Asian Hate And Violence: Filipinos Speak Up

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Reports of microaggressions and deadly violence against Asians

The past month, we’ve seen a surge of reports on anti-Asian violence happening mostly in the United States. Just few days ago, a mass shooter targeted Asian women in Atlanta, Georgia, and the callous way it was described by the local sheriff’s office revealed how deep the anti-Asian prejudice runs in the land of the free, even in the agencies that are supposed to serve and protect them. 

Photo from Mercury News

Filipinos aren’t exempt from the violence. In fact, a number of Filipino-Americans have been the target of many assaults, including a man who was slashed with a boxcutter in New York City. The Philippine Embassy in the US has already reached out to the US government, seeking help and extra protection. With about 4 million Filipinos living in the US, mostly in California and New York where most of the abuse is being reported, many of us have become fearful for the safety and wellbeing of family and friends—especially since a good number of them also work in the health and medical fields. It seems like matter how loud we scream on social media, how much we reach out to officials and agencies, we cannot safeguard them against Asian hate. It’s bad enough that we have to deal with a deadly pandemic and all the emotional, mental and economic issues it has brought with it; now we have to deal race-based violence and misplaced anger. 

Many point to ex-president Donald Trump and his specifically anti-Chinese sentiments, (such as calling COVID-19 the “China Virus”) for leading the uptick in violence. But many believe that it’s always existed; the negative sentiment against the “model minority” has always been there, but unchecked as dutiful Asians tend to not want to rock the boat, even if it’s to their detriment. Fake news, vile, incendiary rhetoric from an unhinged leader and a whole host of other things have exacerbated the issue. 

“This has always been a problem,” says Isabel Warren, a Filipino-born American who works in healthcare. “It changes forms and maybe gets incrementally better—maybe to a point where we can sometimes forget about it—[but] it’s there.”

Photo from NBC News

“It’s ignorance. And stubbornness.” 

Barlo, a thirtysomething photographer Filipino-American living in New York City echoes the sentiment shared many Millennial Filipinos on Asian hate. 

“It’s lack of education and poor information which has trickled down from decade to decade. From Chinese exclusion acts to Anti-Filipino laws, to Japanese internment camp in the 1940s,” he says.”

“Trauma is the root of all things,” shares Isabel. “Hurt people hurt people. It’s the real silent killer that gets passed down from generations.”

“Unless we break that cycle of violence, there will be more bodies on the street. We need to treat the trauma of the violence, of poverty, of addiction like we are doing this pandemic. Maybe more.”

COVID-19 has exposed the deep strife and widened the disparity in the communities world wide. Anti-Asian hate and violence is the latest issue to bubble up and boil over. And while the Philippines and the US have vastly different cultures, the current situation that the latter is in has been met by calls for reform, tolerance and better governance—things that can definitely help the Philippines and its constituents. “I think the government needs to start making some landmark registration to secure our voting rights, for police reform, for bolstering our education and mental health resources,” says Isabel.  

“We need to give our kids a fighting chance. We empower children through education.” 

Barlo, who was born and raised in the US, takes a more pessimistic approach. “You can’t stop hatred or bigotry. it’s too deep rooted into America,” he opines. “[The] only thing you can do is prepare and defend yourself either verbally or physically and unite in solidarity with black and brown communities and white allies.” 

Photo from PBS NewsHour

Despite their differing views, both Isabel and Barlo believe that their fellow Filipinos in the Philippines have much to learn from the current situation that Asians are facing. A better understanding and analysis of privilege, a different perspective on history—how it’s presented and who is writing it—can also help. 

Meanwhile, as the pandemic rages on, many Filipinos can only hope the violence ends and that their loved ones will stay safe. CNN anchor Kristie Lu Stout recently wrote an op-ed, sharing her worry over her mother, who has been reduced to staying home out of fear:

“And I find myself dreaming of being able to teleport my mom here to Asia. She could wear a mask without being judged. She could venture out to her favorite beef noodle restaurant without fear of being knocked down. She could be left alone and perhaps, even respected.”