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Are Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders victims of AAPI hate?

Written by Tonga Victoria Fakalata

Graphic courtesy Swordhouse, Inc.

With more than 100 gun laws, lawmakers have called for even more state regulations after the shootings in Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay deepened vulnerability and fear in communities across California.

These mass shootings come less than a year after Governor Gavin Newsom committed $14 million in ‘Stop the Hate’ funds to 80 Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) organizations to combat hate incidents through prevention and intervention services. However, is the rise of hate crimes and harassment an AAPI issue or has the AAPI acronym once again been used to conflate and prioritize an Asian-American issue?

A grassroots initiative sparked amid the sharp increase of violence against

Asian-Americans in Los Angeles and New York during COVID-19, Stop AAPI Hate has been the epicenter for Asian-American victims of assault to report incidents of hate, exclusion and discrimination into a database created by three AAPI-serving organizations: AAPI Equity Alliance (AAPI Equity), the Asian American Studies Department at San Francisco State University, and Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA).

An innovative response to the increasing number of hate incidents, the Stop AAPI Hate coalition released two reports in 2021: a national report that covered 9,081 incidents and a California report that included 800 hate incidents. Of the 9,081 reported incidents across the country, 92% (8,380) were individuals who identified as Asian-American (Chinese, Korean, Filipinx, Japanese, Vietnamese, Taiwanese, Hmong, Indian, Cambodian, Lao, and other Asian). Only .002% (18) were individuals who identified as Pacific Islander.

In the California report, the summary focused only on Asian-Americans from thirty four counties (out of 58 counties), indicating a statewide problem.

Yes, anti-Asian hate and bigotry is a statewide problem that points to the wider conversation around the historical undertones of legal segregation and explicit discrimination that Asian immigrant communities faced in the 19th and 20th Century.

What has roots in federal legislation such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, the Gentlemen's Agreement of 1907-08, the Immigration Act of 1917, and President Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066 that forced the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II, anti-Asian hate has shaped the American psyche similarly to the legacy impacts of African-American slavery.

The push and pull factors of Asian migration to the United States and the settlement experience is distinctively different from Pacific Islander migration trends, however the nature of the AAPI acronym points to one reason: government classification.

Pointing towards Governor Newsom’s $14 million investment into Asian American and Pacific Islander organizations, combating hate crimes and harassment is now the AAPI-issue.

From a funding standpoint, community proposals requesting support to build programs and initiatives around priority issues (civic engagement, restorative justice, climate change, culturally-relevant programming) must be anchored in and around combating anti-Asian hate and harassment.

Has the AAPI acronym become a victim of its own good-intentions?

Professor Rick Bonus, University of Washington’s American Ethics Studies chair, explains the beauty, and also the risk of lumping different heterogeneous populations together. The power of mobilizing, and coalition-building around common interests and priorities can advance the empowerment of both the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander communities, but the risk is "marginalizing certain groups that are not hegemonic or more vocal in the category, and this is what’s happening to AAPI.” Spotlighting the inadequacies of the acronym ‘Asian American Pacific Islander’ is helpful toward highlighting the issues around hate and bigotry against Asian Americans and those of Asian descent.

The above article by Tonga Victoria is one of a series of articles featured in the East Palo Alto Center for Community Media's Stop the Hate Media Campaign, which is funded by a grant from the State of California and administered by the California State Library.

See all of the articles online in current and upcoming issues of the East Palo Alto Today newspaper.

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Are Native Hawaiian & Pacific Islanders victims of AAPI Hate_
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