This past year has been tough on everyone. The pandemic has disrupted all of our lives, and for some of us, has resulted in the grave illness or death of those we hold dear. It’s been an especially difficult year for members of minority communities. While much of the focus of concern has been on Black lives, we’ve also seen a recent increase in hate crimes against the AAPI (Asian American Pacific Islander) community.
Stop AAPI Hate recently released a report stating that between the outset of the pandemic in the US in March 2020 through February 2021, there were nearly 3,800 anti-Asian incidents reported across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. These incidents included verbal assaults, shunning, physical attacks, civil rights violations, and online harassment. And the Pew Center has found that, since the beginning of the pandemic, 31% of Asian Americans have experienced racial slurs or racists jokes.
Whatever the reason behind this spate of incidents – and most indications are that hatred is being directed that way in large part because of the association of the pandemic with Asia – St. Francis House stands in support of the AAPI community.
This community is, of course, close to our hearts. We are located just outside of Boston’s Chinatown, kitty-corner from the China Trade Center. Lunar New Year celebrations – sadly, restricted this year – happen just outside of our doors. We work closely with local civic associations on areas of mutual concern, like safety and clean streets. And there are many who are part of the AAPI community who are also members of the St. Francis House family.
On our staff, we have Asian-Americans, both recent immigrants and those who’ve been here for generations. We also have a number of AAPI volunteers: students volunteering with us for the semester and “old-timers” who’ve been volunteers for years. And we also have many guests from the AAPI community. Whether experiencing homelessness or “just” in need, they come through our doors for a respite from the streets, to take care of their basic needs, and to help rebuild their lives.
Of late, we’ve been checking in with our AAPI friends to hear how they’re experiencing the recent surge in anti-Asian racism. One volunteer told us that, as an Asian-American, she’d never really experienced racism or fear, but that now she’s feeling a bit more vulnerable. This feeling is not hers alone. We’ve been hearing it from others as well.
St. Francis House is an inclusive and diverse community. We welcome all – regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, religion, or national origin – but these days, we find ourselves with heightened concerns over those among us who are part of the AAPI community. We stand, shoulder to shoulder, with our friends and neighbors in the Asian American Pacific Islander community, committed to making sure that St. Francis House is a safe and welcoming place for all.