From March 19, 2020, to March 31, 2021 – the day after the Atlanta attack – the nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate has documented 6,603 reported incidents of hate against Asian American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) in the U.S. Although this number represents just a fraction of all of the incidents that have taken place, it’s a dark statistic to go along with an estimated 150 percent increase in hate crimes perpetrated against Asian Americans in major U.S. cities in 2020.
Cecilia Wu, vice president of global insights, Walgreens Boots Alliance
“But ever since the onset of COVID-19, I’ve actually started to feel a bit of resistance from people who I’ve considered friends. There’s this notion that Asian people, specifically Chinese – which is my heritage – are somehow responsible for the disease. It’s been frustrating and heartbreaking to experience.
“The peak of this heartbreak came earlier this year when I was living in Bentonville, Ark. I was out for a jog one morning and a car pulled up beside me, rolled down its window and yelled, ‘Go back to your own country!’
“It still makes me emotional to think about it because this is my home now – this is my country – and to be made to feel like that somehow wasn’t true made me frustrated and sad. As a community, we have a joint responsibility to hold our friends and neighbors accountable for things like that. That’s how we can start to make things change.”
Perry Han, director, pharmacy and retail operations, team member operations, Walgreens
“I was instantly transported back to when I was her age and struggling with my own sense of cultural identity, and I saw that same confusion in her. It made me sad, even though the incident was not one I believe to be necessarily malicious, but to have one of her first experiences discovering her cultural identity to be a negative one – one where she had to check with me to make sure we weren’t carrying a deadly virus – because that’s what she heard about who she was from her friends.
“I think a lot of it has to do with education and the conversations parents are having with their kids at home, and making sure they understand what they’re saying and what kind of impact that can have.”
Ronnie Huang, director of delivery, engineering, Walgreens
“Also among my friend group was a young Asian woman who was mugged in downtown Chicago. While the perpetrators were robbing her, they shouted disturbing and derogatory terms at her, all having to do with her cultural and ethnic identity.
Liang Feng, senior healthcare analyst, health analytics, research and reporting, Walgreens
“One day in October, I saw that the scoreboard had been vandalized. Someone had spray-painted the word ‘CHINA’ in large capital letters across the front of the board. We were able to clean it off, but not before it was seen by many Asian American community members, and I know they felt the same way I did – offended, sad and disgusted.
“I am an immigrant from China, and when I see vandalism like that, hear political speeches that call it the ’China virus,’ see xenophobic merchandise for sale and see hate crimes rising all around me, not only am I offended, I also feel I am personally under attack.
“We simply cannot tolerate this. As a proud Asian American, I feel it is my duty to stand up and speak out. My community members, of all different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, stand with me. Some have even joined in on peaceful protests to speak out against hate. It can be inspiring to see, and I hope it continues.”