people who share an interest in learning, respecting, and understanding the different cultures and ethnic values among various Asian countries and different Asian American cultures. The event, entitled “One Voice” embodied this mission by providing a place for students, faculty, and staff to all come together to learn about Asian discrimination through the perspectives of MCPHS Community members.
Before turning the discussion over to attendees to share their own personal stories, the members of the e-board took turns presenting historic examples from a long record of anti-Asian sentiment in America. Their first example was that of People vs. Hall (1854), a California Supreme Court case that dismissed a Chinese man’s testimony as a witness to a murder committed by a white man because his race was considered inferior. Just 28 years later, the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 banned immigration from China (except for teachers, diplomats, merchants, and travelers) for a period of 10 years. Adding to these restrictions was the Immigration Act of 1924, which banned immigration from all countries across Asia, including the Middle East, India, and Japan. Following the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, Japanese Americans were treated with suspicion and subjected to internment camps regardless of their citizenship or the lack of security threat they posed. In 1982, a full 100 years after the Chinese Exclusion Act, a Chinese man named Vincent Chin was murdered by two white men who assumed he was Japanese—they beat him to death because they allegedly blamed him for the success of Japan’s auto industry. The violence and pan-ethnic discrimination increased with anti-Muslim rhetoric following the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Many Southeast Asian individuals were mistaken for Muslim and fell victim to the same violence.
Bringing the presentation back to recent events, the ASA board members mentioned the “Chinese virus” and “Kung Flu” messaging of former President Donald Trump throughout the pandemic. They noted that directing the blame for a disease at a certain race or group of people is something that the World Health Organization warns against, as it incites prejudice and hate. In addition to the heavy influence of leadership, the media also plays an important role on people’s perceptions, through the selection and narrative of certain news stories. Keeping with the theme of the event, the ASA emphasized the importance of everyone’s voice, regardless of whether an incident is directly related to them or a group with which they identify. “There’s no formula for when we should make a statement,” says Wang.
Also in line with the “One Voice” theme was the discussion of pan-ethnic solidarity, one of the core values of the ASA. Pan-ethnic solidary means supporting each other and those of different ethnic groups to help foster understanding. Wang says that solidarity can be expressed in many ways, even if it is a small action, such as supporting Asian-owned businesses. One way the ASA acted on this belief was through an event they held last summer amid the Black Lives Matter protests. Reaching out to the Black Student Union, they organized an event, “The Power of Ally-ship," which presented on how to be an ally to groups facing discrimination. Similarly, President of the Muslim Student Association Addiqa Butt, PharmD ‘22, showed her solidarity with the ASA by attending the “One Voice” event.
Wang says he was impressed with the turnout of 38 attendees. He says he hadn’t known what to expect and reiterated that every person counts, every voice matters. “You’re given certain opportunities in life and certain platforms,” he says. “But if something was in your hands and you don’t make use of it, then what good is that platform?”
Caption: The Asian Students Association board members (from the top left to bottom right): President Alex Wang, PharmD ’22; Vice President Seung Hee (Karla) Cho, PharmD ’22; Historian Jingwan Gu, MAc ’22; Secretary Erica Kim, PharmD ’22; Outreach Chair Michelle Hoang, PharmD ’22; Social Chair Ignatius Nguyen, PharmD ’22; Treasurer Pedro Rodriguez-Flores, PharmD ’22. Not pictured are: Cultural Chair Tien Van Le, PharmD '22 and Event Coordinator Joo Young (Chloe) Song, PharmD '22.