Content warning: physical assault, hate violence, racism
OPAWL sends our love, support and solidarity from Ohio to the local AAPI communities grieving the recent racially motivated attack in our neighboring state of Indiana. We are sickened and devastated to see reports from Bloomington, IN of a racially motivated murder attempt on a young woman of Asian descent. OPAWL condemns all identity-based violence and stands with our fellow BIPOC who are impacted by racism. Though national media doesn’t always cover hate incidents here in the Midwest, these violent attacks and other daily hostilities against our communities have not stopped, and they continue to have a profound impact on our lives.
In August 2021, 26-year-old Darrin Johnson physically attacked an Asian American student near the University of Cincinnati after saying “Go back to your country… you brought the kung flu here… you’re going to die for bringing it”. In November 2022, the Justice Department formally charged Johnson with a hate crime for this assault.
Those who perpetrate racially motivated violence must be held accountable for the harm they cause, and until we grow our capacity for transformative alternatives, the criminal justice system will often be the only viable option for victims to seek justice. However, OPAWL recognizes that prosecutions within our criminal justice system rarely bring true justice or healing to victims and communities impacted by racialized violence. It is not a safe option for many community members, particularly undocumented immigrants, and rarely transforms perpetrators into more compassionate human beings. Hate crimes and hate incidents in the U.S. have been on the rise for all communities of color, as well as religious minorities. The root cause of these attacks is the system of white supremacy which we all live in, which pits us against each other.
History has shown that pouring resources into policing and harsher sentencing for individual perpetrators has not effectively prevented hate crimes or kept our communities truly safe. As AAPI women and non-binary people, we also know how wholly ineffective this system has been at solving, addressing, and preventing crimes of gender-based violence. The need for community-focused resources and transformative solutions for our public safety is imperative.
We need to hold leaders in positions of power accountable when they use harmful political rhetoric and government policy, and when they fail to adequately invest in the needs of impacted communities. We have seen, since the founding of this nation, how language leads to violent and deadly consequences. Darrin Johnson invoked Donald Trump’s language about the “kung flu” during his physical attack, and thousands of other recent hate incidents across the U.S. have similarly mimicked racist political rhetoric that scapegoats Asian people and Asian countries for American problems.
According to the national reports from Stop AAPI Hate, directly impacted victims of hate incidents have named education equity, community-based solutions, and civil rights expansion as the most effective solutions in addressing anti-AAPI hate. We affirm these solutions and also believe that real safety can only happen when everyone in our society has access to food, housing, healthcare, dignity, and love. True, lasting safety for our communities is only possible with equitable, high-quality public education that teaches all kids about the honest and complete history of communities of color, including our struggles against injustice and our contributions to society. Our collective safety is only possible through a commitment to solidarity across differences and against the systems that harm us all.
To our OPAWL members and AAPI friends and family who share a fear of future attacks – we share your grief, your fear, and your anger. We reaffirm our commitment to co-creating the solutions that our communities have been calling for year after year. We recognize the need for healing, learning, and solidarity building with each other and across all communities harmed by white supremacy. If you or someone you know is struggling with the emotional impact of recent news, or experiencing violence or discrimination based on race, gender, or sexual orientation, please reach out to us. We see you and we love you. Our commitment to one another can never be broken.