Over the past few weeks, the violence has been even more visible, with catastrophic results. On January 28, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapadkdee, who is Thai, was fatally attacked in San Francisco. Three days later, a 91-year-old Chinese man was shoved to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown. Meanwhile, on the East Coast, a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed across the face while riding the subway, requiring almost 100 stitches from cheek to cheek. This is a far from complete list of attacks we have seen in the last few weeks, the most recent being the killing of Kevin Jiang, a 26-year-old veteran and Yale graduate student. The motivations behind these attacks are not all known, but the cumulative effect has been to put Asian Americans on notice.
If you’re one of the millions of people who haven’t heard about these attacks, you might be wondering how it’s possible that one group is facing such profound and relentless discrimination in relative silence. But I’m not surprised the news hasn’t crossed your feeds. So often stories about violence against Asians don’t appear in the mainstream press, but rather get circulated in panicked text threads or on “niche” websites. I’ve made efforts to join online communities like the Facebook group Subtle Asian Traits and follow sites like Next Shark to ensure I’m up to speed. But these events aren’t just for Asians to read about; we all need to understand how hate and violence is traveling through our communities. And we all need to show up when people are being targeted.
Even as our communities and allies raise their voices, share posts, initiate conversations, and ask for help, the news seems to have gotten more attention on social media than in the news outlets we would otherwise turn to. It’s frustrating and frightening. It makes us feel alone. When it comes to discrimination against Asians, the sense that we’ve been ignored or even forgotten is not new. Our reputation as the “model minority”—a trope that is as offensive as it is wrong—often makes others discount our struggles, reducing them to something that can be shrugged off or managed without help. That attitude takes a toll.
This week marks the dawn of the Lunar New Year, a time that honors a refreshed enthusiasm for new life and love. To mark the occasion, I encourage people to bring their compassion and their voice to the aid of Asian communities nationwide. In what is meant to be a time of celebration and happiness, so many hearts are left aching with loss, fear, and discouragement. If this period has taught us anything, it’s that there’s tremendous power in solidarity. If you’re not Asian, ask why these hateful attacks and tragic murders have not filled the evening news and newspaper headlines. Dig into the stories we share and injustices you may only see glimpses of from Instagram accounts like @StopAAPIHate, @nextshark, or @asianswithattitudes to name a few. Listen to your Asian friends. And then ask what you can do about it to call more attention to these issues.
It’s been a tougher year than normal to be a person of color in America, to say the least. Being Asian in America. Being Black in America. Being Latinx in America. Being Native American in America. None of these experiences are the same, and racial trauma is not a competitive sport. While all of our experiences and struggles may be unique to our own identities and communities, the urgency with which we hope to end racism on our home turf is the same. And it is dire.
So as the sun rises on our Lunar New Year, join us in our celebration of new beginnings, good fortune, health, and happiness. But please also join us in our fight for racial equality and justice.
Dana Lee was born and raised in Marin County, California, and attended the University of Michigan. She lives in Manhattan.