Since COVID came to the US, there has been a large increase in violence fueled by racism aimed towards Asians and Asian Americans. This is both exacerbated by politicians and the news media’s way of representing the issue to its global audience. Some Asian Americans, such as Yi-Ann Li, believe the media is not doing enough to advocate for her community. Phoebe Zheng has more on her story.

Growing up in Orange County, California in the 2000′s could be considered an All-American childhood… right? Well that is indeed the case! Yi-Ann Li felt right at home there…

I didn’t ever feel very aware of my Asian identity, Cuz everyone else looks like me.

So she didn’t feel Asian American discrimination.. Let alone hatred….

I think I kind of took advantage of the fact that I was in a safe space where a lot of people when I we had shared experiences as like Asian people in the Community. I was never insecure about any like aspects of my Asian identity, because as far as I knew that’s what the vast majority of people around me were like as well.

But things took a turn when she moved to a predominantly white neighborhood not even far away… and still in Orange County. At school she realized she looked different. It w as rare to find a head of black hair in a sea of blondes and browns, and for the first time in her life.. Li understood what it means in America to be a minority…

... and a lot of my habits and a lot of like my like aspects of my culture how I lived was very different from everyone around me and that’s when the insecurity sort of building was that awareness that i’m not quote un quote normal...

So she began to question where she belonged in this new social setting. All throughout high school the labels continued, fueling her insecurities, and ultimately discrediting her hard work and achievements.

...feeling ashamed that I was Asian, wishing that I wasn’t a good student because so many people kind of slap that label of like you’re Asian so you have to be good, and it kind of invalidated all my efforts as well, because people will just assume that I was good at things just because I was Asian.

At USC, Li studies psychology and she founded the “Dear Asian Youth” chapter, a youth-lead, global organization that uses intersectional activism to empower and celebrate the Asian American Pacific Islander community. She avidly uses social media platforms like Instagram to bring awareness to the rising rate of crimes and discrimination against Asian Americans.

[Nat sounds... news broadcasts...]

A study released by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino shows Anti-Asian American hate crimes increased last year by nearly 150%! New York and California saw the greatest increases. Many of the victims were women and elderly Asian Americans. Cynthia Choi is a co-executive director of Chinese for Affirmative Action, based in San Francisco.

It’s a painful time... um it’s a painful time, traumatic time… I think it’s led to tremendous amount of fear, especially for our vulnerable members of our Community.

Choi says more media attention is crucial to combat the violence and hatred.

In terms of incidents, many many years of an anti-immigrant climate have led you know the API Community to be frustrated, angry and fearful. To have more visibility on this issue is really critical so that we can respond to what’s happening.

Despite what the media has covered so far, USC fine arts student, Alexander Yeh, a coordinator for the Critical Issues in Race, Class, & Leadership Education group, remains skeptical of the media’s narrative. He adds that it’s crucial for APIDA to do this without downplaying the struggles of any other community. APIDA stands for American Pacific Islander Desi Americans, a pan-ethnic classification that intentionally includes South Asians.

I wouldn’t say that I would rely on the media to advocate for the for APIDA folks I personally would rely a lot more on just like like grassroots movements or organizations, because I would honestly trust their energy more and their paths forward um than a media that might be trying to either sanitize the story or which is even worse, divide other communities with it.

Li agrees and expresses her disappointment in large news media outlets that she feels are failing to recognize and uplift Asian voices during this critical time. Countless victims have been assaulted.

I think it’s pretty upsetting that you know, like the most vulnerable demographic in the Asian community has had to die before a few smaller news media sources has felt like maybe we should talk about this. We need the major news media sources to be talking about to be able to actually educate people adequately enough to make a change.

A change that’s long overdue says Yi-Ann Li…

The Asian community has been you know crying for help for a long time now. As much as it pains me to say this because of like you know, like the systems of oppression that have been built into this country. We need more than just the Asian community to speak up about this and to stand in solidarity and to show their support.

So how do we combat the hatred and provide a safe and welcoming space for Asians and Asian Americans? How do we do so in a way that doesn’t downplay the experiences of other communities of color? This begins with encouraging conversations amongst peers and family, especially if you aren’t a part of the Asian community. Not only showing your solidarity by a simple repost on your Instagram story, but by extending your outreach and resources to those who need that support.

FOR ANNENBERG MEDIA, I’M PHOEBE ZHENG