Racism against Asian Americans decried

Washington office of PC(USA) calls for an end to hateful acts

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

The U.S. Capitol (Photo courtesy of Office of Public Witness)

LOUISVILLE — The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness issued a statement Monday decrying racism against Asian Americans and calling for acts of hate against them to stop.

The statement was prompted by an increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans in the United States since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Hate crimes targeting Asian Americans have spiked by 150% in major U.S. cities in 2020,” according to the OPW statement written by the Rev. Jimmie Hawkins, Associate Director of Advocacy for the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

There were more than 2,800 anti-Asian hate incidents between March and December 2020, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition aimed at addressing anti-Asian discrimination amid the pandemic.

Though many incidents go unreported, targets have included an 89-year-old woman who was slapped and had her shirt set on fire in New York City, and a man who was beaten with his own cane at a bus stop in California, according to OPW’s statement.

If you’d like to take action to stop hateful acts against Asian Americans, here are some suggestions from OPW:

  • Be an ally in the fight against Asian-American racism.
  • Include Asian Americans when discussing racial injustice.
  • Advocate for law enforcement to create task forces and liaisons to address concerns emanating from the Asian-American community.
  • Foster increased engagement between African Americans and Asian Americans and challenge attempts to generate conflict between them.
  • Challenge Asian-American stereotypes, including the “model minority” myth, that downplay the issues confronting that community. “Asians are often touted as possessing greater intelligence and success, especially compared to other racial-ethnic communities, while downplaying important problems the community faces,” OPW’s statement notes.
  • Write letters of outrage to politicians who make anti-Asian statements or express prejudicial sentiments. Write op-eds and letters to the editor in local papers.
  • When an incident occurs in your community, publicly advocate for prosecutors to charge hate crimes in violent attacks against Asian Americans.
  • Attend rallies and protests in support of the Asian community, and advocate for investment in education and community resources to get at the root causes of Anti-Asian xenophobia in the ongoing conversation on race.

Racism against Asian Americans was the subject of an episode of last year’s “COVID at the Margins” webinar series by PC(USA) that featured the Rev. Laura Cheifetz and others. The topic also was highlighted in a Presbyterians Today blog post last March by the Rev. Samuel Son, manager of diversity and reconciliation for the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

In the blog post, Son noted that then-President Donald Trump had played a role in contributing to a negative environment for Asian Americans.

“When President Trump refers to the virus as a ‘foreign virus’ and a ‘Chinese virus,’ he is, unfortunately, tapping into a mindset that is the default operating system in America,” Son blogged.

Son cited a history of discriminatory actions against Asian Americans by the United States such as the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 that largely banned the immigration of Chinese laborers to the U.S. for many years.

In the COVID at the Margins episode, the Rev. Dr. Alonzo Johnson used a text from Galatians to remind Christians of their role in combatting hatred against Asian Americans.

Galatians 3:26-28 “reminds us that there are no scapegoats for the world’s problems,” said Johnson, coordinator of the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People. “It reminds us that we are in this together, and the Scripture flies right in the face of American exceptionalism — the idea that the hordes are coming to take things away from us, the idea that we are not all one, that we are not all equal, and we are not all important.

“We are called to remember that we all belong to God, and in that, we are made in Christ’s image,” Johnson continued. “The Galatians piece reminds us that always, we are connected, that no matter what, we are connected to one another, we carry the cross for one another, we share the struggles of one another.”

The Presbyterian Office of Public Witness and the Presbyterian Committee on the Self-Development of People are among the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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