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Residents have been rallying for an end of violence and hate crimes against the Asian community for weeks before eight people – a majority of whom were Asian women – were shot and killed at three different businesses in Georgia this week.
A 21-year-old white man was charged with the murders that many in the County and across the country believe was fueled by racism and a history of hypersexualization of Asian women.
“There is a direct relationship between these killings and the history of exoticization and hyper sexualization of women of Asian descent globally, and in the United States,” said Jennifer Yee, a Professor of Asian American Studies at Cal State Fullerton.
“My empathy goes out to the families of our Asian American sisters, because I do not believe they would have been targeted had they not been women of Asian descent,” Yee said.
The deaths sparked a local and national conversation on the long history of Asian hate in the U.S. and echoes a stark rise in hate crimes against the Asian community not only in Orange County, but in the nation since the start of the pandemic.
“There are connections between this type of violence in the United States, and the language that people are using to describe and make connections between people of Asian descent and people in the Asian Pacific Islander Desi American communities and the Coronavirus,” Yee said.
Today, at 3 p.m., elected officials will speak at Fullerton City Hall against hate towards the Asian and Pacific Islander community.
Republican Congresswomen Young Kim and Michelle Steel called for the hate to stop.
“This should not have to be said, but I want to be very clear: No American of any race or ethnic group is responsible for the COVID-19 pandemic. The virus does not discriminate. It affects everyone,” Kim testified at a House Judiciary Subcommittee Hearing about the uptick in discrimination towards her community on Thursday.
At the Placentia-Yorba Linda Unified School District Board Meeting earlier this month, Chris Palicke, a parent referred to the Coronavirus as the “Chinese Coronavirus”
Another parent called it the “Wuhan Kung Flu virus from China” and said he had hangovers that were worse than the virus during public comment.
Board Members didn’t address the comments at the meeting.
OC Community Members and Elected Officials Speak Out
Events calling for an end of violence towards the Asian American community have been routine over the past few weeks as Orange County reached the one year anniversary of the coronavirus pandemic.
Last Saturday, Stand for Asian Solidarity held a rally for unity at Irvine City Hall, where various elected officials spoke out against the recent surge in hate crimes.
On Friday, the city held a news conference to discuss the steps they’re taking to address discrimination.
Korean-American Councilwoman Tammy Kim told the Voice of OC before the event that Irvine will be the first city in Orange County to start tracking and monitoring hate incidents — something the city has been working on for months now.
Irvine Police Chief Mike Hamel shared more details at Friday’s news conference.
“Today I’m pleased to announce the launch of an online hate crime and hate incident reporting portal. This portal can be accessed via our website,” said Hamel. “The portal is now live and will be available in multiple languages in the near future.”
California Penal Code defines a hate crime as a criminal act committed, in whole or in part, because of the victim’s race, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation.
“What we’re seeing across this country is just awful and you’re going to hear people say that, but what I’m proud of is that we’re standing up and we’re doing something about it,” Councilmember Anthony Kuo said on Friday
Councilwoman Tammy Kim called out the attacks in Atlanta.
“It is not lost on any of our Irvine Asian American residents that a man drove for miles and miles to hunt down Asian women and to slaughter them and we will use our collective voices here to make sure that it is treated nothing less than a hate crime,” she said.
Mayor Farah Khan, Councilman Mike Carroll, other elected officials and community members also spoke out against the uproar of Asian hate.
Some shared their experiences with racism locally.
“We are getting calls from community members, from the elderly, from workers so afraid of the hate crimes that are occurring daily against Asian Americans in this country. Our mental health calls have tripled. People are afraid to leave their homes. The targeting of elderly is horrific,” said Mary Anne Foo, founder and executive director of Orange County Asian and Pacific Islander Community Alliance.
Foo shared a few stories of Asian Americans in Orange County who were targeted and killed in the past.
“There’s a national push for support for community based organizations to address the hate against Asians as well as support for workers and the victims. It’s called ‘a call on President Biden for emergency safety and relief for Asian American and Pacific Islander communities,” Foo said.
Students from Northwood High School also voiced their concerns.
“We became a scapegoat — suddenly — to all the pent up anger and frustration from the last year. Asian Americans are being blamed for something that they had no no control over. They’re being harassed, spat on and even beaten in their own communities,” an eleventh grader said.
Irvine has the third highest Asian population by population in the country, according to Index Mundi.
Earlier this month, hundreds of luminarias were placed at the Fountain Valley Sports Complex to form a message calling to “Stop Asian Hate” and shed light on what some are calling a “virus of bigotry” the Asian community is battling.
Tam Nguyen, who helped organize the Fountain Valley vigil, said Orange County has been impacted by the recent shootings.
“Even though it happened on the East Coast, it comes on top of more than a year of violence and hate crimes against Asian Americans and our team members have felt it themselves,” said Nguyen, who’s also a co-founder of the nail salon advocacy organization, Nailing It For America,
The organization held a candlelight vigil this past Wednesday in Garden Grove to mourn the loss of the people killed in Atlanta.
“We were able to share our grief, our sorrow, but also share our frustration about a continuation of the violence and the hate targeting Asian Americans and the senseless death of people that were doing their job or just being there,” Nguyen said.
Nguyen said he hopes the vigil rallies lawmakers to do something about it.
“Our lives depend on it,” he said.
Cities have also been putting out proclamations to denounce Asian hate.
Costa Mesa City Council members did so on Tuesday — the same day the Atlanta shootings occured.
The Westminster City Council passed a resolution against discrimination last week.
Buena Park City Council members will discuss a potential resolution condemning racism against the Asian American community during a study session at their Tuesday meeting.
The Cypress City Council meets Monday to vote on whether they want to direct city staff to draft a similar ordinance.
Asian Americans Face Increase of Hate And Violence
Alison Edwards, CEO of the Orange County Human Relations Council, said hate incidents against Asian Americans in the county have increased tenfold.
“In 2019, we had four hate incidents targeting Asian Americans reported to us. But in 2020 — so far in the data we’ve collected — we have 40 that have been reported to us,” Edwards said in a phone interview earlier this month. “We’re still very much compiling data.”
Anti-Asian sentiment is nothing new in Orange County, but it’s grown since the start of the pandemic.
Hate crimes against the Asian community have been increasing across the country.
“I think it’s important to name these nearly 3,800 acts of violence towards Asian Americans as a terrorist act — when people feel afraid to walk down the street, when they’re afraid for their grandparents and their children,” Yee said.
Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.