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Standing Up to Anti-Asian Hate

Category: Way of Living – Pop-Up Event

Date: March 25, 2021

Soyoung Park joined us for an impassioned, vulnerable, and urgent conversation about her experience with anti-Asian hate in this country. Soyoung is a Korean-American teacher educator and a scholar of early childhood. Her presentation was extraordinarily moving, enlightening and informative. It invited us all to start over as more knowledgeable, empathetic allies and citizens, by: providing actionable steps we can take to be upstanders, placing the current moment within historical context, and deepening our awareness of the beautiful multiplicity of the AAPI identity. 

Soyoung made the personal public in a spirit of power, hoping to reclaim her visibility in a society that can strategically deem her identity invisible. Soyoung stated that she hoped this talk would help all who identify as AAPI feel seen in the thoughts and stories she shared, and we want to thank her for so generously sharing both.

AAPI stands for Asian American Pacific Islander. There is some controversy about whether it is more inclusive or divisive to say Asian American or Asian American Pacific Islander, and our talk and this post go back and forth between the two, always with the intention of inclusivity.

1) How to React to Situations of Anti-Asian Hate or Racism

Always stand up to Anti-Asian hate with some form of action. Anyone can choose to become an upstander.

Below are the 5 “D”s of being an Upstander, provided by the Asian-American Federation and Center for Anti-Violence Education.

The 5 “D”s of Being An Upstander 

  1. Direct – respond directly to the person causing harm. Speak calmly, but firmly.
  2. Distract – Divert attention away.
  3. Delegate – Get help from someone else.
  4. Delay – Check in with the person who was harmed after the incident. Educate ourselves and our communities on why this happened.
  5. Document – If someone is already helping the person in crisis, document through photos or a video. Never post or share what you have documented without consent from the person who was harmed.

Other Ways to Be an Upstander

You can support AAPI-owned businesses. The pandemic disproportionately impacted AAPI-owned small businesses. Between February and April 2020, 28% of Asian-owned small businesses closed, compared to 17% of White-owned small businesses. From February to June 2020, there was a 450% increase in Asian-American unemployment rates. Asian business owners face huge challenges because of added systemic discrimination, for example, essential information about government relief programs are inaccessible to many Asian business owners as it is not translated into Asian languages.

You can support organizations that serve and advance justice for the AAPI community. Please see the list that Soyoung provided for organizations to support. Soyoung purposefully included organizations that support Asian-Americans working in healthcare, as a high proportion of Asian-Americans are medical workers, subject to the scorn of their patients while they risk their lives on a daily basis, during the pandemic, to care for them. 

You can check in or send a note of solidarity to your AAPI friends and colleagues. Be aware of and sensitive to the psychological and emotional stress your AAPI friends and colleagues are experiencing. From March 2020 to February 2021, Stop AAPI Hate received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents. Reported hate crimes increased by 150% in major U.S. cities in 2020, and according to NYPD data, hate crimes against Asians increased by 1900% in NYC in the last year. These numbers are devastating and can evoke intense fear, heavily impacting the mental health, emotional health, and overall well-being of Asian Americans.

Please see the list of resources Soyoung provided, so you can choose your own way to be an upstander. 

2) How to Think About These Events Within the Context of AAPI History

First and foremost, we need to name anti-Asian hate as hate. 

There is a long history of refusing to label a crime as motivated by hate when the victim is Asian American. It underscores a cultural blindness to the racism experienced by Asian Americans.

Below are a few of the historical atrocities, the crimes committed in hate, perpetrated against members of the AAPI community.

1871 – Chinese massacre in LA

1942-1945 – Japanese Internment

1982 – Murder of Vincent Chin

2021 has been a particularly devastating and dangerous year for Asian Americans, and yet we still do not recognize the severity and seriousness of the anti-Asian racism in our country.

2021 – Vichar Ratanapakdee murdered

2021 – 52-yr old Chinese woman pushed to the ground and required stitches

2021 – 36-yr old Chinese woman stabbed in the back while walking home

2021 – 75-year old Pak Ho robbed, killed and shoved

2021 – 8 people, including 6 Asian women murdered in a shooting spree across 3 spas in the Atlanta area.

The most recent murders were shrugged off, not called an act of hate, but as perpetrated by someone “having a really bad day.”

