CW: This article discusses hate crimes and violence against Asian American communities. Please refer to the end of the article for on- and off-campus resources.
On Jan. 21, the day of the Monterey Park mass shooting, a news alert popped up on my phone. It was The Washington Post covering the shooting, emphasizing how it had targeted Asian communities. The headline shed light on the timing as well: The shooting occurred during the weekend of Lunar New Year, a major cultural holiday for the Asian community.
Eleven were killed in the shooting, which took place in a Monterey Park dance studio that was a popular location for elders in the predominantly Asian neighborhood.
As a Korean American, this news should have alarmed me. An incident of violence against my own race should have been disturbing. I should have had burning questions: Why did people hate my culture? Could my family be the next victims?
But none of that happened. Instead, I muted the news alert. In fact, I swiped left on the notification to clear it from my phone.
It was a sign of numbness. I had become used to seeing news of anti-Asian hate. I had become immune to racism.
This immunity against Asian hate has affected not only me, but the Georgetown University community and the country as well. The United States is becoming dangerously comfortable with anti-Asian hate. Georgetown must do a better job of recognizing and resolving it.
I have a two-part definition for “immunity” against racism. First, being immune, individually, is being unfazed when victimized by racism. Victims who are immune allow bias and aggression to seep into their daily life, which renders them unable to retaliate or speak out against injustices. Being immune as a society, on the other hand, permits indifference, bias and tolerance toward racism. Anti-Asian hate revolves around this immunity.
Victims of Asian hate also suffer from immunity through the “model minority” stereotype, which places restrictive cultural expectations on Asians. This myth depicts Asians as obedient, uncomplaining and immune to racism as previously described. The model minority tolerates racism to attain economic success or social status, often turning a blind eye to their own inequalities to appear “normal” and escape their minority status.
Societal indifference exacerbates this immunity and these stereotypes. Asian hate goes underreported, and aggressors are rarely punished for bias incidents. A 2021 Department of Justice report on the underreporting of hate crimes reveals that, even though FBI data recorded a 70% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, over 12,000 law enforcement agencies “reported zero hate crimes” to the FBI that year. Despite rising discrimination, there is declining social awareness, resulting in little structural change in addressing a pressing issue.
The #StopAsianHate movement is a perfect example of social immunity. The movement at its height proved the model minority myth wrong — rightfully. It showed that Asian communities can speak out against racism and display solidarity. In the face of rising hate crimes, increased slur usage and even targeted shootings, there was a united front against Asian hate across all races — a universal acknowledgment of the sufferings of the Asian community.
Today, this momentum is nowhere to be seen.
Google Trends for “Stop Asian Hate” reveal sharply declining public searches for the topic since March 2021. Yes, this data might not perfectly represent recognition of Asian hate, but this suggests that the media and the general public are brushing aside news of Asian hate.
Similarly, my recent experiences at Georgetown have not been promising.
On Feb. 17, Georgetown community members received an email about an anti-Asian hate crime that had occurred on Wisconsin Avenue early the day before — and I once again found myself immune.
The crime, to me, was simply another tally on a long list of Asian hate, just like Monterey Park. I barely skimmed through the email.
The administration’s response was also unsurprising. For every act of discrimination — whether on- or off-campus — all that seems to happen is another email in our inboxes. “We strongly condemn,” the university says. But our diversity initiatives can be much more than just emails.
Georgetown has a long way to go to fully support the Asian community, and it can start by offering transparency on hate crime investigations. Students have a right to know whether the crimes are being investigated — and what police investigations reveal. The administration must hold perpetrators of Asian hate accountable, combating immunity on its end.
When it comes to Asian hate on a national scale, Americans have continued to let immunity plague themselves. Amid ever-changing news cycles and fluctuating public interest in violence, the country has moved on from Asian hate again.
After Japanese internment camps during World War II, there was no governmental redress until decades later, when Japanese Americans launched a campaign. After the violence in Los Angeles’ Koreatown during the 1992 Rodney King incident, residents were denied insurance payments and government aid. Even the racism in Monterey Park is slowly being forgotten, with multiple other mass shootings overshadowing the issue of Asian hate.
I’ve spent the past several weeks reflecting on the roots of my immunity and how society has exacerbated it. Monterey Park has snapped me out of my immunity, motivating me to speak up.
I implore the Georgetown community to do the same. Hold aggressors of Asian hate accountable and offer transparency. Save the dying spark of #StopAsianHate. Recognize your own immunity and overcome it.
Monterey Park has reminded me of a cold reality, one of indifference and tolerance toward hate. But I say there is a way out.
Haan Jun (Ryan) Lee is a first-year in the School of Foreign Service.
Resources: On-campus resources include Health Education Services (202-687-8949) and Counseling and Psychiatric Service (202-687-6985); to report an incident of hate or bias on campus, refer to the Georgetown University Bias Reporting website. Off-campus resources include the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD). In the event of an emergency, dial 911. To report a hate crime, contact the MPD Hate Crimes Voicemail (202) 727-0500 or the Hate Crimes Coordinator ([email protected]).