By: Angelica Rodriguez
The world has seen a dramatic rise in violence toward Asians since the COVID-19 pandemic began. In 2020 alone, anti-Asian hate incidents rose by almost 150% in America’s largest cities. According to Stop AAPI Hate, Texas ranks 4th in most anti-Asian incidents between March 2020 and February 2021.
Texas State University has an Asian population of less than 3% of its student body with 1,037 students in 2020. This number rose from the 893 Asian students at Texas State in 2015.
One of those students, freshman Heather Tran, who is Vietnamese, said that she has been experiencing xenophobic incidents since she was a child, even witnessing hatred being directed at her loved ones.
“I have a core memory of when I was a kid…I went to the gas station with my grandpa and a man called him a derogatory slur,” Tran said. “It boggles my mind that 15 years later, I remember that…It really sticks with you.”
Tran said that the incidents didn’t stop there. From microaggressions to “flat-out racism,” it has followed her throughout her entire life. Most recently, she had an encounter with three male students at The Square in San Marcos, where they mocked her eye shape and told her, “This is what white privilege looks like.”
“I was driving through the square and I almost hit this guy…He wasn’t walking on the crosswalk, so I told him to move,” Tran said. “He started trying to fight me and when his friends pulled him away, they started pulling their eyes back and tried recording me as if I was the one who did something wrong.”
Sophomore Meliana Simbolon, who is Indonesian-American, has seen many hateful incidents go viral as the rise in anti-Asian violence gets posted all over the internet. Simbolon feels that although social media calls attention to these incidents, it may be contributing to performative activism or even more intense bigotry.
“It’s really tough to see all of the videos out on social media,” she said. “I sometimes can’t even watch them because it makes me so angry…It hurts my heart.”
Simbolon has also been concerned about her family and loved ones.
“My mom is usually by herself when she goes to work and stuff like that,” she said. “You just never know when people are going to throw hate at her just for living her life, going to work, or being in public spaces.”
However, Simbolon is comforted by the efforts of her sorority, Alpha Sigma Rho (ASR), the only Asian interest sorority at Texas State. Its mission is to promote sisterhood and Asian-awareness within the university campus. ASR has been very vocal in supporting the Stop Asian Hate movement.
“We talk a lot over [Stop Asian Hate] and hold speaking panels where we get Asian-American influencers to talk about the movement,” Simbolon said. “I love getting more knowledge about it.”
Junior Emily Vu, who is Vietnamese-American, has also dealt with xenophobia. Since she was young, Vu was very much aware of how different she looked compared to her other peers in her predominantly white middle school. Mocking turned to bullying and she was made to switch to a different school when it became too much.
“During my 7th grade year we were reading a book in our English class, and this group of boys were calling me names, pulling their eyes back and making fun of my face,” Vu said. “One of them even walked behind me and smacked me with a book…I fought for myself but I still cried. It was something that I don’t think any middle schooler should have to deal with.”
Throughout the pandemic, Vu has noticed the substantial increase in racism towards the Asian community. She feels that the outpour of hatred does nothing to help the world’s current situation.
“The pandemic has added a lot of stress and tragedy to everyone’s lives,” she said. “But for me and other Asian-Americans, we have this added weight of seeing people like us–who look like us, who look like our parents or grandparents–be discriminated against, verbally abused, physically attacked and treated as if they are not human beings who are welcome in this country.”
Vu advocates spreading awareness and becoming educated to combat racism and xenophobia. She said it is heartwarming to see that other people actually care through the growth of the Stop Asian Hate movement.
“We have faced racism in the past, but nobody really talked about it,” she said. “For a long time it felt like nobody really cared about the Asian and Asian-American community.”
Visit https://anti-asianviolenceresources.carrd.co/ for statistics, educational resources, ways to donate, and more.