West Reacts to the Increase in Asian Hate Crimes


Ron Adar

Two women stand and protest against Asian hate

By Katelin Chong, Staff Writer

Although racism towards the AAPI community has existed in the United States for centuries, a sharp increase was experienced once the COVID pandemic began. Throughout the past several months, people have only grown more violent towards the Asian community — a prime example of this can be seen in the shooting that occurred on March 16, 2021, in Atlanta, which ended up taking the lives of six Asian women.

“It was horrible, overall,” junior Jerry Mendheim said. “I think it has a lot to do with the COVID situation, a lot of people are falsely blaming the Asian community for it. Calling the virus the ‘kung flu’ is not helping the situation.”

AP U.S. History teacher Matthew Wiemer was able to connect recent events to the United States’ past.

“I had been aware that the number of hate crimes against elderly Asian women were incredibly high; I was aware of this before the events in Atlanta,” Wiemer said. “If we actually look at U.S. history, Asian people have been discriminated against throughout history — most obviously are the Chinese Exclusion Acts, and we put Japanese Americans in camps in the deserts.”

Despite the horrific events that have occurred over the past few months, many people were not shocked about what happened in Atlanta.

“The saddest thing is how unsurprising a shooting in this country is, we’ve become desensitized to it,” Wiemer said. “We have a deep history of racism in this country; those acts are appalling, but not surprising.”

“It’s cliché to say disbelief. When I first heard about it, I was like, ‘Ugh, here we go again, we’re back,” GAW teacher Michelle Hettinger said. “Was I expecting it? Yeah. It’s adding onto something that had already started. Things have been escalating, and you hear all these stories where elderly Asian people are attacked. I just thought about how we’re so xenophobic.”

“For me, as an Asian American who has experienced casual racism throughout my life, I think it was a bit shocking to see something this violent happen,” junior Joelle Warden said. “At the same time, it was unfortunately unsurprising that someone would go to these measures.”

Although the topic of Asian hate crimes has been brought up more recently, the problem itself is anything but new. Asian Americans have been discriminated against for years, and students at West share these thoughts.

“The common misconception is that COVID caused this — the presence of COVID just amplified it, and people are becoming aware of it,” Warden said. “It’s important for people to realize that this is happening to Asian Americans. It’s overdue that people are realizing this now.”

“I’ve kind of noticed that racism or violence has always happened, and I think now it has just become more talked about,” junior Dia Patel said. “With that, though, everyone has to look into what they’ve done and how it affected those around them.”

Students reflect on how their friends and family members have been affected by recent events, while also thinking of how they relate personally to the matter.

“I wasn’t too affected, but a lot of my friends were deeply affected since they’re a part of the Asian community. I cannot imagine what they are going through,” Mendheim said.

“Since I don’t have many family members that have talked about this, I’ve become the one to start the conversation,” Patel said. “It’s one of the biggest things I’ve begun to do.”

Both students and teachers at West seem to be unsettled with the crimes committed against the AAPI community, but remain unsurprised that such drastic events occurred. Check out this link if you are interested in learning more about what has been going on and want to know how you can make a difference.