Asian Americans in Arizona react to national wave of anti-Asian hate crimes

As hate crimes against Asian Americans spike in major U.S. cities like New York City, Los Angeles, and parts of the San Francisco Bay Area, at least some of the unprovoked and violent attacks on elderly Asian Americans are being caught on camera.

While the videos are hard to watch, they are going viral on social media. For some, like Susan Wong from San Francisco, the videos are infuriating to watch.

Wong, a sophomore who studies sports journalism at Arizona State University, says she recently got asked one particular question for the first time.

"A man sits next to me, and I was just drinking my Starbucks, typing away on my laptop, trying to finish this story, and he asks 'are you American?'" Wong recounts. "That just hit me by surprise because no one has ever asked me that."

When the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic began, Wong witnessed the use of hateful and racist terms related to the coronavirus.

"'China flu,' 'China virus,' people would make fun of it and people would joke about it, and I’m like 'no, it’s not funny at all,'" said Wong.

In Phoenix, three anti-Asian hate crimes were reported in 2020, an increase of just one incident from 2019, but the question is whether anti-Asian hate crimes in Phoenix are being under-reported?

In Mesa, the Asian District along Dobson and Southern is vital to the city. The two-mile stretch is home for nearly a hundred Asian-related businesses.

Ryan Winkle, chairman of the Arizona Asian Chamber of Commerce says he also heard racist comments as the pandemic started.

"Last year, specifically around the Asian Night Market that we put on every year -- well, I mean now, who knows what’s gonna happen, when the next one is -- but a lot of 'how can you Asians or your people, what are you gonna be serving? Bats?'" said Winkle, who is a Filipino-American.

Winkle advocates for Asian American small business owners, and says its crucial for community members to speak up.

"Part of our culture is to not report that, especially if you don’t understand the system or you’re afraid of the police," said Winkle. "The Mesa Police have done a lot to reach out to the Asian Business District and the owners."

Wong says her generation has no problem stepping up.

"Our generation, something happens," said Wong. "We’re very outspoken. We want to change that stereotype that Asians are quiet, they don’t talk about these things. We know. We face these things too. We face racism as well."

Since March, the non-profit organization "Stop Asian American Pacific Islander Hate" (Stop AAPI Hate) has received around 3,000 reported incidents of COVID-related hate against Asian Americans.

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