Rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans should be a wake up call to all Americans that one cannot enjoy the cultures of others without expressing solidarity with these communities.
By Brent Dondalski
According to NBC News, in 2020 hate crimes overall dropped by seven percent in the United States. For Asian Americans, these crimes rose by 150 percent. Just recently a video surfaced of an Asian Uber driver being assaulted and called racial slurs by two passengers. In more instances than I can keep track of, elderly Asian people have been unexpectedly assaulted and hurt. While these events can certainly be traced to anti-Asian rhetoric among COVID-19 coverage, they also showcase a larger cultural problem in America: a lack of solidarity.
Solidarity is defined as “unity or agreement of feeling or action, especially among individuals with a common interest; mutual support within a group.” Solidarity at its core is feeling what others are feeling in the most genuine way. It’s deeper than sympathy or just understanding. Someone can understand another’s experience on the surface without offering any of their heart. Solidarity is bringing one’s heart into the picture: a true and honest devotion to standing with others.
Issues of racism necessitate solidarity almost more than any other issue. Combatting racism requires us to look at the oppression of people who might not look like us, talk like us, or dress like us, and feel their pain even though we don’t have to. People of color like Asians are constantly othered and singled out as their own individual group, as if every race besides white is something outside the normal. It might be easy to see casual racism on social media or hear of these hate crimes and scroll past it unphased, both literally and metaphorically. There really wouldn’t be any individual consequences.
I urge you not to. Racism and these hate crimes deserve our attention for so many reasons. The primordial reason is of course that these people are human beings and deserve respect, solidarity, and love simply because they are human beings. But looking beyond just that, Asian Americans contribute so much to society and culture to the point where America should owe them. If you have ever had sushi, taken pictures in Chinatown, or drank boba, then you have a responsibility to look out for the people who brought that service to you. It is hypocritical for a society to enjoy and benefit from a community and subsequently turn its back on them. Ignoring, disregarding, or downplaying the recent rise of attacks on Asians, whether explicitly or implicitly, while also consuming their culture, is essentially a cultural dine and dash: taking what you want for yourself and screwing over the person who is the reason you got it.
The same thing can be said about racism and solidarity with any person of color. It still boggles my mind that some people consume hours of rap music in their daily life yet defend the police when another Black man is unjustly brutalized. Not only is hip hop historically rooted in protest and anti-racism but it wouldn’t exist without the Black community, so to stand complicit in the systems that oppress them is incredibly hypocritical.
This type of hypocrisy is predatory commodification of the highest form. America as a society takes the creations and cultural artifacts of people of color only to benefit and profit from them while also allowing unfair situations to continue to devastate communities of color. If you consume the culture of people of color, which is inevitable in a multicultural society like America, then you have a moral obligation to defend people of color when they are under attack. It is your responsibility.
Of course, you shouldn’t only defend them just cause they make food that you like. Like I said before, helping humans because they are humans is the primordial reason for solidarity. However, if there was ever any doubt, speaking up for people of color is especially necessary because society benefits from them so much, and to benefit from them while oppressing them would be incredibly wrong.
Solidarity is the cure to theses divisions, not as a policy but as a sentiment. Of course political rhetoric, policy design, economic design, and more are essential to an egalitarian society, but without solidarity all of the previously mentioned concepts are hollow. Solidarity also helps bring issues that seem so large and omnipotent down to Earth and to the individual. We may not be politicians or lawmakers, but if we embrace solidarity and allow us to feel for and stand with communities that are suffering, then maybe the rest will follow.
Lastly, I want to say my heart goes out to the Asian community. I used this article as an opportunity to talk about solidarity broadly, but that doesn’t mean these rise in hate crimes don’t deserve your undivided attention. They do. They’re disturbing and need to stop. I hope everyone reading this understands the importance of standing with the Asian community especially at this time, because this is type of racism and violence has no place in civilized society.
Melanie Moyer '22,