Historically and within our current moment, the Asian community has been blamed for not organizing, for being quiet. This accusation is a racist erasure of Asian voices, as the AAPI community has been advocating, speaking out, and protesting for over a century. Soyoung powerfully noted – it’s not a “speaking” problem. It’s a listening problem. 

As upstanders and allies, it is essential to be comfortable with listening – to actively and consciously create space for Asian-American voices to share their stories, spread their culture, excavate their rage, and revel in their joy.

3) How to Better Understand the AAPI Community

First, acknowledge their pain, strengths, and diversity. This community is not invisible, and they are certainly not monolithic.

Soyoung parsed out the various ways people use or erase her identity to assuage their own feelings of discomfort or manipulate the populace.

Convenient Visibility

It is convenient for Asian Americans’ Asian identity to be visible when their “Success” can be used as an example of the American Dream working. The AAPI community is often used as an example of a model minority, in order to justify the ongoing oppression of brown and black folks, but ultimately maintaining White supremacy. The Asian identity is visible when politicians and the general public need a scapegoat.

It is convenient for Asian identity to be visible when an Asian American does something that could mark them as a “foreigner” or when someone mentions “Asia.” Asian Americans are essentially otherized at any opportunity.

Convenient Invisibility

It is convenient for Asian Americans’ Asian identity to be invisible when people are trying to show that racism is real and do not know what to do with AAPI “success.” Researchers in education cannot explain the Asian narrative, as their research is narrow and deficit-based. The achievement gap, a racist concept, is used to prove racial stratification. Researchers will skip over the Asian column rather than examine their own racist practices and arguments when evaluating achievement test results by race.

An Asian identity is conveniently invisible when people speak of “America,” but are really only referring to “White America.” Sentences that begin with “We Americans” usually only refer to the White American experience, and that kind of talk functions as erasure of the Asian community.

An Asian identity is made purposefully invisible when White fragility kicks in; when White people need to feel that they are not the only ones living with White privilege.

Diversity within the Asian American Community

There is a tendency to lump all Asian Americans together, when it is an incredibly diverse community.

AANHPI Census Distribution

  • East Asian (35%): Chinese (23%), Japanese (8%), Korean (4%)
  • Southeast Asian (31%): Filipino (15%), Vietnamese (10%), Burmese/Myanmar (2%), Cambodian (1%), Hmong (1%), Laotian (1%), Thai (<1%), Indonesian (<1%)
  • South Asian (26%): Asian Indian (22%), Pakistani (3%), Bangladeshi (1%), Nepalese (<1%)
  • Native Hawaiian (8%): Other Pacific Islander (3%), Polynesian (2%), Micronesian (1%), Native Hawaiian (1%), Guamanian or Chamorro (<1%), Samoan (<1%)

Asian Americans have the highest within-group income inequality in the U.S. 

Acknowledging the diversity of the AAPI community is tied to the larger acknowledgement that they are not a single-story people.

Like all individuals, Asian Americans want to be their full selves all the time. 

Assumptions people hold about what it means to be Asian are oppressive, and they strip them of their ability to freely be themselves. Big parts of who they are are rendered invisible – pain, hurt, joys, strengths are erased from the experience of what it means to be Asian in the U.S., because this complexity does not fit inside a false narrative. Erasing so much of the Asian experience and identity ultimately leads to dehumanization, which can have devastating and violent effects. 

Han and Jeong

Soyoung shared that we can learn a tremendous amount from her people’s culture. 

Grace Ji-Sun Kim, a feminist Christian theologian of korean descent, writes about the healing of Han through a spirit of Jeong. These are two Korean concepts that have no English equivalent. Han refers to deep generational pain and suffering while Jeong is affection, love and connection that binds us together. Jeong is “a sticky kind of love.” Together, they manifest in a “suffering love.” So even if someone has caused Han, perpetuated it or turned a blind eye to it, the person harmed is still connected to this person in and through love. 

Our individual and collective strength resides in love, and it forms a powerful connectedness between us all. These beautiful, enlivening, and supportive ideas are central to the Korean identity; we are all connected, so we can choose to answer hatred with love.


It is imperative that we bring any new or renewed understanding, awareness, and conviction to the work of starting over. We have the information and ability to participate in ending the erasure and violence against Asian Americans. We can participate by listening. We can participate with the 5 Ds of being an upstander. We can participate by acknowledging the diversity within the AAPI community. Our participation does not need to be fueled by outrage, although wholly justified, but can be driven by Grace Ji-Sun Kim’s message that we are all connected through love.

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