Statement on Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month
May marks Asian American Native Hawaiian Pacific Islander (AANHPI) Heritage Month, a time to celebrate the rich histories and cultures of Asian Americans, South Asians, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders and to reflect on their resilience. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, AANHPI communities across America experienced sharp increases in violence and harassment. In New York City, reports of hate crimes against AANHPI communities rose by 361 percent from 2020 to 2021.
In March, GuiYing Ma died ten weeks after a man attacked her and struck her head with a rock while she was sweeping the sidewalk outside of her Jackson Heights, Queens home. In February, seven Asian American women were assaulted by one man during a three-hour period in Manhattan. In January, Michelle Go, who had just celebrated her 40th birthday, was pushed onto the subway tracks from behind. The Sikh community of Richmond Hill, Queens, continues to be on edge after a series of assaults targeting community members. Whether they are riding the subway, attending church services, working at their place of business, or simply crossing the street, AANHPI individuals and communities are being targeted.
These hate-fueled incidents are the latest expression of white supremacist attitudes and beliefs that have always existed in America. Since 9/11, Muslim, Sikh, and South Asian communities have been increasingly surveilled and individual citizens have been victims of discrimination, harassment, and violence. Former President Donald Trump regularly referred to the COVID-19 pandemic as the “Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu,” even as tourists from mainland America brought COVID to Native Hawaiians. As AANHPI communities are blamed for the COVID-19 outbreak, harking back to 19th century “Yellow Peril” discourse, Asian American women continue to be hypersexualized and fetishized.
Although the rise in violence against Asian Americans is devastating and terrifying, we have also witnessed the strength of AANHPI communities throughout the pandemic. Through grassroots community efforts, Asian Americans became the most vaccinated and boosted group in most of the US. When customers fled New York City’s Chinatown during COVID-19 and the government did little to help struggling businesses and community members, Asian Americans stepped up to purchase meals from Asian restaurants, raise money for business grants, provide food to struggling elders, and protest for workers’ rights. Meanwhile, Asian American community organizers and activists have combatted white supremacist bias, and rejected anti-Black law enforcement-centric proposals by creating art, leveraging social media, and staging Zoom webinars. In the face of disinformation, threats, and outright violence, AANHPI communities refuse to be silenced.
As an organization that primarily serves communities of color, CFR stands with AANHPI people in advocating for systemic change. Last year, our client base was 92% people of color—including 8% Asian/Pacific Islander. White supremacy is a threat to the health and happiness of our clients and to all people. This AANHPI Month, we recommit to fighting to tear down the systems of hate and oppression that destroy the foundations of family and community.