Written by: Shelley Li, FCSN Voices Youth Reporter
Following the nationwide Stop AAPI Hate movement, over the past spring and summer, FCSN initiated its own Stop Asian Hate Campaign, consisting of a rally, a vaccine movement, and numerous training classes in order to educate and provide resources for its special needs community to learn to protect themselves from the discrimination against Asians.
Throughout history, as a minority group, Asians have been treated as outsiders in America, subjected to prejudices and injustices. With the arrival of the pandemic, hatred levels were elevated as voices in the community rose to demand Asians to take their virus with them and return to their own country. Often, these hateful comments led to violence and attacks on vulnerable members of the Asian community, which includes special needs individuals. Having around 90% of their clients identify as Asians, FCSN decided to host its own campaign to fight Asian hate crimes and injustices.
The campaign took form in three main parts: a vaccine movement, a rally, and a series of safety empowerment training classes. On May 15, FCSN joined a “Unity Against Hate” rally in Veterans Memorial Park in Fremont, collaborating with organizations such as the Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) and the Fremont Human Relations Service. 300 to 500 people showed up to the rally, including 70 to 80 families from FCSN as well as people from a wide range of ethnic groups such as those from China, India, Southeast Asia, Europe, and Africa. “I’m very grateful that we have so many staff, parents, and individuals willing to make signs and then come out and show that unity is power against Asian hate,” FCSN Vice President of Local Programs and Community Relations Anna Wang said.
In order to provide a safe and comfortable haven for FCSN families to get vaccinated, Wang also was involved in hosting a vaccine clinic. After contacting the Alameda County Public Health Department to connect with a pharmacy that would provide the vaccinations, Wang helped register more than 300 special needs individuals. “When they come to the [FCSN] vaccine clinic, they feel safe … [and] they’re not afraid of getting attacked while they are waiting for the shot or getting to the place to get the shot.” Wang said.
As a final part of the campaign, a series of training empowerment training classes were provided during the summer, teaching skills from self defense to lessons on how to respond to verbal and physical COVID racism. In addition, the curriculum taught FCSN clients how to be alertful of their surroundings, how to stop violence when they encounter it, and in the unfortunate case in which they are the victim, how to obtain legal action and support. Although these lessons are an integral part of helping individuals with special needs learn to protect themselves, they didn’t come without difficulties. “[Individuals with special needs] are very genuine people. They think everyone is a nice person … it’s very sad to say, ‘Hey, there are bad people out there, and you need to know how to protect yourself,’” FCSN Executive Business Director Sylvia Yeh said.
During the campaign, organizers also had to overcome cultural obstacles when they advocated for the movement. “It’s always a challenge to empower the Asian families because the culture, in itself, tells [Asians] to be a little bit more passive.” Wang said. “[However, Asians need] to stop being the quote unquote model citizen that never fights back and just works hard themselves and never complains; they have to learn to stand up and protect themselves.”
It is especially crucial in the special needs community that Asians stand up for each other because often, special needs individuals are unable to voice their own thoughts. “[Parents need] to understand that this is an attack on their children, and they need to protect them by speaking out and standing up.” Wang said.
In the future, both Yeh and Wang emphasize the importance of unity, whether this is working together with federal or national government officials or standing up together as a community against acts of hatred against Asian individuals. “We really have to unite; it’s not just we work individually, we have to combine with the community to bring awareness,” Yeh said. Through the campaign, organizers hope that the Asian community can be inspired to change their mindset: to learn to be offensive, not defensive. “We have to fight against discrimination and race racist attacks instead of waiting for people to attack and then defend ourselves.” Wang said. Although FCSN’s Stop Asian Hate campaign has concluded, the underlying message of Asian pride and power is far from gone, etched in the hearts of all those touched by it.