Combating hate against the Asian American community

How you can become an advocate and ally


Stop AAPI hate activists hold signs of support and solidarity. Kent Lee photo.

Kathryn Gray, Multimedia Journalist

A month dedicated to celebrating culture and heritage, Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month has taken on additional meaning in 2021.

In response to the current epidemic of hate against the AAPI community, this month is now also a call to action for those within the AAPI community and their allies to use their voices in solidarity to combat this hate.

According to San Diego City College professor of human services and social work Kirin Macapugay and co-chair of the San Diego Asian Pacific Islander Coalition, Kent Lee, what we are seeing now is nothing new to AAPI communities.

Extreme systemic racism has existed in this country since the first immigrants from AAPI communities arrived in the United States in the 1800’s.

“A lot of times when we talk about racism people think that we are only talking about interpersonal attacks when people call you a derogatory name or physically assault you,” Macapugay said. “What we really want to address is how racism against the AAPI community has been systemic.”

Macapugay partnered with Lee at a virtual city event on May 14, 2021 from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. to discuss history and racism against the Asian American community in the current climate.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which barred Chinese people from becoming American citizens, was in large part a result of American workers on the West Coast attributing economic hardship and declining wages to Chinese workers who only comprised 0.002% of the nation’s population at the time, explained Macapugay.

The racism persisted, continued Macapugay, citing President Roosevelt’s executive order 9066 put into place after the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Feb 19, 1942.

“120,000 people, the majority of whom were actually American citizens, were placed in internment camps,” Macapugay said. “This resulted in the loss of millions of dollars in property, not to mention also the emotional and mental toll that this took on people of Japanese descent.”

Using minority groups as scapegoats for what the country is going through can be seen throughout American history as recent as the Muslim travel ban enforced during the Trump administration. 

“When we look back we see that history sometimes has a habit of repeating itself and therefore today what we’re seeing with the pandemic, even though it may be new from a media coverage standpoint we begin to recognize that it echoes what we have already seen in the past,” Lee said.

In response to the increased incidents of hate and racism directed at the AAPI community, Lee along with other partners founded the Asian Pacific Islander Coalition. The mission of the API Coalition is to facilitate conversations with Asian and Pacific Islander communities and advocate for representation of voices through leadership, collaboration and working toward building a more equitable San Diego.

The community, said Lee and Macapugay, has specific requests from those who want to get involved at any level of engagement. 

Acknowledgement as a community, access to healthcare, translation services, affordable education, mental health services, disaggregated data, safety that does not involve incarceration of brown and black bodies, and allyship from those outside of the community are some of their critical requests.

A variety of resources and opportunities for engagement can be found on the API Coalition website.