In recognition of Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month, Venable hosted a conversation with Glenn Magpantay, a lawyer, civil rights advocate, and professor in Asian American studies. Glenn discussed the wave of hate crimes against the AAPI community, the history of discrimination against Asian Americans, how this community remains "perpetual foreigners in their own land," and the efforts under way to change that. Nora Garrote, partner in charge of Diversity and Inclusion, and Witt Chang, litigation counsel in Los Angeles, helped moderate the program.
Glenn began his presentation by recounting several of the recent hate crimes targeting people of Asian descent in Indianapolis, Atlanta, and New York City. He noted that the FBI reported a 149% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in the past year, even as violent crimes overall have dropped 7%. The Stop AAPI Hate coalition has also documented an almost doubling of attacks against the AAPI community since March 2020, many of them targeting senior citizens and other vulnerable groups. These types of incidents, which have been fueled in part by discriminatory rhetoric that falsely blames Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic, has had a chilling effect on the community.
Glenn recounted how many students who are of Asian descent wear sunglasses and a hat to hide their Asian features. He explained that his own mother has begged him not to go out, particularly to anywhere that there is likely to be a lot of Asian Americans, as she is afraid that something will happen to him. It took him a long time to overcome his own internalized racism and to learn to have pride in his heritage. But the recent spate of attacks and anti-Asian rhetoric have replaced that pride with fear. "As Asians, we buy into the model minority myth. We are for the most part educated and are told to just work hard, keep your head down," he added. "But that did not protect [the recent victims of hate crimes.] We must stand up for our community."
Glenn also discussed the history of discrimination against Asians in the United States, noting that the event was taking place on May 6, the anniversary of the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers to the U.S. He also discussed the internment of Japanese Americans during the Second World War, the racial profiling of Asian Americans that occurred after 9/11, and other ongoing discrimination. Asian Americans are often overlooked as a community of color, he said, and despite experiencing many of the same struggles as other minority groups, the needs of the AAPI community are marginalized.
But the current wave of activism related to the rise in anti-Asian violence could be a watershed moment. "What is certain," Glenn said, "is that all of us, no matter our ethnicity or heritage, need to look after each other. It's essential to remember that the AAPI community has benefited historically from the relentless civil rights activism of Africans Americans and Latinx. In turn, our community must work to ensure that our activism helps other struggling minorities as well as women, LGBTQ +, and other vulnerable groups. Allyship is the way forward."
This program is part of Venable's ongoing Diversity and Inclusion Speaker Series. To view a recording of the full event, click here.