Shedding light on the violence against the AAPI community


Caterina Pye '23

AAPI discrimination has increased due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The coronavirus pandemic, which scientist believe to have originated in Wuhan, China, sparked an increase in racism and discrimination towards members of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities.  As people around the world look for someone to blame, incidents of anti-Asian hate crimes continue to rise.  Ms. Xian Zheng, Upper School Chinese Teacher at Sacred Heart Greenwich, raises awareness about the ongoing discrimination within her classroom and discusses ways to create a better-informed school community.

Over the past year, Asian Americans have been victims of harassment, assault, and discrimination, with nearly 3,800 reported hate crimes against AAPIs nationally.  Most of these victims claim that individuals spat or coughed on them as they walked on sidewalks or streets.  These incidents primarily involved women in public places or in businesses, such as salons and restaurants.  There have also been several reported civil rights violations against Asian Americans since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, such as workplace discrimination, according to The New York Times. 

Several mourn for those who lost their lives in the Atlanta shooting.  Courtesy of Mr. Chang W. Lee

In addition to the discrimination towards individuals, Asian-owned businesses have also dealt with heightened violence.  Businesses and restaurants faced destruction, vandalization, and violent threats.  These incidents prompted some businesses to take safety precautions, such as hiring security or reducing work hours.  One example is an instance that involved San Antonio restaurant owner Mr. Mike Nguyen March 14.  Vandals graffitied the windows of his ramen restaurant, writing “Kung Flu,” “Commie,” “Ramen noodle flu,” and “Hope u die” in red spray paint, according to The Washington Post.

Seemingly racist attacks have also occurred this year, including the salon-parlor shootings in Atlanta, Georgia.  Gunman Mr. Robert Aaron Long shot eight people at three salon parlors in the Atlanta area March 16.  Six of the victims were Asian and all but one were women, raising fears that the crime was aimed to target people of Asian descent, according to The New York Times. 

The AAPI community has endured racism since the start of the pandemic.  Activists and political officials condemned former President Donald J. Trump for evoking racist attacks and anti-Asian sentiments, claiming that he used racist language when referring to the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus” and “Kung Flu.”  President Joseph R. Biden has taken a different viewpoint regarding the AAPI community.  He denounced the hate crimes against Asian Americans in his first prime-time speech as president, according to The New York Times.

“At this very moment, so many of them — our fellow Americans — they’re on the front lines of this pandemic, trying to save lives, and still they are forced to live in fear for their lives just walking down streets in America,” Mr. Biden said.  “It’s wrong, it’s un-American, and it must stop.”

The non-profit organization Stop AAPI Hate launched March 2020 in response to the discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.  The organization collects data and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying, according to

People protest in Columbus Park in Chinatown against anti-Asian hate.  Courtesy of Ms. Gabriela Bhaskar

Ms. Zheng educates others about the discrimination against AAPI.  She actively participates in several online community groups that gather resources on how to educate and raise awareness.  She also makes contributions to AAPI via their personal donations pages.  Ms. Zheng explained the importance of raising awareness both within her class and the rest of the world.

“Every year in the Upper School Chinese class, we learn about the histories, cultures, and ideologies of Asian/Asian Americans beyond learning the language,” Ms. Zheng said.  “I think being exposed to those ideas and facts will not only give our students a much broader view of the world we are living in, but also prepare them to be responsible and unbiased global citizens.  After these recent incidents, I have had several small discussions with some in my classes.  We shared thoughts on recent events and experiences on this matter; there are definitely more ways to educate and raise awareness in this community.  I am planning to use the resources I gathered to have further discussions with my classes: firstly about the types of disrespect and dangers that Asian and Asian Americans are facing right now and throughout history; secondly a discussion about ways we could contribute to stopping anti-Asian racism (5 safety stepsreport an incidentways to donate); and thirdly an open discussion about the importance of being open-minded to other cultures and races.”

Ms. Zheng also mentioned the importance of educating others beyond her classroom and in the broader Sacred Heart school community.  She highlighted ways to create a better environment for Asian-American students.

“I think there are many things that could be done to raise awareness in the Sacred Heart community,” Ms. Zheng said.  “First of all, the school could continue creating safe, supportive, and empowering environments for Asian and Asian-American students, also facilitate dialog and learning about the issue for all students and faculties.  Secondly, we could create spaces for students and staff who wanted to be heard to share their stories, therefore the community could best understand and support them emotionally.  Thirdly, current issues and racial inequalities should be talked about in classes, not only language classes, to help raise awareness and educate people to be more mindful.  We could also raise funds for the AAPI community to help them stop Asian hate crimes.”

Featured Image by Caterina Pye ’23