ROCKVILLE, MD, March 19, 2021 - The Montgomery County Progressive Asian American Network (MoCoPAAN), www.MoCoPAAN.org, expresses condolences for all of the victims and their families affected by Tuesday’s fatal shooting of eight people in Georgia and stands in support of the calls for solidarity by civil rights groups in Georgia against acts of violence against all communities of color. MoCoPAAN also decries the shooter’s targeting of those among the most vulnerable classes - Asian or Asian American, immigrants and women working in service industry jobs. Six of the eight victims were women of Asian descent.
In the past year, Asian Americans have been targeted by members of the public who misperceive Asian Americans as foreign Covid-19 invaders responsible for the virus. Asian Americans have also been subject to targeting instigated by people in influential positions who rally anti-China sentiment beyond the bounds of policy discourse and for political gain.
irresponsibly and for political gain. Despite this recent surge, racism and violence against Asian Americans is not new - from the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act, to the incarceration of Japanese Americans during WWII, to post 9/11 attacks against Muslim and South Asian communities, a long history exists of Asian Americans being targeted and scapegoated by white supremacy.
The impact has been broad, invoking concern and fear for many Asian Americans to even leave their homes. Hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 150% from 2019 to 2020 in the top 16 most populous cities. Adding to the concern has been an environment hostile to people of color and fomented by the “Trump Effect”. Such an environment has allowed hate incidents – such as speech or behaviors – to emerge on the street, in the workplace and public transportation. Since the outbreak last March, Stop AAPI Hate, an online hate tracker, has received 3,800 reports of hate incidents targeting Asian Americans.
These hate incidents occur in a broader environment of systemic anti-Black racism, as well as deepening racial and socioeconomic inequalities stemming from the pandemic. Before such incidents escalate into further violence, their root causes must be addressed. We call for an investment in long-term solutions that address the root causes of violence, hate, and injustice impacting all communities of color in addition to Asian Americans, rather than punitive measures that create division and reinforce our criminal justice system’s discriminatory structures. To protect against hate, communities are addressing the conditions that can breed intolerance: structural inequities in wages and education, and access to jobs, health care, particularly mental health care, social services, and legal aid, as well as the lack of representation in the authority and control of government and societal institutions.
Asian Americans comprise 15% of the county’s population, and are currently the fastest growing racial group in the United States. Yet they have not fully established a community infrastructure to join alongside other groups in the ongoing racial justice work to improve on current conditions.
With that goal in mind, MoCoPAAN makes the following recommendations to our county leaders to support the community:
1. Improve public understanding of the Asian American community that dispels the notion that it’s a monolith and dispels the notion that it's a monolith of wealthy, highly educated elites who encounter no issues of racial prejudice, to include:
a. Data collection that shows the full ethnic and socio-economic diversity of the Asian American community; its participation rate in government and nonprofit programs and services; and racial equity impact studies that address how new policies and practices will affect the Asian American community; and,
b. Trainings on Asian Americans, their history, diversity, contributions, and community realities for county leadership, MCPS, police, emergency responders, and other key decision-makers and stakeholders.
c. Public school curriculum that includes experiences and history of Asian Americans and other people of color/marginalized groups.
2. Investments in community outreach to ensure flow of communication among government, nonprofit service providers and community groups that include:
a. A directory of Asian American groups and organizations;
b. Survey of community needs, inequities, and systemic barriers, as well as community assets, particularly from underrepresented ethnic and faith communities; low-income families; the linguistically isolated; and undocumented workers; and,
c. Evaluation of community knowledge of government programs and services and their availability in different Asian languages, with recommendations on strategies that may include updating the 311 service and using ethnic media.
3. Funding to:
a. Build the organization capacity of low-budget and small-sized groups and organizations that serve the diverse Asian American community;
b. Support a community infrastructure that networks, coordinates and supports the organizations; and,
c. Sponsor diversity, anti-school bullying, and ethnic studies initiatives that empower students to direct and find safe and supportive spaces with other students of shared identities. Furthermore, to expand on the current work by MCPS Equity Initiatives with students to prevent hate incidents.
4. Investment and support for cross-racial and solidarity building efforts aimed at bringing communities together across lines of race to build trust; understand each other’s stories, histories, and experiences; combat white supremacy; and dismantle systemic racism.