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AARP Pennsylvania Issues Statement Condemning Racially Motivated Hate Crimes Against Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders

AARP Pennsylvania State Director Bill Johnston-Walsh released the following statement in response to newly compiled data showing a spike last year—in some cases by triple digits—in anti-Asian hate crimes in 16 of the nation’s largest cities, including Philadelphia. The March 2 analysis comes from the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, based on preliminary police data. The first spikes occurred in March and April 2020, according to the center’s report, coinciding with the rise in COVID-19 cases and negative stereotyping of Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community members generally, and Chinese Americans in particular. In addition, the report states that overall hate crimes fell last year, while hate crimes targeting AAPI community members dramatically increased.

Another group, Stop AAPI Hate, reported in February that it had collected 126 firsthand accounts of hate directed at older Asian Americans (age 60+) between March 19, 2020 and the end of the year. These cases accounted for 7.3% of the 2,808 self-reports the group has received in total.

In Philadelphia, which has the highest population of Asian American and Pacific Islanders in the Commonwealth, there were 19 confirmed incidents of hate or bias against the community, representing 34% of hate or bias incidents confirmed by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations (PCHR) in 2020.

Said Johnston-Walsh: “In 2020, at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, we witnessed the struggle of Asian American and Pacific Islanders who had to not only keep themselves safe from the virus, but also face increased violence and harassment fueled by prejudice, hatred and xenophobia. This is a combination that could create barriers to seeking testing, treatment, information or vaccination. As a nation, we must stand united against coronavirus which has disproportionately sickened and killed older Americans. We need to contain the spread of the virus, and contain the spread of recent hate crimes. Collectively, we must work to strengthen our partnership with the AAPI community, build bridges for understanding and acceptance, and advocate for those who often feel invisible and unheard.”

John Chin, Executive Director of Philadelphia Chinatown Development Corporation (PCDC) stated: “There is a long history of casual and overt racism, micro-aggressions, and scapegoating of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. We are thankful for organizations and community partners like AARP Pennsylvania who are steadfast in their commitment to protecting and supporting the AAPI community. At PCDC, we see firsthand the struggles of the AAPI community in Philadelphia, their resilience and contributions to the rich fabric of our history and society.”

Romana Lee-Akiyama, Deputy Director for the City of Philadelphia’s Office of Immigrant Affairs and liaison to the Mayor’s Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs (MCAPAA) stated: “Acts of racism in any form cause harm to Philadelphia’s AAPI community and contribute to the larger climate of intolerance, which goes against a multicultural society’s ability to build cohesion, mutual respect, and ultimately peace and prosperity.”

Becky Quemado, Past President, and current member of the Board of Directors with the Filipino American Association of Pittsburgh (FAAP) said: “We believe in the equality of all people, treating them with fairness, tolerance and acceptance. We envision a dynamic and vibrant AAPI community that is recognized and valued as an integral part of America’s ethnic diversity.”

If you see a hate crime occur, call 9-1-1. Non-emergency hate crimes and discriminatory acts should be reported to state and local police, the FBI, the Governor’s Office of Homeland Security, or the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission. Report hate crimes to the national Stop AAPI Hate reporting database, which is accepting incident reports in multiple AAPI languages.

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