The violent attacks on Asian and Pacific Islanders (API) have not ceased and Sacramentans are beyond tired. 

This recent surge in anti-API crimes has led to Biden issuing a memorandum condemning and banning anti-Asian rhetoric coming from the Federal Government. 

The new administration’s approach starkly contrasts Donald Trump’s coining of terms such as “the kung flu” and “the Chinese virus” which he adamantly defended as “not racist at all.”

The memorandum acknowledges that such language had contributed to the increased levels of harassment and hate crimes against the API community.  

Stop AAPI Hate has reported 2,800 cases of hate crimes from March to December of 2020. In many of these instances, elderly people were the targets. 

While Sacramento hosts a diverse population with a vibrant API community, that does not exempt it from the racist dialogue and hate-crimes that have been devastating the nation. 

The Sacramento Police Department has identified at least eleven violent crimes in 2020 involving Asians and Pacific Islanders, a dramatic increase from the last high of four in 2017. 

Last week, Kelly Shum from the family-owned Mad Butcher Meat Company found a mutilated cat a man had left outside the shop. She believes this was a racist message considering her family has been harassed for decades.

In addition to numerous prank calls mentioning “bat soup” and other malicious phrases, this incident has taken a toll on her. 

“This is my every single day [reality], and I feel like I have to apologize for being a race I just am,” Shum told the Sacramento Bee. “I’m tired of this.”

Evidently, students from C.K. McClatchy High School are as well. On Saturday, Kekoa Bright, Samson Kwong,Vivian Zalunardo, and Amahli Vivian took to Cesar Chavez Plaza to protest the anti-API violence. 

Kekoa Bright, Samson Kwong,Vivian Zalunardo, and Amahli Vivian protest the attacks on API in Cesar Chavez Plaza. (Kieu Anh Nguyen Le)

“I believe that in order to deal with everything crashing down upon us […] we have to at least bring up some hope for the future,” Kwong said. 

“That’s why we started this thing. We felt like we had to do something now.”

Drawing inspiration from climate change activist Greta Thunberg’s Friday for Future protest, Bright and Kwong, the organizers of this demonstration, plan on returning to the same spot every week to make their voices heard. 

Although turn-out for the protest was modest, the students are still invigorated. As people passed by, some stopped to listen to Kwong explaining the stories of victims of anti-API violence. Occasionally pedestrians echoed Bright’s shouts for an end to violence. 

Vivian Zalunardo holds up her sign to passersby. (Kieu Anh Nguyen Le)

“I’m not trying to pick a fight with the government. I want to see the people. I’m going to so that I can talk to the people,” Bright explained. 

The students hope that their efforts and dedication will encourage the community to reflect upon the racial tensions that have always existed. 

Discrimination does not always present itself in the form of violent crime. It often appears as microaggressions that eventually wear away at the target. 

Olivia Tran, newly-graduated nurse working at Kaiser’s COVID vaccine clinics, has noticed these anti-API sentiments play out in her work. 

“It’s very frustrating because there’s still people who maybe don’t want me as their nurse or for me to be part of their care. They’ll ask questions like ‘were you born here?’ or ‘do you know anyone that lives over there in Wuhan?’ and I’m just like well I’m not Chinese.” 

“There was always some anti-Asian sentiment in the US but I definitely think that COVID just pushed it over” Tran said. 

Duyen Bui, a Sacramento native research fellow at the University of Oregon’s US-Vietnam Research Center, is disheartened when she sees this trend continue.

“Last year we heard about it. We saw the numbers increase. The fact that this is a new year and [we’re] seeing those images — it tells us we are still in a pandemic. Racial tensions that have existed prior to this, and that were then magnified during the summer of last year, still have not gone.”

However, Bui is also choosing to focus on the API community’s promising mobilization against the discrimination. 

“With the kind of framework where we are at right now, I think it’s a hopeful moment of activation for the whole community. There are so many different elements within our society that have called people into action [and have] awakened people who have been complacent to these racial issues” Bui said. 

She believes that, like the young protesters, anyone can decide to show support for what they believe in.

“We exist in a world where there’s different power dynamics. Politics is really about power dynamics. [If we recognize this,] we can see that each and every individual actually has different powers to make shifts and changes within the community. When you start seeing things in a more pluralistic [way,] you can feel empowered to take action.”