The news from Atlanta was shocking, although it shouldn’t have been. Hate crimes against Asian Americans have been rising ever since some leaders decided to call COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” — or worse. Between 2019 and 2020, anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police rose by 149%, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism.
The numbers are awful, but they don’t tell the human story of the people facing this onslaught of hate. Like the 51-year-old woman riding a bus who was attacked by three teenage girls yelling anti-Asian epithets. She ended up in the hospital. Or the 83-year-old man walking with his cane who was brutally pushed to the ground, breaking his hip.
Many incidents don’t end in violence so they don’t get reported at all. It’s reported that 31% of Asian adults in the U.S. say they’ve faced ethnic slurs or jokes since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Pew Research Center survey from July of 2020.
Mothers screaming for their kids to get away from an Asian woman entering a playground. A customer refusing to accept coffee prepared by an Asian American barista. And, of course, the people getting spit on as they walk to their gym or wait for a train.
Let’s get this straight: Our future as a nation depends on our ability to work together across ethnic and cultural backgrounds. We are and will remain a diverse country and we cannot succeed without each other.
People from around the world come to America to build better lives for themselves and their children and this diversity as a major source of our strength. We lose so much when hate and fear divide us. We lose America.
So, what can we in Bucks County do to ensure we’re a united community where everyone feels safe and valued? How can we make sure our county thrives not despite but because of our diversity?
First, there’s been a lot of discussion lately about what Bucks County schools should teach about diversity, particularly racial and ethnic diversity. Students of color feeling like they are always “othered,” dealing with hate-based social media attacks and rarely seeing themselves in the curricula.
White parents worrying their children are being taught to feel chronic guilt. This latest breakout of anti-Asian violence should be the final line: Our schools must make plans right now to embody diversity, equity and inclusion in their cultures and curricula.
With school board elections coming up, ask your school board candidates what they’ll do to make sure each and every child feels valued, safe and included at school.
Second, we must ensure that everyone in Bucks County feels safe and protected by law enforcement. Equal protection of the law is a bedrock value of American democracy and is essential to thriving as a diverse county.
With sheriff, district attorney and judgeship elections right around the corner, ask the candidates what they will do to ensure equal protection. How will they ensure equal treatment in arrests and bail? Will they advance innovative ways to deal with mental health crises? What is their perspective on use of force, and how can we ensure it is a last resort everywhere in Bucks County?
The continuing cost of wringing our hands but never acting is too clear. It’s clear in the pain being felt by our Asian American friends today and it will be clear in the ongoing disintegration of our nation into separate clans. We are one country with one future and one county with one future. Each of us can take action to make that future bright for all.
Karen Downer is the president of NAACP Bucks County.
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