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What Is AAPI?: Understand The Term Used In The #StopAsianHate Movement

Following the racially motivated fatal shooting of six Asian American women in Atlanta, it has come to the media’s attention that hate crimes against people of Asian descent have spiked during the pandemic

As the Covid-19 pandemic stroke, 2020 became a disastrous year for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. Reports by the Center for Study of Hate and Extremism and the #StopAAPIHate foundation found that, in 2020, the incidence of hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 149% when compared to the previous year. That accounts for almost 3,800 reported incidents since March 19, 2020, when former president Donald Trump referred to Coronavirus as the “China Virus”, a number which still represents only a fraction of the hate crimes and discrimination this population faces. 

crowd of protesters against Asian hate
Photo by Jason Leung from Unsplash

To aggravate the fear amongst Asian American community, six Asian women were shot and killed on March 16, a hate crime fueled by racism and misogyny, preconceptions still awfully present in American society. After the incident not being classified as a hate crime by the local authority, Tammy Duckworth, one of the only two Asian Americans in the U.S. Senate, states, “It looks racially motivated to me,” asking police to deeper investigate the case. 

In the light of these events emerges the #StopAsianHate movement, one which uses the term AAPI to design Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, people who suffer immense prejudice in the country, especially at this moment in history. The term was coined in the 1960s, emerging at the same moment the pan-racial identity, Asian American was created, as a response to the black and feminist Civil Rights movements. During this time of social and political arousal, Asian American students of the San Francisco Bay Area started bringing the media’s attention to the precarious living conditions of their community. They also fought for the inclusion of their history in the American college curriculum, given the hundreds of years of genocide against Asian people in the United States.

From the Rock Springs Massacre — in which 28 Chinese miners were slaughtered — to the death of Chinese Americans — like Vincent Chin, in 1982 —, these students wanted to show America the violence perpetrated against their community and further the pan-racial movement for Asian American rights. From then on the term AAPI was used to describe U.S. citizens whose origins are from Asia or the Pacific Islands, as scholars believed that those had shared experiences with colonialism and therefore suffered similar forms of oppression nowadays. 

Chinese man with medical mask
Photo by Macau Photo Agency

Some, however, disagree with that statement, remembering that Asian Americans suffer from immigration issues, whilst Pacific Islanders still fight decolonization from the U.S. and other imperialistic powers. Furthermore, studies have shown that “while the Asian American community has a higher medium annual income than the national average, many Pacific Islanders are living below the poverty line,” and, as a consequence, movements such as the #StopAAPIHate may focus on Asian American struggle and fail to aid Pacific Islanders’ issues. 

But still, most people advocate that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders should not be separated based on cultural differences, as countries within these two groups are also extremely different culturally, but they all share common struggles with colonialism and racial prejudice. Thus, in response to the struggle and oppression their community faces, Asian Pacific Americans should work as a whole powerful force capable of changing the social rules which bound them. 

As cited, the movement which nowadays helps the community is the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, created by the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, the Chinese Affirmative Action, and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University in 2020 to fight the escalation in xenophobia increased by the pandemic. The organization works through the tracking of incidents of hate, violence, harassment, and discrimination against Asian Pacific Americans in the United States, having in its own website a place for reports and other resources such as donations, statistics, and safety tips. 

racism is a pandemic protest sign
Photo by Ehimetalor Akhere Unuabona from Unsplash

Organizations such as #StopAAPIHate are extremely important for the democratization of society as they propagate intersectional activism and help minorities as a whole, putting an end to harmful stereotypes which lead to cases of violence such as the one we experienced earlier this month. Here you may find the links to their Homepage, Act Now and Donate pages.


This article was edited by Amanda Oestreich.

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Carolina Azevedo

Casper Libero '24

I am Carolina, a journalism student at Faculdade Cásper Líbero. I take great interest in the issues of intersectional feminism and wish to take part in the movement through the art of writing. My other interests include music, film, and photography. Instagram: www.instagram.com/caazvd/ Medium: link.medium.com/3vS6dTwCaeb
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