Stop AAPI Hate, for example, allows people to document bias incidents on an online form, which can be accessed at any time from a phone or laptop. Compared to a hotline, the method is more cost-effective and less intimidating for those who are not comfortable talking about traumatic experiences with other people.
However, some experts say it’s just as important to be aware of the limits of digital platforms, which are often more adept at eliciting emotional reactions than facilitating difficult conversations about healing.
“Asians have had a harder time demonstrating racism in large part because people generally still don’t know about the history and struggles of Asian Americans,” said Stewart Kwoh, president emeritus of Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Los Angeles, a human rights organization that has been tracking incidents of hate against Asians since the 1990s. “That is the overwhelming problem we have to face as a society.”
While social media has been “a game changer in the sense of determining the scope of the problem,” he said, it has been less effective in providing answers.
In recent weeks, some experts have criticized celebrities who asked their followers to help them identify and arrest those responsible for anti-Asian attacks, arguing that the approach could foster vigilantism and increase police surveillance in communities. color. Local leaders have also expressed concern about a large contingent of social media users who labeled many high-profile attacks as “hate crimes,” despite having no proof that they were racially motivated.
Because anti-Asian racism comes in many forms, Kwoh said, efforts to combat it cannot depend solely on law enforcement. Physical assaults, in fact, constitute a small part of the bias incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate. Seven out of 10 cases involve verbal harassment such as name calling. A multi-pronged strategy to keep Asian Americans safe, he continued, must include stronger civil rights enforcement and funding for agencies like the Department of Housing and the Human Relations Commission.
But those nuances, Kwoh said, aren’t easily captured on social media and bias can be difficult to prove.
To more accurately assess the causes and growth of anti-Asian incidents, Nguyen said, “we need more in-depth data on the Asian community as a whole with more media attention on why these problems are occurring.”
There also has to be a culture change, he said, which begins with the implementation of more educational initiatives.
On TikTok, Asian American teens have heeded this call, posting blunt explanations about the long history of anti-Asian xenophobia and how seemingly innocuous microaggressions can easily lead to violence.
But the effort, Nguyen said, has to go beyond social media. Integrating Asian American studies into public school curricula is crucial, he said, because “it’s hard for people to empathize with our pain if they don’t know our stories.”