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The Scary Surge in Violent Attacks Against Asian Women in the U.S.

two people of asian descent hold posters reading "stop asian hate" and "protect asian lives"


Content Warning: minor descriptions of violence

Covid-19 has changed the world in various negative ways since hitting the scene in 2019. One of the most detrimental impacts is the increase in hate crimes against Asians and Asian-Americans in the U.S. due to the stigma that Covid is the “Kung Fu Flu” as referred to by former U.S. President Donald Trump. Unfortunately, nearly two years into this worldwide pandemic, many Asians are still the victim of dreadful attacks, especially Asian women. 

According to Stop AAPI Hate, a majority of the incidents of discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the U.S. reported target women,  accounting for 68% of incidents between March 2020 and March 2021. Recently, New York has seen an extreme increase in these attacks over the recent months as the public is still recovering from the deaths of Christina Yuna Lee, Yao Pan Ma, and Michelle Alyssa Go among others. Lee was fatally stabbed by a man who followed her inside her apartment, Go was pushed to death at the Times Square subway station, and Ma was assaulted by a man with a large rock as she swept a sidewalk in Queens. As Asian women are continuously targeted, many increasingly question their safety—especially while traveling alone—in fear of becoming victims of similar attacks. 

In an NPR interview Sung Yeon Choinorrow, executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, voices her opinion on why she believes Asian women are more frequently targeted saying

We are seen as easier targets, less likely to fight back. And so those type of stereotypes and, you know, realities of how gender bias and racism works has created an environment where Asian American women are not only disproportionately being targeted, but, you know, majority of these incidences are happening in public places or the attacker is somebody unknown to us, which is the really scary part, right?

Violence against Asian women has continuously grown more rampant as, on February 28, 2022, a spree of violence in Manhattan occurred as seven Asian women were attacked when a 28-year-old homeless man committed various attacks over two hours. The women were ranging in age from 19 to 57 and the extent of the attacks left two women needing treatment and care from hospitals.  The police arrested Steven Zajonc, the apparent offender, and charged the man “with seven counts of assault and attempted assault classified as hate crimes, as well as with seven counts of aggravated harassment and harassment.” These attacks and various acts of violence are only increasing worrisome when considering they’re spontaneous, unprompted, and can even catch passersby witnessing the violent acts to be taken back in shock. 

It is horrifying to witness these horrid attacks making news headlines daily and it’s partially due to the ignorant rhetoric spread by ex-president Trump. Choimorrow—from the NPR interview— even mentions, “the spike in the crimes that we see and especially violence that is so public can be attributed to Trump using that kind of rhetoric that, you know, other people sort of embraced.” Sadly, this behavior is far from new. Due to certain biases and portrayals of Asian women in media, society develops stereotypes—such as Asian women being submissive and docile—which prompts potential attackers to identify Asian American women as easy targets. 

Even historically, harmful assumptions have always been made against Asian American women and how they should be treated. The first Asian woman brought to the U.S. by a businessman, Afong Moy, was displayed in New York City; he charged people a fee to watch her eat and use her chopsticks. This stereotypical perception of Asian women extended as far as the U.S. Congress resulting in the passing of the Page Act. This act was effective in preventing East Asian women to enter the United States without a male family member because they were assumed to be prostitutes. Clearly, the ignorance and racism surrounding the perception of Asian Women hasn’t changed. 

As the number and frequency of attacks increases in the U.S., more Asian American communities are organizing walking groups to ensure people get home safely at night while some individuals are taking self-defense classes. There are many ways to get involved and help the Asian American and Pacific Islanders community (AAPI). Educating yourself and normalizing the education of Asian American history in the U.S. is a great way to understand the underlying issues within these attacks and how to fix the issue. There are also many ways to help the AAPI community and Stop AAPI has great resources for doing so. Hate is often based on ignorance. If we can continuously educate ourselves we have a chance to stop the hate. 

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Jason Leung



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