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Anti-Asian Hate and Racism…. by Sudarshan Kapoor, PhD

Los Angeles, May 03, 2021 Kapoo/Ramesh/ A.Gary Singh

Since the beginning of the pandemic, there has been a rapid increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans in this nation. Recent mass shootings in Atlanta and Indianapolis have shocked the conscience of the nation. According to Stop AAPI Hate, nearly 3800 hate crime incidents against Asians have been reported during the pandemic year.
This is an alarming figure which raises serious questions about the safety and security of people of color in this country. Misleading and biased information coming from the leadership of the previous administration has contributed further to the xenophobia that we are experiencing today.

Hate and racial prejudice against Asians are not a new phenomenon. Our history is full of such examples as embodied in prejudiced legislation and bloodshed. Just a few incidents in our past: the massacres of Chinese immigrants in Los Angeles (California, 1871), Rock Springs (Wyoming, 1885), and the Hells Canyon Massacre of 1887 in Nebraska. On the legislative front, there was the Page Act of 1875 which targeted and dehumanized Chinese women and the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 which banned the immigration of Chinese laborer. Other Asian groups who were the victims of hate and racial prejudice include 120,000 Japanese Americans who were sent to concentration camps during World War II, 62% of whom were US citizens. More recently, in 1982, Vincent Chin was killed in Detroit by two auto workers thinking he was Japanese. This happened during the rise of the Japanese auto industry in the USA.

After the Vietnam war, Vietnamese refugees engaged in the shrimp industry were harassed by the KKK in Texas. After 9/11 many in the Sikh community from Punjab, India were targeted because of their dress and appearance. In Fresno, members of the Sikh community experienced xenophobic violence. There is hardly an ethnic group that has not experienced hate, bigotry, harassment, discrimination, and prejudice. Jews, Filipinos, Armenians, Koreans, Muslims, Hispanics, Hmongs, African Americans, and Native Americans all have experienced this epidemic of hate and racism which is a great threat to the peace and tranquility of our communities and the nation.

In Fresno, we are fortunate that our leaders at the City Hall are enlightened and are proactive in addressing the possibility of hate violence against Asians in our community. During a recent press conference, Mayor Dyer and the members of the city council have expressed their concerns and denounced the anti-Asian hate. They expressed their solidarity with the Asian community and are taking preventive and constructive measures so that our community does not go through what Atlanta and Indianapolis have gone through. Mayor Dyer said that he will create an Office of Community Affairs and hire an Asian staffer to manage the office. The City Council has passed a resolution in support of the mayor's initiative to create a new office and appoint a community affairs officer who will connect marginalized communities to resources. These are very admirable steps on the part of our leaders at City Hall who need to be commended for their vision and spirit of creating “One Fresno.”

Whereas I strongly support such admirable and courageous steps, I would like to recommend that the mayor and city council leaders consider re-establishing the Human Relations Commission, which could lend great support and help to a new Office of Community Affairs. A commission representing the rich diversity of our community could be a very positive force in preventing hate crimes and strengthening community bonds and cohesiveness. The original Human Relations Commission on which I served for 12 years (4 years as its chair) was established in 1986 by the Fresno City Council and had 4 major functions to perform. These were:

  1. To promote community education and celebrations which foster understanding and appreciation of the multi-cultural diversity of the Fresno community.
  2. To coordinate with existing resources regarding concerns about all forms of discrimination and making referrals of specific complaints to the appropriate agency.
  3. To mediate conflicts in the community between citizens, particularly those conflicts based on race, ethnicity, religion, cultural differences, or sexual orientation.
  4. To identify and address patterns of tension, conflict, and discrimination.

I understand that there is widespread support for bringing back the Human Relations Commission and would be a great asset to the community.

Let me also take this opportunity to express my deep thanks to Congressman Jim Costa, a friend of the Asian community, for his compassion and concern for the safety and security of Asian s living in the Central Valley. Congressman Costa recently convened a forum of Asian leaders who shared their views and concerns with him; he was also instrumental in the passage of the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act. We applaud the Congressman's efforts and his leadership on such delicate and serious matters. Anti-Asian hate and racism are not the problems of the Asian community alone. It is the problem of the whole community because we are all connected. Injustice and discrimination against one ethnic community is injustice and discrimination against the whole community.