Duncan Hwang

My parents opened some of the first Chinese restaurants in Upper Michigan, and I was one of those kids from an immigrant family that was often in the back eating snacks and doing homework. One dish called the Triple Delight with stir fried vegetables, shrimp, chicken, and beef in a brown sauce was the star of the show. If things got really busy, I may have been asked to bus some tables or shovel snow from the sidewalk. In the before times, if you drove down SE 82nd Ave in Portland or visited any number of Chinese restaurants across the state, you may have observed this exact same scene playing out. These businesses are family affairs, and everyone pitched in. 

Over the past year and with alarming frequency over the past month, Asian Americans throughout the country have experienced an uptick in documented hate incidents including bullying and harassment, hate crimes, and violence. In Oregon, this has included incidents of violence on public transportation and ongoing acts of vandalism and broken windows of Asian-owned small businesses. The thought of this happening to my family’s restaurant growing up would have terrified me, but fear of hate incidents coupled with anxiety around economic uncertainty and challenges around the pandemic are the unfortunate reality for many of these families today.

These incidents underscore what Asian American and other leaders have been warning: Words matter. The increase of hateful, racist rhetoric targeting Asian Americans during the COVID pandemic creates real harm. Since the start of the pandemic, we at APANO have condemned the use of phrases like the “China virus” and attempts by national and local leaders to scapegoat Asian Americans in the face of a global pandemic that has disproportionately affected Black, Indigenous, Pacific Islander, Latinx, and other people of color and that we must address collectively.

We call for a focus on transformative justice and investment in our communities to address hate. More law enforcement is not the answer. Police do not prevent these crimes and too often community members do not report incidents to them due to language or other barriers or fears of immigration enforcement. We need community-centered solutions that prioritize healing for survivors of hate crimes. Our communities need holistic tools to help transform the bigotry underlying such violence. We continue to uplift the calls of Unite Oregon and Imagine Black to divest from policing and investing in the health of Black and Indigenous communities of color.

A past report from the Coalitions of Communities of Color [this is really out of date, not sure if there are more recent numbers] found that despite making up 19.6% of the population of Oregon, foundations awarded just 9.6% of grants that appear to have reached communities of color. Asians and Pacific Islanders comprise 4.9% of the State’s population but received only 0.1% of foundation grants. The Asian American and Pacific Islander communities are now Oregon’s two fastest growing demographics, but our nonprofit ecosystem has not yet caught up to meet our communities’ needs. We need more voices pushing back against hate, but we also need investment in culturally specific workforce development, affordable housing, access to culturally competent healthcare, and in so many other sectors that build thriving and resilient communities. Philanthropy’s role is not only to respond in this moment, but to invest in our communities over the long term. This includes building organizational capacity and supporting building cross-cultural partnerships and solidarity. Anti-Asian hate and bias ebbs and flows across our history, but the constant is that our communities’ true needs are often glossed over due to the model minority myth and invisibilization.