Stop AAPI Hate Co-founder Dr. Russell Jeung to Keynote Diversity Forum: Ending Centuries of Hate


Dr. Russell Jeung is a professor of sociology at San Francisco State University

By Jonathan Gramling

While the historic oppression and violence against African Americans since 1619 is well-documented, mainstream America is only now just becoming aware of the legacy of slavery and racism fueled by the murder of George Floyd, the Black Lives Matter movement and the observance of historical events like the Tulsa Massacre and the burning of Black Wall Street.

And yet the oppression and violence experienced by Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has remained invisible, except perhaps glaring incidents like the mass incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and the confiscation and theft of their personal property. Asian Americans have been “invisible” invisible in American society, but their history of oppression and violence is very real.

“There has been a longstanding ‘yellow peril’ fear of Asians that has been institutionalized in policies and enacted in racist attacks starting with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882,” said Dr. Russell Jeung, co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate. “During that

period, there were over 200-300 incidents where Asian settlements were displaced by mob violence. My own family’s village got burned down.”

While Asian Americans may have been “invisible,” they were very visible in the courts and the legislatures fighting back.

“During the Chinese exclusion days, Chinese people filed thousands of court appeals against the exclusion and its impacts,” Jeung said. “After Japanese American wartime incarceration, Japanese Americans fought for their constitutional rights and won redress and reparations. After 9/11 and the resurgence in Islamophobia, South Asians, Muslims and Arab Americans have run for elective office and won to fight for racial justice. Throughout our history, you see history repeating itself where we are faced with racism and attacks and institutional policies. The pattern repeats and we have always fought against that for racial justice.”

Last year, Jeung and others saw history repeat itself when COVID-19 hit America.

“During periods of pandemic or economic downturns, we see these surges in racism,” Jeung said. “Vincent Chin was murdered during an economic downturn when Japan was seen as the enemy and competitor. So he was killed being mistaken for a Japanese. But last year, we actually had all three conditions. We had the pandemic. We had the worst recession since the Great Depression. And we had a U.S.-China cold war. All of these conditions combined to really shape the racism that we are experiencing.”

At center stage in the resurgence was President Donald Trump and his administration.

“The Trump administration passed exclusionary acts, such as banning Chinese scientists and researchers to suspending migration visas to cutting refugee resettlement to H1B visas,” Jeung said. “All of those policies are exclusionary in nature and perceive Asians as outside threats to be excluded, either national security or public health threats. Those policies along with his inflammatory rhetoric in mocking terms like ‘Kung Flu’ have exacerbated institutional racism so that a lot of the public have license to act on the racism.”

Jeung and others have always tried to educate the mainstream community about Asian American history and Asian Americans.

“A lot of American race relations, racial history, is discussed on Black-White terms,” Jeung said. “We believe that understanding how other groups have also been racialized and marginalized provides a greater understanding multiracial and multicultural nature of America. A lot of people don’t know about the history. And that’s why we are encouraging and promoting ethnic studies and curriculum that teaches people about American history so that people can understand the pernicious effects of racism and develop racial empathy. Otherwise, we want to prevent the racism before it gets to the level of a crime or people get attacked or our elders are killed.”

As the Trump administration’s rhetoric intensified, Jeung felt they needed to document and shed a glaring light on the upsurge in violence. And so they founded Stop AAPI Hate as a sort of clearinghouse on criminal and harassment acts against Asian Americans.

“We received over 9,000 self-reported instances of racism,” Jeung said. “With over one-half, people say things like ‘Go back to China, you f***ing Chink.’ There is a lot of anti-immigrant sentiment, a lot of xenophobic comments. The trends have been really troubling. Women are attacked twice as much as men. People are being racially profiled. Even though China is blamed for COVID-19, 60 percent of our respondents are not Chinese, but are people who look Chinese, East Asians like Japanese, Koreans and Vietnamese.”

While historically Asian Americans were invisible to American policy makers, according to Jeung, Asian Americans were also “hyper-visible” as they dealt with the racist taunts, name calling and violence. Due, in large part to Stop AAPI Hate, the response by policy makers has been different.

“Policy makers have been responsive,” Jeung said. “I think the data is irrefutable. The trends have been troubling. People have died. It is a serious issue that needs to be addressed. It’s not an Asian American issue. It’s an American issue of violence and racism. Other Americans have to deal with the racism. It’s their problem actually. They are the ones with the problem of racism. We are glad that policy makers, especially in California, have attended to the issue. In California, they passed the API Equity budget bill that has $157 million to address the racism and the inequities that Asians and Pacific Islanders face. And we think that is a good model for the rest of the nation. It not only denounces racism, but also puts money where their mouths are and try to prevent it before it happens.”

Jeung will bring his discussion about hate against AAPI people to Madison on November 2 when he is the keynote speaker at the UW-Madison Diversity Forum being held as a hybrid in-person and virtual conference on the UW-Madison campus.

“I want to talk about — and I am grateful for the opportunity to talk at the Diversity Forum — how Asian Americans are poised to really change the narrative of who belongs to America,” Jeung emphasized. “We’re being excluded. We’re being attacked because we are perceived as outside foreigners. But coming out of the pandemic, as we challenge that perception, we can develop a more inclusive America, one that is more multiracial in nature and more welcoming to everyone.”

The way to push against hate is through facts and awareness. Dr. Russell Jeung will bring it to the UW-Madison Diversity Forum.