Stop AAPI Hate with Dr. Russell Jeung

March 10, 2021

Asian hate incidents have been on an alarming rise in the past year due to the origin of the Coronavirus. Asians are being targeted in several ways and being shunned because of their country of origin. Unfortunately, the phrases “China Virus” and “Kung Flu” have only exacerbated these behaviors and given license to those who believe Asians are the reason for this pandemic.

Recently, I had the privilege to sit down with Dr. Russell Jeung, professor of Asian American Studies at San Francisco State University and co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate to discuss this disturbing trend. Here is an excerpt from our eye-opening interview.

Dr. Jeung, what types of behavior are you seeing as Stop AAPI Hate is beginning to document these hate incidents?

So, the first category is our civil rights are being denied. Clearly, there are clear violations. For example, we’re getting mistreated at the workplace, people coughing, are told to go home or […] not getting rideshares. We’re getting denied service. The second broad category is physical assault. And these are actual hate crimes where if you could demonstrate racial bias, and you could arrest someone, that’s what a hate crime is. And so, we have 8 to 10% of our cases are physical assault, people are getting pushed, shoved, having bottles and rocks thrown at them, getting knifed. And yeah, it’s pretty harrowing. And a related way of being assaulted is spat upon. So again, my wife was running, and someone just blocked her path and coughed in her face. We saw that happen. So often as we read these reports that we had to create a separate category to just keep track. And that’s again, almost 8 to 10% of our cases of just people spitting on us. The third major category is the heat[ed] interactions that are [not] at the level of crime but are still traumatizing. It’s the verbal harassment where you get yelled at, or being shunned like, which again, really impacts youth because they become socially isolated. So those are the three categories.

What are some ways we, as parents, talk to our children? Both Asian and non-Asian parents?

Asian parents, we have to give the race talk the way African American parents give the talk. And maybe we haven’t had to do it as often. But now this is the time to do it. To say that people will treat you differently, will racially profile you, just because you may look different. And that doesn’t make you any worse. It doesn’t make you any better. But it does make you different. And so you could be targeted […]. [And] people may blame you for [being] Chinese [and bringing] the Chinese virus, the way President Trump talked about it. And that’s incorrect. You shouldn’t believe people when they say you’re infected or [a] disease carrier, but rather that, that diseases [don’t] discriminate against anybody. So, I think Asian parents have to prepare their kids, that they’re different. But again, that difference shouldn’t be a stigma, right? That’s the danger […] if people treat you or stigmatize you for being infected, or for being a carrier, then you may self-stigmatize [and] you see yourself the way others see you. So, you see yourself as a stigma, or you see your Asian parts of you as stigmatized, right? So, you want to distance yourself from anything Asian, because that’s seen as foreign or threatening, or dangerous or made fun of. And so that actually leads to more depression and anxiety again, among our youth as they develop unhealthy self-concepts. So Asian American parents have to reinforce their kids’ self-concept, give them resilience to know that they’re cared for, that being difference is something to be proud of not something to be a stigmatizing feature.

How have Asian Americans affected the make-up of America?

Well, I’m a sociologist, and we have this new concept of called Christian nationalism as the primary driver of a lot of racial attitudes. So Christian nationalism is if you have this cultural framework, that America should be a white Christian nation. So, if you’re neither white nor black, then you’re not really American. If you’re not Christian, but come from another religious tradition, or you’re seen as pagan and heathen, and again, [you’re] kept out. And so I think, if you believe in white and Christian nationalism, then you’re less likely to support Black Lives Matter, you’re more likely to support, you know, border detention, and you’re more likely to support banning immigration overall. And so yeah, again, if you have that belief, then it’s clear. You’d be racist towards Asians and tell them to go back home because they don’t belong. And I think a lot of […] people of color also buy into Christian nationalism, right? And so it’s not like communities of color are immune to racism. And just as Asians have anti-blackness, I think other communities, Latinos, and African Americans have anti-Asianness, and they may think we don’t belong here. A third of our cases have that type of sentiment, where people say, [they] were told to go back home. So along with that anti-immigrant sentiment, even if they’re not immigrants […] most race relations in the U.S. are on the white/black race relations binary. And so that’s why Asians or Latino don’t fit in because we’re neither black nor white. And so we’re just invisible to that whole conversation. And then American history is mostly white, black, and so we don’t feel like we belong [as] Asian Americans. And then when we’re told to go back home, then we really don’t feel like we belong. We’re outsiders, we’re foreigners. And what we need to be taught is a more inclusive sense of belonging for the country, and to talk about the contributions of every talk about how every group should be allowed to belong, maybe. And that’s really important for me. I know that the insider, outsider binary that Asian Americans are put on is really painful, because right now we’re on the outsider part of that binary.

What’s can we do to help curb Asian American hate incidents?

[…] if you experience anything, or witness anything that’s anti-Asian, please go to And there we have free resources for you […]. I think my final words about education are Asian American youth are actually, when we did our youth survey, are angry. And you don’t think of Asian American kids as being particularly angry people. But they are because they see that black lives [don’t] matter here. And they see how their grandparents are being treated. And […] they feel disappointed in America that they were directed to believe in the America of equality or freedom. They see now, how America sort of failed. And that’s why we need not only to educate our youth, but to actually help our youth reimagine a new America where we all belong and fit in. And so that’s my hope. And that’s why I appreciate this podcast. I appreciate these efforts to help parents educate their kids.

Dr. Jeung’s expertise in Asian American studies allows us to think beyond our own ideals and biases, and encourages us to consider how our behaviors and actions affect others. Words matter. Our behavior toward others matter. Our compassion and understanding of those who don’t look or act like us matters.

Let’s heed his advice and be better by learning from each other.

For the full interview with Dr. Jeung, click here: