Political rhetoric inflaming anti-Asian scapegoating: Stop AAPI Hate report



With the midterm elections underway, Stop AAPI Hate has released a report that highlights how political rhetoric has been consistently employed, over decades, to hurt Asian communities. The report claims that at present, there is an emphasis on anti-Chinese rhetoric, which results in the targeting of Asian Americans, including those who are not of Chinese descent.

The report – The Blame Game: How Political Rhetoric Inflames Anti-Asian Scapegoating – analyzes the harms of scapegoating Asian and Asian American communities. It also includes a brief history of anti-Asian scapegoating and offers recommendations for political candidates, community groups, and individuals who want to help us put an end to this alarming trend.

“In every chapter of US history, immigrants and people of color unfairly suffered blame for our nation’s economic problems and societal ills. Our nation’s leaders have time and again played into existing narrative frames that consolidate political support and public opinion against a common “enemy.” Scapegoating — the act of unfairly blaming a group for societal misfortunes — is a political strategy that wins votes by causing animus and harm against marginalized communities,” the report adds.

The StopAAPIHate has recommended that as a corrective measure, political leaders, governments, community members, and allies should name scapegoating when it happens; acknowledge and apologize for the harm, and take affirmative measures to interrupt this centuries-old cycle of blaming communities of color for societal ills.

The report says that with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, Asians and Asian Americans are once again a scapegoat. “Our community is an easy target because of two pre-existing stereotypes about Asians and Asian Americans. First, the “yellow peril” and “dusky peril” myths depict Asia and Asians as a threat to the western world’s existence. Second, the “perpetual foreigner” trope portrays Asians and Asian Americans as forever outsiders who do not belong in America.”

“Political rhetoric on China’s role in the spread of COVID-19, national security, or the American economy inflames this preexisting animus towards Asians and Asian Americans and turns our community into scapegoats. We call on politicians to end unnecessary fearmongering and rhetoric that inflames scapegoating and harm. We deserve leaders who engage in meaningful debate and uplift the needs, strengths, and contributions of Asians, Asian Americans, and other communities of color,” it states.

“Our research has found that perpetrators of hate incidents toward Asians and Asian Americans repeat rhetoric they hear from candidates and elected officials blaming China for public health crises, for economic downturns, and for national security concerns. This trend becomes apparent when comparing hate incidents reported to Stop AAPI Hate with inflammatory language recently used by politicians,” the report says.

The report claims that from 1910 to 1940, immigrants from China, India, and other Asian countries faced public health scapegoating at Angel Island Immigration Station, the primary immigration processing center for immigrants from Asia. “While Angel Island is best known for the extended detention of Chinese immigrants, the federal government also engaged in medical examinations that discouraged immigration from other countries. For example, Angel Island’s chief medical officer required all Indian immigrants to be screened for hookworm.”

Those found to have hookworm were required to pay for treatment; the many who could not afford treatment were deported. While the policy was ostensibly to prevent the spread of disease, it was championed as a method to bar immigration from India. In 1910, a San Francisco newspaper celebrated the policy: “the hookworm is doing for California what Immigration Commissioner Hart North failed to do.”

On national security scapegoating the report claims that several politicians have engaged in rhetoric that names the Chinese Communist Party as a national security threat for espionage. In June 2021, Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida signed two state bills to address perceived Chinese Communist Party espionage in businesses and higher education. Stop AAPI Hate has received reports of nearly 100 incidents that included similar language.


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