To two of Haverford’s Pan-Asian Alliance leaders, Fifth Former Justin Fan and Sixth Former Ethan Chan, the Lunar New Year is about festivity, hope, good fortune, and celebration. According to Fan, the holiday “seeks to unite” the Asian community despite diversity and differences. But rather than being a joyous time filled with good fortune, 2023’s Lunar New Year was marred by a mass shooting at a celebration in Monterey Park, California, which left eleven Asian victims dead and nine more wounded.
Because good spirits are almost a prerequisite of the Lunar New Year, Fan found the attack especially surprising.
“For a lot of the cultures in Asia, [Lunar New Year] is always a celebration based around starting a new year, good luck, and family. To witness such an event… was just shocking,” Fan said. “It felt hurtful that someone would take the opportunity of such a festive moment and ruin it with such a devious act.”
While the shooting has been widely represented as a hate crime, the shooter himself was Asian. This detail raises a question about motive: was the shooter targeting Asians because of race and culture, or was his crime otherwise motivated?
Despite the shooter’s identity, Chan believes that the shooting was still race-based.
“Asian hate isn’t just perpetuated by those who aren’t Asian, but also by groups and individuals who have a flawed perception of Asians and are motivated by wrong and often malicious intentions. It is a race-based hate crime through and through, and it needs to be discussed more,” Chan said.
While such remarks do not inspire violence or call for hate against Asian people, they represent the broad and highly public sentiment that China was at fault for the pandemic.
Fan said, “In a sense, [the shooter being Asian] feels like a betrayal. Because of how small our communities are, there’s a special trust and bond that forms.”
Although the shooting in Monterey Park was the first to receive significant media attention in recent months, hate crimes against Asians are far from rare. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism reported a 339% rise in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2021. The influx of Asian hate can be at least partially attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic. As the coronavirus was first identified in Wuhan, China, some prominent figures blamed China for the virus’s spread. Former President Donald Trump referred to COVID-19 as the “China virus” and the “kung flu.”
While such remarks do not inspire violence or call for hate against Asian people, they represent the broad and highly public sentiment that China was at fault for the pandemic. That belief itself inspired violence against entire Asian communities in the United States in 2020 and 2021.
“When COVID hit and we got rushed to the forefront of attacks and hate sentiment, it was surprising, but also hurtful because we weren’t expecting such a reaction from the people that surrounded us, who we thought we finally belonged with,” Fan said.
“I hope we can unite as a community to collectively stand up to racial and cultural inequality as a whole.”Ethan Chan ’23
Even with the rise in anti-Asian crime, some members of Haverford’s Pan-Asian community feel that their voices aren’t always heard.
“Relatively speaking, Asians haven’t gotten enough representation as a minority,” Chan said. “While the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion agenda has been pushed, especially the last three years, not a significant amount of work has been done to truly recognize Asian problems. Part of observing a culture and ethnicity is not only to celebrate with them but also understand the problems they deal with.”
Fan agreed with Chan, and also expressed that Asian hate is part of a bigger problem in the U.S.: xenophobia. Although the U.S. has long been a land of immigrants, nationalistic, hateful, and xenophobic sentiments are growing. As DEI work remains a focus of the United States and the school community, representation is important.
Hate is toxic, and it spreads. The Asian-American community at school confronts racism and xenophobia head-on, and they hope to make change in the wake of pain.
“I hope people can learn from these injustices,” Chan said. “I hope we can unite as a community to collectively stand up to racial and cultural inequality as a whole.”