Anti-Asian Violence is Not New, and It’s Not Isolated

By Erin Tsurumoto Grassi

I couldn’t sleep last night after learning of the brutal news of death and violence directed at Asian women by a white man in Atlanta, Georgia. It shook me deeply, to my core, and left me angry, sad, horrified and worried for the safety of my family. This man viciously took the lives of eight people — six of whom were Asian — at three different locations before he was finally apprehended. This incident reflects a rise in anti-Asian violence, both nationally, and locally, here in San Diego

Let us not be mistaken — the incident that happened yesterday in Atlanta, and the recent rise in anti-Asian violence, did not happen in isolation. There is a long history of racism against Asians in this country.

It includes:

  • The Page Act (1875), which prohibited women from coming to United States for “immoral purposes” and was used primarily to stop Chinese women from immigrating to the United States;
  • The Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), which banned Chinese from immigrating to the United States; 
  • The Gentleman's Agreement of 1907, an informal agreement between the United States government and Japan to limit further Japanese migration to the United States;
  • Alien Land Law Acts passed in various states (including California in 1913 and 1920), which restricted Japanese immigrants from land ownership;
  • The Immigration Act of 1924 (Johnson-Reed Act), which created a national origins quota system and included a provision that essentially barred Asians from migrating to the United States; 
  • Executive Order 9066, which ordered the removal and imprisonment of 120,000 individuals of Japanese descent during WWII. 

The history of racism includes the creation of the model minority myth to drive a wedge between Asians and other groups. It also includes the murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American man who was murdered in the 1980s becuse two white men thought he was Japanese. Those men received $3,000 fines, and zero prison time, despite the brutality of their actions.  

It includes Donald Trump, the former US President, spewing anti-immigrant rhetoric and naming the coronavirus the "China Virus", and the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that followed. Yesterday's shooting in Atlanta did not happen in a bubble — it was not some unhinged white man who had a bad day. 

It is part of a more than a century-old story of racism against Asians, which in turn is part of a broader agenda of white supremacy that impacts not just Asians but many other groups. 

For this to end, we must not only call for the hate against Asians to stop, but also for the end of white supremacy, and declare openly our support for others who are tied up in the same fight for liberation as ourselves. 

#StopAsianHate #StopAAPIHate #endwhitesupremacy #blacklivesmatter

Erin Tsurumoto Grassi is the regional policy director at Alliance San Diego.