OCC leaders stand against pandemic anti-Asian hate crimes

Coast Community College District and state leaders are stepping forward to renounce pandemic-induced hate crimes and racism against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders that is growing across the country, Orange County and even impacting students at Orange Coast College. 

Stop AAPI Hate, a national reporting center created by a coalition of nonprofits supporting the AAPI community, is available to track and respond to hate crimes, harassment and other concerning incidents. They use the data collected to identify patterns, better support local law enforcement and make policy suggestions. 

The reporting center received reports of 3,795 incidents (1,691 which came from California) between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021, during the course of the pandemic. According to their 2021 report, women report hate incidents 2.3 times more than men. Businesses are the primary sites of discrimination, followed next by public streets. 

California Governor Gavin Newsom met with AAPI community leaders in San Francisco on March 19, following a series of attacks on Asians in the Bay area. 

“The hell is wrong with us?” Newsom said, wondering why Americans are still dealing with anti-Asian racism and having the same conversations about it today in 2021 as in 1881 – a year before the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act that originated in San Francisco. It was then passed by the United States Congress and signed into effect by President Chester A. Arthur. 

“The acts of violence and bigotry impact all of us, because we’re all part of one community,” Newsom said. “There’s no justice when we demean people because of their race or ethnicity, because by definition, we all are impacted. As a consequence, I think we all have a responsibility in the broader community to recognize our responsibility to support one another.”

According to California State University San Bernardino’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Los Angeles city has experienced a 114% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes since 2019. The first spike took place in March and April, concinding with the rise of COVID-19 and “stereotyping of Asians related to the pandemic,” the fact sheet said. 

Another organization, Asian Americans in Action, had 34 reported cases against Asian Americans in OC  between March 19 and April 15, 2020. According to the organization, these cases are under-reported not just in OC, but across the country. 

“When federal leadership and high-ranking government officials referred to COVID-19 as the ‘China Virus,’ they sanctioned the discriminatory practice of blaming a select group of American citizens for the spread of the virus,” said Co-Chair Naz Hamid of Asian Americans in Action in a 2020 release

OCC is a qualifying Asian American Native Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPISI), meaning a significant portion of the student population identifies as Asian American and/or Pacific Islander.

“The wave of hate crimes definitely impacts our students, staff, faculty, and OCC community. It affects us psychologically and emotionally. Our AAPI community members are currently going through a period of heightened fear and stress on top of the pandemic,” said Connie Oh, Student Equity Specialist at OCC. 

OCC President Angelica Suarez released a statement of support via email for the AAPI community. 

“In the past few weeks, we have seen troubling reports of violence, bullying, and harassment aimed at the AAPI communities, both across the nation and in our own state and county,” Suarez said in the email. “This week, we watched reports of eight people killed in Atlanta, six of them women of Asian descent. While we are outraged and heart-broken, it is critically important that we reaffirm our support for our AAPI community of students and employees and condemn any acts of violence and racism.”

Suarez reaffirmed the importance of the AAPI community to OCC, and reminded students anti-Asian racist attacks are “antithetical” to the values and mission of OCC. 

“During these troubling times, our efforts to create a more equitable and inclusive campus environment are more important than ever and requires our collective effort as a campus community,” Suarez said. 

Coast Community College District Board of Trustees also released a resolution to condemn anti-Asian racism, with a commitment to act on the AAPI’s community behalf. 

“The Coast Community College District is shocked and saddened by recent deaths following hate-driven attacks, and further condemns violence and discrimination targeting the Asian and Asian-American community,” stated the resolution

The resolution goes on to say the CCCD doesn’t support any language associating any ethnic group with the COVID-19 virus, “that observes no national or ethnic boundaries.”

“The District recommits itself to supporting equitable access to education, financial aid, housing and food resources, health services and advice, and other fundamental resources necessary for the resiliency of all our communities,” the Board of Trustees said in the resolution.

This added stress comes at a time where student grades and mental health have already been negatively impacted during the pandemic. 

“This may escalate to fears about our physical safety, as much of the harassment has escalated to physical harm to AAPI community members. Our community members feel unsafe, and that will impact how we show up to class, work, and beyond,” Oh said. 

OCC students who need mental health support in light of recent events are encouraged to reach out to the Student Health Center to schedule an appointment. 

During this time of heightened tensions, Oh encourages all students to stick up for their fellow AAPI classmates, community members and neighbors. 

“Allies should reach out to their AAPI peers and express support and listening space. Most importantly, I encourage all allies to speak up if they see something happening. Please intervene and speak up if you notice harassment, racism, or microaggressions on the streets,” Oh said. “Please continue to educate yourself, listen, and support your AAPI peers during what are emotional times for the community.” 

OCC student and community member allies can get more information about being a proactive bystander and intervening when seeing a hate crime in public here

Student Equity, the Global Engagement Center, Student Life & Development Office, and Multicultural Center are hosting an event called the “Listening & Expression Session” this upcoming Thursday, March 25 at 4 p.m. It will provide a safe space for AAPI OCC students and their allies to share their thoughts, feelings and process recent events, such as the shooting in Atlanta. 

Students can sign up for this event here.

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