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Asian hate: an old problem needing new attention

White sheet of paper with STOP ASIAN HATE printed on it taped to a wooden fence

As a senior advisor at Candid and former chair of Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders in Philanthropy (AAPIP), racial equity is a driving principle in my life. Over the last year, as the COVID-19 pandemic became the new normal around the world, I felt a growing unease at the rise in the number of Asian hate crimes against Asian Americans. I heard stories of verbal abuse from family and friends, and I read about violent incidents in news reports.

Three Bay Area organizations—Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University—created Stop AAPI Hate to serve as an aggregator of anti-Asian hate incidents and as a community resource. The coalition has recorded more than 2,800 incidents of racism and discrimination targeting Asian Americans between March and December 2020.

But for me and so many others, the video footage of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee being brutally attacked while on his morning walk in San Francisco crystallized our fear, sorrow, anger, and memory. He was violently shoved to the ground on January 28, 2021, and died from a brain hemorrhage.

In the United States, we have experienced surges in racism and violence against Asian Americans since the first days of migration in the 1800s from China, Japan, Korea, India, and the Philippines. My personal sense of déjà vu of our current times isn’t just a feeling. It’s grounded in my family’s experience of being forcibly evacuated and detained in tar-paper barracks at internment camps in Poston, Arizona, and Tule Lake, California, during World War II. I grew up hearing how, along with 120,000 first- and second-generation Japanese Americans, my family lived behind barbed wire with guard towers and guns pointing at them for three years.

In June 1982, I had just graduated from a high school near Detroit when Vincent Chin, a young Chinese American man, was assailed with anti-Japanese racial slurs and beaten with a baseball bat by two white autoworkers. He died four days later, shortly before what would have been his wedding day. The leniency of the attackers’ initial sentence—a $3,000 fee and three years of probation with no jail time—galvanized the Asian American Pacific Islander community and civil rights history. We see this activism continue today, almost four decades later, with AAPIP’s February 2021 call for philanthropy to summon new energy in the fight against anti-Asian racism.

One of Candid’s core values is to be inclusive: we incorporate equity, inclusion, and respect for diverse perspectives in all our work. To support the social sector in its struggle against racism and hate-driven violence, we aggregate, index, and share updated information on how philanthropy is responding. Our tools include special issue sites on advancing racial equity, addressing the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and safeguarding democracy. We also track news stories in Philanthropy News Digest and gather the collective intelligence of the social sector through our IssueLab service. This is what Candid has to contribute to answer AAPIP’s call and meet society’s toughest challenges. We believe every organization in the social sector can do its part, in its own unique way, to answer that call.


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