Recently, #StopAsianHate has swamped the internet, with celebrities, politicians and everyone else showing solidarity. But what is it about, and where did it come from?
What started the hashtag?
On the evening of Tuesday 16th March, eight women were shot and killed in Atlanta, US, by a caucasian man named Robert Aaron Long. Six of the women who were killed were Asian, and the shooting took place at massage parlours across the city. The law in Georgia states that in order for a crime to be classed as a hate crime, it has to be motivated by either gender or race, which this crime clearly targeted Asian women. Yet the sheriff who is reporting on Long’s arrest refused to condemn it as a hate crime, stating that the motive is unclear.
Why is it trending globally?
Social media has flooded with posts under the hashtag #StopAsianHate in support of the victims and their families. However, this recent shooting is just the tip of the iceberg, as, since the start of the pandemic, there has been a 300% increase in hate crimes against East and Southeast Asians in the UK alone. The Coronavirus outbreak started in China, and many have used this as an excuse to justify their racism and hate crimes against Asian people.
Peter Wang, a lecturer at Southampton University, is a victim of an Asian hate crime; one afternoon, he was jogging near his home and was attacked by four men who yelled racial slurs at him. They punched him in the face and then kicked him to the ground; the trauma of the event has left Wang afraid to leave his home and afraid for his son’s future.
Wang is just one victim out of many, with some Asian people taking to social media to share their own experiences with hate crimes and racism. There are also vigils and rallies taking place across the US in the next month to stand up to Asian hate, and many posts online have contained information on resources that can help anyone who has been targeted because of their race.
Back in the US, it’s reported that Asian hate crimes normally target the elderly, as they are more vulnerable to attacks and are less likely to report. In fact, last month, a 61-year-old Noel Quintana, from New York, was attacked with a box cutter, and in California, a 91-year-old victim was shoved violently to the floor. The rise in crimes can also be traced back to when Donald Trump repeatedly called the pandemic the “Chinese Virus”, which fuelled further intentions of hate crimes.
What needs to be done?
Whilst social media activism can help spread awareness and reach a wide number of people, it can also be linked to performative activism and may not actually be helpful in ending racism against Asian people. This comes as there were similar fears about the Black Lives Matter movement across social media last year. Other action needs to be taken to end racism against Asian people, such as educating yourself, educating others and holding other people accountable for their internalised racial biases. Audrey Tang, a chartered Psychologist and “a British born Chinese-Malay of Peranakan heritage” stated that “#StopAsianHate is not about you. It’s about what you can do, how you can show solidarity, and how you can impact positively, too.”