“Conversation with Dr. Russell Jeung, Co-Founder of Stop AAPI Hate Organization,” explores recent hate crimes against Asian Americans and the movement that has sprung up against it.
By Kiera O’Hara-Heinz
On Tuesday, March 27, at 4:30 pm, Saint Mary’s hosted “Conversation with Dr. Russell Jeung, Co-Founder of STOP AAPI HATE Organization.” The event was co-facilitated by Saint Mary’s faculty members, Dr. Loan Dao and Dr. Luz Casquejo Johnston, and was co-sponsored by a number of campus groups including the Sociology, Women’s and Gender Studies, Ethnic Studies, Justice Community & Leadership, Anthropology, History, Communication, and Performing Arts departments, as well as the Black Lives Matter Committee. Through a mixture of presentation and Q&A discussion, the event examined recent hate crimes against Asian Americans, the sources and impacts of racism, and solutions.
The event featured Dr. Russell Jeung, a professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University, and Co-Founder of the organization Stop AAPI Hate. His organization was founded in March 2020 in collaboration with the organization Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council. It tracks COVID-19 discrimination incidents, and, since its founding, has received over 3,795 reported incidents of hate.
Jeung began the event by giving background to the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans this year. He says that this is not a new phenomenon and that violence against Asian Americans has been a reappearing occurrence during pandemics in the past, like SARS in 2003.
“I'll tell you a little bit about the background of what happened because I know Asian American history,” Jeung said. “We knew that whenever a pandemic came from Asia, Asians are blamed for it, and then interpersonal violence occurs.”
Understanding that violence was likely to occur due to COVID-19, Jeung and his partners created a website tracker to record personal accounts of racism, which he says is “flooded” with hundreds of reports every day. He describes the hate, fear, and anger against Asian Americans depicted in the reports as “palpable”.
Jeung shared several anecdotes of the incidents reported over the past year. One reported incident was of a fourth-generation Chinese American in San Luis Obispo, who was spit on and called racist slurs and described that he felt like he would never be perceived as an American. Another reported incident took place in Sausalito, California, where a woman was yelled at for “bringing the China Virus over here.” Jeung described the racial violence that occurred within his own family, where his wife was spit on while running in the Oakland Hills.
Jeung expressed that with all of the violence seen on the news, it is easy to get desensitized. Because of this, he read off the names of all of the AAPI people killed in the United States during the last year and held moments of silence for each.
Jeung explained how the effects of the recent uptake in violence against Asian Americans are going to be long-lasting, stating that one out of every five respondents on the Stop AAPI Hate website shows signs of racial trauma. He also said that Asian Americans are currently experiencing higher instances of stress and anxiety than any other racial group. Jeung described how widespread racism is at the moment, saying “Asians are more concerned about other Americans and their racism than we are concerned about a pandemic that's killed half a million people.”
The event ended with Jeung, Casquejo Johnston, and Dao sharing their own experiences and answering questions about solidarity, activism, and ethnic studies. One question asked was about the Anti-Asian American hate crime bill currently in the Senate. Jeung acknowledged that the bill was a step in the right direction but expressed that he views restorative justice as a better solution that would do less harm to communities of color.
“I'm really pushing for restorative justice because I think criminalizing everything maintains the cycle of violence and punishment,” Jeung said. “We need to hold people accountable, but then educate them and teach them of the harm they have done and then try to restore that relationship.”
Students experiencing psychological distress from the recent violence against Asian Americans are encouraged to reach out to the SMC Counseling and Psychological Services, and community members who have been the victim of a hate crime can report the incident at https://stopaapihate.org/
Melanie Moyer '22,