Applying Emotional Intelligence to Combat Rise of Asian Hate Crimes

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by Dyna Lopez

The rise of harassment, discrimination, and assaults on Asians and Pacific Islanders began shortly after the COVID 19 pandemic started a year ago. There’s been a surge in incidents since February. Some attacks have been fatal. And according to statistics, the trend doesn’t look like it will decline anytime soon.

It started with the divisive language of China Virus.

We all need to be more socially aware of our words. Hateful words are deeply affecting Asian American’s sense of security. 

“I don’t feel safe anymore,” said a Chinese American resident in Austin, Texas. He didn’t want to reveal his identity out of fear of retribution from the community. 

“Why did you hit me!? Why?!” That’s what 75-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie of San Francisco asked her assailant who was handcuffed to a stretcher after she fought him back. She was treated at the hospital and released for minor injuries to her face and eye. Steven Jenkens, 39, faces charges of assault and elder abuse. 

Just 30 minutes prior, Jenkins had assaulted 83-year old Ngoc Pham. He suffered fractures in his nose and neck and was recently released from the hospital. He continues to receive treatment.   

Eight people shot and killed at three businesses in Atlanta were not as fortunate. The gunman, Robert Long, was charged with murder and assault. Most of the victims were Asian. 

Words Matter

Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders attribute the rise to the divisive language of “China Virus” and “Kung Flu” instead of  “Corona Virus” or “COVID 19”.

According to Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting project from Chinese for Affirmative Action and the Asian Pacific Policy & Planning Council, there were more than 3,800 incidents of coronavirus-related discrimination in the U.S. from March 2020 through February 2021.

These are just reported numbers as many AAPI’s do not notify police due to the language barrier and/or fear from the perpetrator. 

58% of Asian Americans received racist comments since the pandemic began according to a recent Pew Research Center study.  

The ramifications are leaving psychological and emotional effects. It’s taking a toll on the AAPI community as they harbor feelings of mistrust, insecurity, and stress..

“When you attach ethnicities or nationalities to disease-related terms, it can have a stigmatizing effect on these communities,” said Yulin Hswen, Professor of Epidemiology at University of California San Francisco, who contributed to the study.   

As families and their children gradually return to the classrooms and re-acclimate with their classmates and parents, how are communities reacting to the news which is becoming all too frequent in the past month?

Are children aware of racism, bias, and stereotypes? 

Would they recognize it?

And if they did, how would they react to it? 

What conversations or words do children say to other children of a different race that may sound insensitive or indifferent? 

Professor Hswen hopes the study will make people aware and think carefully about the words they use to describe any disease.

Applying Emotional Intelligence 

Compassionate social awareness is a key part of emotional intelligence. A friendly greeting to people that we would not ordinarily associate with is a start. It’s as simple as reaching out to someone with whom you don’t normally associate with according to Andrew Yang, a former Democratic Presidential candidate who is running for Mayor of New York City. 

“And you may surprise someone, but that to me is like an immediate step towards seeing each other as human beings and trying to open up our sense of who’s in our community”, said Yang.

That first step can be towards your neighborhood or city. For starters, you or your family can support national and local AAPI owned businesses such as restaurants, grocery stores, etc. Or, volunteer at your national or local AAPI non-profit organization. (See a list of anti-Asian violence resources.)

The most valuable support that you can provide is to speak out against stereotypical, insensitive, or racist behavior and words. Inaction is compliance. It’s a barrier to learn and grow from within. Asian Americans nationwide have been peacefully protesting bringing awareness with Stop the Hate themed support. 

“This kind of hatred and violence has to stop and that we have to start seeing each other as human beings”, said Yang. 

For Xie and Pham, those attacked in San Francisco, they see this wave of racial turmoil as a turning point. They want everyone to redirect the anger and frustration into empowerment.  Now that Asian discrimination is in the spotlight from the Office of President of the United State’s to local AAPA oranizers, they feel the swelling tide against hate and violence is bigger than just them. 

Through awareness they want to harness their pain into results oriented action. Xie and her family are contributing 100% of the more than $950,000 raised from her Go Fund Me goal to local AAPI local support groups. Pham stopped accepting funds when his $25,000 goal was met. He wants contributors to focus their support on fighting for equality.  

Self and social awareness are some of the key tenets of emotional intelligence.  It’s making the decision that you will learn how to behave within yourself. Learn by being mindful of your perceptions and attitudes. Learn how to deal with yourself and others makes for trusting and healthy relationships. 

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