Addressing Asian Hate Crimes Through Art

Ever since the spread of Covid-19, Asians have not only received blame for the pandemic, but attacks against the Asian community worldwide have also skyrocketed. Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 150 percent worldwide, with nearly 3,800 reported incidents of such hate crimes in the U.S. alone since March 19, 2020. Just a few weeks ago, a devastating mass shooting occurred at a spa in Atlanta, leaving eight dead, six of whom were Asian. Other anti-Asian hate crime examples include a Bay Area teen who was shot through the eye, numerous attacks against elders on the streets, persecutions of public transport-drivers, vandalization of Asian-owned businesses, and verbal harassment of Asian people. But such discrimination also elicited responses from many activists and individuals around the world. In particular, many artists have been using their platforms to speak out against the recent hate crimes towards the Asian community.

Ever since the spread of Covid-19, Asians have not only received blame for the pandemic, but attacks against the Asian community worldwide have also skyrocketed. Anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 150 percent worldwide, with nearly 3,800 reported incidents of such hate crimes in the U.S. alone since March 19, 2020. Just a few weeks ago, a devastating mass shooting occurred at a spa in Atlanta, leaving eight dead, six of whom were Asian. Other anti-Asian hate crime examples include a Bay Area teen who was shot through the eye, numerous attacks against elders on the streets, persecutions of public transport-drivers, vandalization of Asian-owned businesses, and verbal harassment of Asian people. But such discrimination also elicited responses from many activists and individuals around the world. In particular, many artists have been using their platforms to speak out against the recent hate crimes towards the Asian community.

In 2020, Amanda Phingbodhipakkiya, a New York-based artist, neuroscientist, and educator, created "I Still Believe in Our City," an art series dedicated to raising awareness against anti-Asian hate crimes, many of which arose due to the Covid-19 pandemic, occurring in New York City. In the past, Phingbodhipakkiya had always used her art as a means of activism, creating paintings to spread awareness about feminism, body positivity, the Black Lives Matter movement, and voting.

As someone of Thai and Indonesian descent growing up in Georgia, Phingbodhipakkiya experienced anti-Asian bias firsthand. As a child, she was ridiculed for her facial features and stereotyped as docile and submissive. Through "I Still Believe in Our City," she wanted to both share her own experiences and "turn these hurts [from racism] into something beautiful and powerful."

Phingbodhipakkiya's art depicts a variety of Asian people proudly posing while being surrounded by flowers and symbols important in Asian cultures. She added anti-discriminatory messages on her pieces such as "I did not make you sick" or "I am not your scapegoat" to combat common stereotypes that arose during the pandemic. Her art was later displayed in Brooklyn subway terminals alongside panels that provided historical context to anti-Asian sentiments in the U.S.. One of the pieces in "I Still Believe in Our City" was featured on the cover of the March 18th issue of TIME magazine. Phingbodhipakkiya titled the piece "With Softness and Power." It depicts a woman gazing out boldly, surrounded by peonies, chrysanthemums, and hawthorn berries, all of which are flowers representing resilience, community, and strength. Phingbodhipakkiya's works have become symbols of Asian pride, as they have been widely distributed across social media, news outlets, and public displays across the country.

In addition, Los Angeles-based artist Janel Foo auctioned off her stained glass creations on Instagram to raise money in support of Stop AAPI Hate, a San-Francisco organization dedicated to addressing Asian hate. As a Chinese-American, Foo was concerned for the safety of her family and by selling artwork, she inspired many other Asian and Pacific Islander artists to do the same. The auction soon gained momentum, raising more than $12,000 as artists auctioned off jewelry, ceramics, illustrations, and other original pieces.

However, in comparison to during the Black Lives Matter movement, artists are not addressing Asian hate with the same fervor. Many influencers and artists have resorted to using social media to encourage public donations to hate crime victims and to spread support through hashtags such as #StopAsianHate. These actions, though beneficial, are actions that any ordinary person could have taken. There is a lack of artist-specific engagement. Artists are not fully utilizing their unique platforms, talents, following, and influence to the largest extent. Historically, artists have always used their influence to spread awareness about social injustices. Mahalia Jackson's song "We Shall Overcome" brought hope and spirit to the Civil Rights Movement; Keith Haring’s graffiti-esque pop art addressed AIDS in the 1980s when it was considered taboo; the infamous Guerilla Girls' Metropolitan Museum piece brought attention to sexism in the art industry; Bob Dylan consistently used his music to protest against the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and racism. Artists have always been crucial players in effecting social change, so in order for the #StopAsianHate movement to reach its full potential, artists should focus on taking advantage of their artistic skill and influence. Art evokes emotional responses from viewers and is an impactful way to ground the anti-Asian hate movement through concrete creations.

Comments

There are 0 comments for this article

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.