OLYMPIA – Community members have relayed to the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) incidents of hate targeting people of Asian and Pacific Islander (API) ancestry during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Washington is a welcoming state, and I have zero tolerance for hate and bias. It is completely unacceptable that some Washingtonians are targeting Asians or Asian-Americans and these abhorrent actions must stop,” Gov. Jay Inslee said. “There are systems in place to ensure that offenders of hate crimes will be brought to justice.”
Unfortunately, many API community members face significant barriers to reporting incidents to law enforcement. Some barriers are cultural, other relate to access, and some are rooted in fear. Many API immigrants will not call law enforcement in times of need due to the belief that they will be deported. But, generally speaking, law enforcement may not inquire into anybody’s immigration status when taking a police report or conducting an investigation.
“People who have been victimized deserve both support and justice – that’s part of why it’s so important that victims come forward,” said Toshiko Hasegawa, Executive Director of CAPAA. “Reporting also helps educate decision-makers on what’s happening, so they can make meaningful policies to address issues and meet needs.”
While CAPAA encourages victims and witnesses of hate crimes to report to the police, the alternative is to submit reports to local Civil/Human Rights Offices, or other national networks such as Asian Americans Advance Justice that are tracking hate crimes during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Attitudes of racism and xenophobia are not new to our community members, who have grappled with hate here in Washington State and nationwide,” said Commissioner Sina Sam, Chair of CAPAA’s Civil Rights and Immigration Committee. “We are committed to promoting justice for our community members, especially during this COVID-19 emergency.”
Today’s increase in hateful acts directed towards API’s is a painful reminder of regrettable times in our nation’s history. In the 1800s, Chinese laborers were called “Chinks” and met with racist sentiments of “yellow peril” and violence. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Japanese Americans were called “Japs” and were targeted during wartime for their association with “the face of the enemy.” Following the attacks on 9/11, members of Sikh and Muslim communities were profiled as “terrorists” and targeted for bearing religious indicators. Disconcertingly, these upticks in hate crimes are oftentimes the social conditions that are a precursor to official acts of systemic oppression, including the Chinese Exclusion Act (1882), Japanese Incarceration (1942), and the Muslim Ban (2017). Such discriminatory policies have since been reflected upon by history as a failure of political leadership.
Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson said, “History will remember how we respond to this crisis. President Trump’s use of the term ‘Chinese virus’ is highly dangerous in such fragile times with so many vulnerable people. It causes division when we should be working together to support each other as a community, united against the disease. I am committed to combating hate crimes in our state, and the president’s rhetoric has increased targeted violence against the AAPI community. It causes public safety issues when we should be focused on a solution for the people and making sure everyone is safe. This is not who we are. We must not tolerate hate. We must have each other’s backs. My message to the AAPI community is that I have your backs. I will stand for you.”
Therefore, CAPAA calls upon elected and appointed leaders at every level of government to take a stand against hate, and employ every measure possible to combat racism and xenophobia. This includes rejecting terms that associate COVID-19 to a race or country; encouraging constituents to report hate crimes to the authorities and/or other reporting sites; and making support resources are available to victims.
For more resources to report hate crimes, people may visit CAPAA’s webpage.
CAPAA is a cabinet-level state agency whose mission is to improve the well-being of APA’s in Washington State by promoting equitable access to government services, resources, and policy makers. Its role is to identify and examine issues impacting APA’s and it advises the Governor, state legislature, and state agencies on issues relating to government services, programming, and changes to state law. CAPAA does not take on individual casework, nor can it provide legal counsel.