Justice in Aging strongly condemns the recent string of violent attacks against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) older adults. In the past two weeks, cities across the country have witnessed attackers targeting multiple AAPI older adults. In one of the most egregious, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was shoved to the ground and died several days later. These attacks endanger a community of older adults who already face high risk of serious illness from COVID-19, and who, like many of us, have significantly changed their daily activities to cope with the virus. The fear created by these attacks compounds the daily stress that AAPI older adults face and puts their well-being at further risk, as many may choose to stay home and forgo accessing essential services and health care. Particularly disturbing is that these incidents are rising as many communities are celebrating the Lunar New Year.
AAPI communities have long been subject to racist notions of the perpetual foreigner, but anti-Asian rhetoric related to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the former President’s racist and explicit labeling of COVID-19 as the “China Virus,” has spurred violence and xenophobia during the pandemic. Sixty percent of Asian Americans have witnessed people blaming their community for the virus, and groups tracking anti-AAPI hate incidents, which are severely underreported, have received thousands of self-reports since last April. The most recent string of attacks highlights the intersectional nature of this discrimination: AAPI older adults are attacked because of their racial and ethnic identities and because of an ageist stereotype that they are “easy targets.”
Although every community deserves to feel safe, especially during a holiday, we reject calls for increased policing in these communities as the ultimate solution to anti-AAPI violence. Increased policing will further perpetuate existing racial disparities in the criminal justice system, while pitting communities against each other and benefitting white supremacy. Instead, these attacks must be confronted with multigenerational, community-based solutions and creative cross-racial coalition building.
We at Justice in Aging echo the call to action issued by our partners at the National Asian Pacific Center on Aging to contact government officials at all levels and tell them they need to fight against hate crimes and acts of discrimination targeting AAPI older adults. We further encourage individuals who have witnessed or been subject to anti-AAPI hate to report these incidents for investigation.
We reaffirm our commitment to do everything individually and collectively that we can to fight racism and xenophobia and dismantle systems of oppression so that all of us, at all ages, can have the freedom and justice we deserve.