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ISU Professor: Xenophobia Against Asian Americans Has Grown Stronger

A memorandum signed by President Joe Biden issues guidance for the Department of Justice on how to better collect data and assist with the reporting of anti-Asian hate incidents.

Xenophobia and racial hatred against Asian Americans has grown stronger due to the pandemic and the Trump administration's language surrounding it, according to an Illinois State University researcher.

ISU anthropology professor Nobuko Adachi says her research proves it. She’ll discuss her work during a virtual Research Series talk later this month. 

Pew Research Center found more than 58% of Asian Americans said they have been victimized and have experienced racially insensitive incidents.

Adachi said an article about a 16-year old Asian American who was beaten convinced her and several colleagues to look into why hatred escalated after COVID began.

“His classmates accused him of having the coronavirus and because of that, the result was him having to go to the emergency room. He was wounded very badly,” said Adachi.

Adachi said words like “China Virus'' and “Communist” used by the Trump administration added fuel to the fire. Adachi sees connections between that language and the Trump administration’s trade dispute with China.

“He had failed and around that time the pandemic started and that’s why he used ‘Chinese communist’ and ‘Chinese virus’ as a scapegoat,” said Adachi.

Adachi said Trump’s rhetoric contributes to a long history of stereotyping Asian Americans as foreigners. This stereotype contributes to the lack of social activism for Asian Americans that is typically seen in Black and Brown communities.

“‘They don’t have a right to say anything.’ That’s the type of attitude Asian Americans are and were forced to think. When I was writing my articles, I found out a very interesting language phenomenon: Black Americans have ebonics, but in an Asian’s case they don’t have any language,” said Adachi.

Ebonics is American black English some regard as a language in its own right rather than as a dialect of standard English. Adachi said having the actual language gives them stature Asians do not have.

“Black Americans are really socially and economically discriminated against. But they are Americans and people do not doubt their citizenship,” said Adachi. 

Adachi acknowledges not all politicians have neglected the issue. President Joe Biden has signed an executive order condemning "racism, xenophobia and intolerance" against the country's Asian American community as part of a broader plan to combat racial injustice.

Adachi said racism will always be there. It is up to politicians to change the conversation surrounding Asian Americans.

“We have to be very careful what kind of language we use,” she said.  

Adachi is originally from Japan, and said she faces racism every day, she said, noting a date once told her, “Asian girls like to date white men.”

“I was so ashamed. Why did I even go out to eat with him? I paid for my sushi and I just left. And those kinds of things … I mean just because I’m Asian, people look at me like that,” said Adachi.

She said because many in society view Asian Americans as foreigners, they tend to minimize experiences like hers.

“Those kinds of things traumatize our life,” said Adachi. “It’s a big thing for individual people. But because people think that ‘it’s not a bad enough thing to vocalize’ that’s another reason people don’t vocalize because people just look at us like that.”

Asian Americans make up 5.6% of the U.S. population. Adachi said it is about time people realize how Asian Americans suffer.

Adachi’s talk is titled “Yellow Peril Redux: Reformation of Racial Assaults Toward Asians in Diaspora During the Pandemic.” The talk will be held at noon Feb. 19 on Zoom.