Anti-Asian hate crimes are skyrocketing in the U.S. Here's what we can all do to help.

In countries throughout Asia, people ring in the Lunar New Year with cultural traditions as diverse as Asian people themselves. From China to Vietnam to Malaysia to South Korea—and in communities of people of Asian descent around the world—families gather to celebrate, pay homage to ancestors, and welcome in the blessings of a new year.

This year, however, such celebrations in the U.S. are impacted not only by the upheaval of the ongoing pandemic, but by fear in the wake of skyrocketing violence against people of Asian and Pacific Islander descent.

Hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific-Islanders (AAPI) have been highlighted by advocacy groups since early in the pandemic, but have not received the broad media coverage they deserve. Unfortunately, it's taken vicious attacks on elders in the AAPI community to get the nation's attention.


Last week, the death of an 84-year-old Thai man who was violently tackled in his driveway shone a spotlight on the issue in the Bay Area, where a spate of attacks has erupted in recent months. A video of a 91-year-old man being violently shoved to the ground in Oakland prompted actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu to offer a reward of $25,000 to anyone who could help identify the attacker. (It turned out police already had him in custody as a suspect for other similar attacks.) A 64-year-old Vietnamese grandmother was assaulted and robbed of $1000 while walking to her car in San Jose last week as well, and Chinatown businesses have been hit by an alarming increase in robberies.

Amanda Nguyễn, CEO and founder of the civil rights organization Rise, shared a plea on Instagram for people to raise awareness about the increase in anti-AAPI violence.

The heinous attacks in the Bay Area are making headlines, but violence and harassment are not just happening there, not just happening to the elderly, and not just happening now.

According to NYPD data reported in the Queens Chronicle in September, anti-Asain hate crimes had already increased 1900% from 2019 to 2020 before fall even hit. (In the same time period, anti-Jewish and anti-Black hate crimes in New York had decreased.) The Anti-Defamation League reported in June that there had been a "significant" number of reports of harassment and attacks against people in the Asian-American and Pacific Islander community, and the United Nations stated in October that hate crimes against Asian-Americans were happening at "alarming levels," citing 1800 incidents just from March to May of 2020.

Reading people's individual stories, it's clear that the vast majority of incidents include references to the COVID-19 pandemic. People blame Asian-Americans for the coronavirus—a xenophobic idea that has been inflamed by politicians who insist on calling it the "China virus" or "Kung flu." (That's not merely conjecture; Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council said that their data showed that the increase in racist and xenophobic attacks was "catalyzed by rhetoric from the president and other government leadership.")

The AAPI community needs every American of goodwill to step up, speak up, and act to put an end to these attacks. Here are some things everyone can do to help:

- Personally: If you see or hear someone using anti-AAPI language, say something. Don't let phrases like "China virus" or comments blaming AAPI for the pandemic go unchallenged. Commit to not being a passive bystander, but rather an active disrupter, of harassment when you see it. If you witness an incident, report it at stopaapihate.org.

- Socially: Get to know AAPI members of your community and listen to their concerns. Raise awareness by following and sharing the hashtag #StopAAPIHate on social media. Speak out about AAPI hate crimes and share positive stories about people from the AAPI community as well.

- Educationally: Seek out information about the kinds of discrimination people in the AAPI community face. Click on the links from this article or simply Google terms like "Anti-Asian" and "AAPI hate crimes." If you're a parent, teach your kids how to recognize when their peers are engaging in anti-Asian jokes or behavior and how to be an ally.

- Organizationally: Make sure your workplace and organizations you're a part of are committed to protecting AAPI members of your community from harassment. This PDF from the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance put together has specific action items employers and organizations can use as a guide.

- Monetarily: Buy from AAPI-owned businesses, many of which have suffered during the pandemic both from economic loss and discriminatory attacks. Support AAPI advocacy and anti-discrimination organizations such as iHollaback! (an anti-harassment organization that provides free bystander intervention training) or the National Coalition for Asian Pacific American Community Development (a coalition of more than 100 organizations advocating for AAPI communities). Keep an eye out for crowdfunding efforts for individual victims of hate crimes.

- Democratically: Reach out to your local, state, and national government representatives to voice your support for the AAPI community and ask them to denounce xenophobic rhetoric in politics. Learn about the president's plan for the AAPI community and push him to take action on those commitments. Elevate the voices of elected officials from the AAPI community and those who speak up against anti-AAPI discrimination.

Let's all commit to creating a society in which everyone is uplifted and where all people can feel safe no matter who we are or where we come from.

This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

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This article originally appeared on August 27, 2015

Oh, society! We have such a complicated relationship with relationships.

It starts early, with the movies we are plopped in front of as toddlers.

Keep Reading Show less
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Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."