March 17, 2021
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit in early 2020, an untold number of Asian Americans have been living in fear for their lives. On top of worrying about whether they will become infected with the deadly virus, many Asian Americans also are anxious that they will become one of the growing numbers of victims of racially motivated hate crimes that have been perpetrated against them by racist, xenophobic, and otherwise ignorant people who blame Asian Americans for the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate alone has logged nearly 3,800 hate crimes since last year, but that figure is likely higher, due to unreported cases, and is expected to grow. Anti-Asian American hate crimes existed before the pandemic, but this spike is unprecedented and its origins can be traced all the way up to the White House.
For more than a year, former President Trump has dropped incendiary rhetoric in soundbites, such as “kung flu” and “China virus.” Those words, and more, have been weaponized, repeatedly, by scores of non-Asian American citizens who have taken matters into their own hands and have assaulted, even murdered, Asian Americans simply for being Asian Americans.
In today’s news, a man from Cherokee County (Georgia) has been arrested for allegedly shooting and killing eight people, six of them Asian American women. While the investigation is in its nascent phase, meaning these deaths have not yet been called “hate crimes,” these murders are being viewed as such by many, especially Asian Americans. There are many other stories besides this one, but not until recently did this spate in anti-Asian American hate crimes receive much, if any, attention, which could be due to a number of factors, but one possibility is that Asian Americans are often not considered a race worth focusing on.
Conversations about race and racism often focus on being Black or White, leaving little or no room for the many other populations, such as Asian Americans, who should and need to be included. When Asian Americans are ignored as a race, they are erased from other important social justice-related conversations, such as ending food insecurity in America, that they need to be part of just as much as those who already have a seat at the proverbial table.
To keep things moving in the right direction, it’s important to remember to include Asian Americans in the conversations, advocacy, and policies that will affect them just as much as other groups. One possible way of doing this is to mention Asian Americans as one of the many marginalized, and often ignored, populations that need to be elevated in anti-hunger work.
FRAC has committed to putting racial equity at its core. A lot of great work is happening to address historic inequities; however, Asian Americans also need to be a focus. The erasure of Asian Americans in these discussions about food insecurity results in them being sidelined when we talk about food justice specifically and social justice overall. Just as we have stood against racial and food injustices against other marginalized groups, such as Black and Latinx populations, FRAC should fight those injustices when they are being painfully felt by Asian Americans.
Asian Americans are the fastest growing racial group in the U.S. They are also the most divided in terms of economic stability and educational attainment. Food insecurity, poverty, and participation in the federal nutrition programs are low among Asian Americans, not because they don’t need help, because they do, but because they are not aware of or are otherwise barred from receiving the help they need. Social justice for Asian Americans begins with increasing their food security, and that starts with all of us talking about it more.