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: Two years into the pandemic, discrimination and harassment against Asian American and Pacific Islander women is ‘rampant’

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Three in four Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) women say they’ve personally experienced racism and/or discrimination in the past year, with many saying these experiences happened in public and were perpetrated by strangers, a new report says.

The most common area where AAPI women report experiencing racism or discrimination is public places like restaurants and stores (47%), and the perpetrators are most often strangers (53%), according to a survey of more than 2,400 Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women conducted earlier this year by the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF), a progressive advocacy and community-organizing group, along with the Harris Poll.

“Discrimination, harassment, and violence against AAPI women — stemming from a long history of anti-AAPI sentiment and misogyny — are still rampant in society, occurring every day in public spaces, at schools and businesses, and even in our own neighborhoods,” the report said.

Thirty-eight percent of AAPI women say they’ve experienced sexual harassment in the past year, including 52% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women and 40% of South Asian women. Meanwhile, 12% of respondents say they’ve experienced physical violence based on their gender and/or race, including 18% of South Asian women and 15% of Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander women.

Four in 10 AAPI women overall — 51% of East Asian women, compared to 33% for all other subgroups — say they feel more unsafe today than they did when the pandemic began. Seven in 10 say they’ve felt stressed or anxious in the past year because of fears about discrimination, violence or harassment based on their gender and/or race.

Anti-Asian hate crimes and bias incidents in the U.S. have risen during the pandemic. Data from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, showed a 339% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes between 2020 and 2021, NBC News reported. 

Meanwhile, the Stop AAPI Hate coalition documented 10,370 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders from March 2020 through September 2021, with incidents reported by women making up 62% of the total.

“‘We call for systemic changes to understand, address, and end these hate incidents and discrimination based on racism and xenophobia.’”

— National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) report

The NAPAWF report came nearly one year after a man was accused of killing eight people, including six women of Asian descent, in shootings at Atlanta-area spas. 

It also came after the recent deaths of two women of Asian descent in New York — Christina Yuna Lee, who was fatally stabbed in her apartment, and Michelle Go, who was pushed onto subway tracks — sent fear rippling through Asian-American communities. Also in New York, a man was arrested and charged with hate crimes this month after he allegedly attacked seven women of Asian descent in the span of two hours.

The vast majority of survey respondents said they want lawmakers to better understand the intersectional ways in which Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders endure discrimination and invest more resources to fight anti-AAPI hate in communities that are impacted.

In May 2021, President Biden signed into law legislation to tackle COVID-19-related hate crimes. The law aims to expedite the Justice Department’s review of hate crimes and have the department issue guidance for state, local and tribal law-enforcement agencies on hate-crime reporting, data collection and public-education campaigns.

Biden also established the White House Initiative on Asian Americans, Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders, which he tasked with “driving an ambitious, whole-of-government agenda to advance equity, justice, and opportunity” for people in those groups, including helping coordinate a federal response to anti-Asian incidents and improving economic and educational outcomes.

The NAPAWF report provided a number of policy recommendations, including a long-term and consistent investment in culturally competent and language-accessible services for AAPI populations; investment in the infrastructure, health and safety of local AAPI communities and in community-based organizations; stronger workplace protections for AAPI women; and disaggregated data collection to identify disparities across subgroups under the vast AAPI umbrella.

“We call for systemic changes to understand, address, and end these hate incidents and discrimination based on racism and xenophobia,” the authors wrote.

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