In recent weeks, we have heard about anti-Asian hate crimes, including the terrible murder of eight women in their workplace in Atlanta. As a white person, it is easy to see the killings as isolated and far away, but stories about Asian hate are not as far from home as we like to think.
A dear friend who is Japanese-American was sitting in a waiting room after her coronavirus vaccine here in Chico, when a white man walked by and said out loud to her and to the room, “We gotta stop people from China coming here.” No one came to her aid or spoke up. Another Japanese-American man was spat upon when riding his bike in Gridley.
We must wake up as a nation to the underlying racism on which our country was built.
Anti-Asian sentiment always seems to be right near the surface and then gets swept out of sight again. One of the more troubling reactions in Atlanta is how the city’s police captain quickly attributed the clearly anti-Asian violence to someone just having “a bad day.” I couldn’t believe my ears.
In our city and nation, we are grappling with how police can escalate and deescalate racist tensions. It is clear to me that, besides finding more resources to support mental health professionals intervening in many 911 calls, we must hire a diverse police force. Diversity means not only women, but also Black, Indigenous and Asian people—people of color! These are attainable changes that can make a big difference in our attention to the uptick of racially motivated hate across our country and right here in Chico.
It troubles me that friends and neighbors in Northern California are cast as dangerous or untrustworthy because of how they look. This is racist thinking. Racism is taught. Like a disease, it can be changed only by learning how we are all infected. Setting a diverse example in all our hiring, but especially in public service like policing, is a step toward finding a cure for racist outbreaks.
The author is curator at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology at Chico State.