Racism and Rising Violence against Asians
One Filipina’s Perspective
by Cris Heceta, Ruling Elder, St. Cloud Presbyterian
I am Filipina – that is a Filipino woman, which also makes me Asian, and by citizenship, an Asian-American. I was born in this country.
All my life, like all other Asians, I have had to endure lots of “microaggressions” – from “where are you from” (not letting up until they get to the country) to being labelled with the default moniker of “Chink” because my eyes were not round. To most of these experiences, folks in the Asian community typically just “keep their heads down” and push through because we are a non-confrontational group.
Anti-Asian sentiments are not new in the United States.
· In 1882, the Chinese Exclusion Act was signed into law that prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to curb the influx of Chinese immigrants into the United States for ten years.
· From 1942 to 1945, internments camps were established to isolate Japanese Americans.
· A personal experience in my family in the 1980’s occurred when my father, a cardio-thoracic surgeon was accosted by another surgeon in a mall, telling him to go back to where he came from.
· Just over the last year, violence against Asian-Americans (just the reported cases) is up over 150% percent. Much of this sentiment came from the labels that the former president gave to COVID-19 (none of which I will name here).
· Three recent specifically Filipino incidents:
o In December 2020, Angelo Quinto, a 30-year old Navy veteran, suffering from mental health issues, died when police handcuffed and knelt on the young man’s neck for at least 5 minutes. The last words his mother heard, as she recorded the incident, was “Please don’t kill me”.
o On February 3rd of this year, Noel Quintana, 61, was on the subway in New York City, on his way to work in Harlem when an attacker kicked his bag and then whipped out a box cutter and slashed him across the face from ear to ear. He had to beg for help of an MTA worker in a booth as no one on the train offered to help.
o On March 13th (yes less than 2 weeks ago at the time of this piece), Ron Tuason, 56, a longtime San Francisco resident and US Army veteran was attacked for wearing a veteran's hat while grocery shopping. That suspect has been arrested and charged with a hate crime, but in listening to one coverage piece, it talks as those this is something new.
The height, of course, is what happened at the spas in Atlanta – for the life of me, I am not sure why they are still trying to “determine” if this was a hate crime.
The Model Minority
Asian Americans / Pacific Islanders get stereotyped into the “model minority”. “This myth characterizes Asian Americans as a polite, law-abiding group who have achieved a higher level of success than the general population through some combination of innate talent and pull-yourselves-up-by-your-bootstraps immigrant striving.” Like all other groups, the myth generalizes so many things:
· Physically, we may look “alike” to many who are not Asian, but we are in fact different peoples.
· We tend to be “lumped in” together into one big bucket, but each country has its own cultural history, its own foods and practices. We lose our individuality – as people and distinct cultures.
· “Perpetual foreigners” – on one hand, Asians seem to assimilate better than other groups (I’m not calling us a minority), but much of that is because we tend to not make waves. However, Asians tend to hold onto their cultures, which also makes them like perpetual foreigners.
How does this get better?
Asians need to get more comfortable, feel better, about reporting these injustices and standing up for themselves. Problem: that is a whole mound of personal guilt and ownership we take onto ourselves and we need to get over. We need everyone’s help. Most other peoples – other BIPOC, and even non BIPOC (yes Caucasians) are better at this. I am not saying that you need to stand up for us, but we can use your support as we learn that it is okay for us to push back, and even report, when needed.
I know that many people I know will do the right thing and support, but I have also found myself disappointed, frustrated and hurt recently when I expressed these feelings to a group of folks I call friends and I just got “crickets” back.
I hope you will have found this as enlightening. I am not trying to lecture, nor am I trying to sway – I am just presenting this one Filipina’s perspective.