Anti-Asian hate crimes are real

January 11, 2022 10:18
Photo: Reuters

Yao Pan Ma died of his injuries on December 31. The 61-year-old man was brutally assaulted in Harlem last year. He was kicked to the ground and left debilitated by Jarrod Powell.

This was a hate crime. It was also the lived experience of many a Chinese or Asian-appearing individual on the streets of New York, San Francisco, Chicago, and, indeed leading Western cities, renowned for their ostensible openness, pluralism, and compassion.

Except, of course, when it comes to Asians – specifically, Asians who resemble or look Chinese, the effective de facto scapegoats during the pandemic. I, myself, have been subject to racialised harassment many a time on the streets of Oxford – and it is for this, amongst other reasons, that I have been left perennially traumatised. Yes, to be spat at and told to f—k back to one’s country isn’t pleasant. It’s not “character-building”, either. It’s just vile. It’s pathetically vile.

Anti-Asian hate crimes are a real issue. It feels truistic – almost reductionist and redundant – to posit as such. But the very utterance of this statement is political, because it is a statement that few dare to acknowledge or say, especially when confronted with the powerful sceptics, namely those whose skin and race would render them innately immune to anti-Asian prejudices.

Some would say, “It’s not happening.” – and lie through their gritted teeth. After all, see no evil, there is no evil – ain’t that right?

Except this doesn’t sit well with the facts. Facts, mind you, don’t belong to the gut (sorry, Bush). Facts belong to the world, to the common life that undergirds your and my interactions. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans surged by over 70% in 2020 in America, culminating at the abusive assaults and killings of many. Vicha Ratanapakdee – killed on January 28 2021 in San Francisco. Atlanta Spa shootings – initiated and conducted by a radical Christian terrorist on March 16, 2021. The Singaporean student who was beaten to pulp in the early days of the pandemic in London, purely because he “looked Chinese”. The immigrant workers tormented and ridiculed for speaking with a “different accent”, for “acting differently”, for seeking to make a living out of a life for which Hell would be an ill-fitting description.

You may think I’m exaggerating, but we’re damn privileged to be living in Hong Kong as Chinese citizens – whilst our brothers and sisters from the Subcontinent, from the Middle East, from Southeast Asia flounder under our restrictive and archaic laws governing migration and migrant rights.

Ah, and then there would always be those who protest, “It ain’t hate crime, it’s just crime!” – as if that would make a marginally significant difference. Fair enough, I suppose, to particular and typecast a crime as pertaining to hate, after all, is a weighty accusation; it is weightier, at the very least, than the flippant bollocks that constituted the rhetoric of Donald Trump and his cabal of goons as they reigned supreme over America.

It is a hate crime, if it is committed out of spite and vengeance against a particular race.

It is a hate crime, if it is intricately linked with misconceptions and stereotypes about a particular skin colour.

It is a hate crime, if it is directed towards the most innocent of lambs, haplessly awaiting slaughter – or, when seeking help, are informed that there is no case to be found amidst the evidence selectively handpicked and curated to massage the feelings of the privileged and wounded majority.

It is a hate crime if it causes people to die for reasons over which they have absolutely no control – the tyranny of blatant bigotry and vile, vile, vile lies. Vile lies.

It is a hate crime if it has been repeatedly proven by civil rights organisations, activists, political scientists, academics, and those whose stories we have seen featured in Selma and beyond.

African-Americans have long been subjugated under the police state and white juridico-legislative structures that underpin the contemporary West. Their suffering can neither be compared nor equated with that of Asian-Americans. Yet it behooves all persons of colour, all minority populations to realise one critical fact – the kyriarchy doesn’t discriminate; it takes no hostages. The only maxim with which it operates, is to suppress, to alienate, and to rationalise these processes of exclusion.

So don’t tell me Asian lives don’t matter, because only black lives do – both do, and both merit genuine redress and responding-to.

So don’t tell me Asian lives don’t matter, because we allegedly started COVID-19 – pathetic, ludicrous nonsense driven by politically motivated skulduggery.

So don’t tell me you care for the human rights of victims of systemic incarceration and widespread human rights abuses, when what you’re really engaging in – here – is political weaponisation of a genuine problem in an attempt to score facetious political points.

Human rights violations deserve to be called out and addressed, but not through lenses of opportunistic liars and bigots who care neither for the victims of such abuses, nor for the populations of the powers that they’re critiquing.

Listen to the voices of the people – do you hear the people sing? For we shall never, ever be silenced. Not now, never.

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Assistant Professor, HKU