Asian Pacific American Heritage Month event addresses rise in hate crimes

By Sarah Siock

To kick off Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, students gave a virtual presentation on April 2 that brought awareness to the recent rise in anti-Asian hate crimes, while describing the history and struggles of Asian immigrants in the United States.

This year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month will feature five events that fall under the theme, “United We Are: Combating Hate and Fear.” The first event of the month was an informational presentation given by Asian Students at Rider (ASAR) titled, “History of the term Asian American.” The presentation covered a wide range of topics from the history of different groups of Asian Americans to steps individuals can take to combat anti-Asian violence.

The presenters drew attention to the long history of hate crimes against Asians in the United States by sharing stories of Asian Americans who lost their lives to violence. The presentation focused on the murder of a Chinese-American man named Vincent Chin, who was beaten to death by two white autoworkers in Detriot, Michigan, in 1982.

“Chin’s death brought Asian Americans together across ethnic lines to form multi-ethnic and multiracial alliances to organize for civil rights, and to advocate for change. The nature of the killing compelled people to see what there was in common, so whether people want to feel like there was anything in common or not, they cannot deny that if they looked that way they can be killed, whether they were Japanese, ethnically or not,” said sophomore early education major Melanie Tsai, who served as a presenter at the event and is ASAR’s president.

The presenters stressed the importance of this year’s Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, as hate crimes that target Asian Americans rose nearly 150% in 2020.

“Change can only happen through understanding — understanding where the anger and sadness from the Asian community right now derive from. By attending these events and learning about the Asian American and Asian struggles often hidden from the light, Rider students can learn how to become better allies,” said Nicole Chen, sophomore biology major, and ASAR’s public relations representative.

The long history of Asian Americans in the United States has come with many misconceptions. The presenters debunked some of these stereotypes by describing the model minority myth. This myth states that Asian Americans are more successful than other ethnic minorities because of hard work, education and inherently law-abiding natures. However, during the presentation, Chen said that in reality, Asian Americans experience the largest income inequality gap as an ethnic and racial group in the United States. She added that Asian immigrants have the highest poverty rates in New York City.

“It is important for all Rider students to attend these events during Asian Pacific Heritage Month as it breaks down barriers and misconceptions that someone may carry. The more versed someone becomes when attending events such as these, the better someone can support the Asian American community,” said Dion Moore, junior cybersecurity major and ASAR secretary.

The ASAR members concluded the presentation with ways to fight Asian hate, which included self-education, reporting hate crimes if you see one occur and spreading awareness.

Chen said, “I know a lot of people at first did not even know that Asians are a racially targeted group, but with people sharing on their Instagram stories about all the hate crimes, it looks like people are starting to take notice.”

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