Xenophobia and Racism have no place in modern society

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Last Updated (Friday, 30 April 2021 17:50)

As COVID-19 pandemic spreads globally, so do xenophobia and racism in the US and elsewhere. We trace this to former president Donald Trump who used very discriminatory rhetoric to describe the coronavirus and that was hyped by Fox News. Since then, hundreds of Asian Americans have been violently attacked. This wouldn't have happened if their disparaging remarks and extreme ideology weren't supported by a large swath of Americans. Such a shame for a country that prides itself to be a melting pot and a land of equal opportunities.

Of course, such attacks are not new. Ever since the Pearl Harbour attack, Asian Americans have been subjected to all forms of targeted hate crimes. In the 1980s, anti-Asian xenophobia and racism fuelled by the US auto industry decline lead to the murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin in Detroit by two men who blamed Asians for their losing their jobs.

On 12 February 2021, Vice President Kamala Harris said that hate crimes and violence against Asian Americans and Asian immigrants have skyrocketed during the pandemic. According to the organization Stop AAPI Hate, from March 2020 through February 2021, 3,795 first-hand reports of anti-Asian hate incidents were collected from 47 states and the District of Columbia. In March 2021 six Asian women were among those killed when a gunman opened fire in three Atlanta-area massage parlours. These senseless acts of violence are just some horrific examples of recent painful reality of rising anti-Asian violence in the US.

We note that President Joe Biden has signed a memorandum denouncing the Trump administration’s discriminatory sentiments directed at the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. But signing a memorandum is not enough. The problems need to be addressed at the source. Xenophobia and racism have become systemic and needs to be dismantled.

While hate crime laws have been enacted in many states in the United States, their implementation and application have been found lacking. All recent acts of violence against Asian Americans have been treated as random isolated cases and “not racially motivated”. We must acknowledge that the problem is not a few bad apples, but instead the problem is the very way that economic, political and social life is structured. Being xenophobic and racist is not genetically inherited traits but learned ones.

The APAY is deeply saddened by these events and grieve with our Asian American sisters and brothers. APAY strongly condemns such discriminatory behaviours and stands against all forms of xenophobia and racism, not only in the US but anywhere and everywhere. APAY is committed to the Challenge 21 and to fostering dialogue and partnership between people of different faiths and ideologies and recognizing the cultural identities of people and promoting cultural renewal.

The YMCAs in the Asia Pacific region offer our solidarity and support to YMCAs in North America region and around the world who are working with communities to combat systemic problems of discrimination, xenophobia and racism and to reimagine community with safety, diversity and inclusion.

We urge the local governments and agencies to increase investments in community-led programs and to adopt concrete action plans tailored to the new and changing circumstances, including a designated agency, to address emerging forms of discrimination, racism and xenophobia.

16th April 2021

Asia and Pacific Alliance of YMCAs