Pandemic increases focus on anti-Asian hate crimes


Reagan Zuniga

LEADING THE TEAM: Senior Livia Power explains why the Asian American Allies club was created. The club is open to both Asian American students and allies who are looking to learn more about each other’s cultures.

Sophia Sanchez, Dispatch Reporter

Seniors form new club to combat the impact on local students and promote diversity

During the COVID-19 pandemic, the incidence of anti-Asian hate crimes has increased. According to a study from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, this type of crime rose by 149% from 2019 to 2020. These acts of violence have spread awareness about racial injustices faced by the Asian American population in the local community.

Presidents of the Asian American and Allies club, seniors Vanessa Nguyen, Rick Mao, and Kelly Matthews have formed the club with the intention of making it a safe place for others.

“I’ve actually been wanting to start this club since my freshman year, but I had put it off and then COVID-19 happened,” Matthews said. “Growing up, many kids used to make fun of my culture and it was difficult for me to handle, so to have a place where I could’ve gone for support would have been nice. Along with that, I wanted to start the club to teach our fellow students about our culture, diversity, the Asian narrative, and to bring awareness to global issues.”

At the beginning of the school year, the three seniors came together and got right to work with the sponsorship and help of counselor April Giuffre.

“I am new to Bowie this year and really wanted to be a part of the student life,” Giuffre said. “One of the club members approached me during the inception of the club, and since I am new, I wanted to make sure I had a co-sponsor as well. Also, as an Asian American staff member, I believe I can bring an authentic perspective to the club as well as serve as a role model for Asian American students and allies.”

Co-sponsor and biology teacher Irene Lee was recommended by Giuffre to become a sponsor of the club.

“I think that it’s important that students have a safe space to celebrate their cultures,” Lee said. “I definitely think that Bowie needs a safe space for Asian Americans. So when they came up to me about the club, I was really excited to be the sponsor of that.”

Senior club member Katherine Crosley joined the Asian American and Allies club to support her friends and other members of the Asian community as an ally.

“As a member I hope to learn as much as I can and take a lot of opportunities to volunteer for my community,” Crosley said. “As a club I really hope that we can become a unified front and learn about each other and where we come from.”

According to Matthews, the idea of the Asian American and Allies club was discussed regularly between the presidents of the club during the pandemic, especially when the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes became more publicized in the news and social media platforms.

“In the Asian Americans and Allies club, we plan to address the recent escalations in Asian hate crimes, and social issues happening in our world now,” Matthews said. “We hope to break down the Asian American stereotypes in our community.”

The club is also planning for future activities and projects outside of school to achieve goals revolving around their purpose.

“We plan to have something like one main project for Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) month which is in May, but hopefully we have some sort of big thing across the campus,” Nguyen said. “Then we want to volunteer at Asian-based community services, and just eat out with friends and have fun.”

Because of the pandemic, the recognition and discussion of anti-Asian hate crimes became more politicized, which changed the public’s understanding of Asian American demographics.

“Asian Americans are the fastest growing ethnic group in America,” Matthews said. “However, their concerns are neglected because of the ‘model minority’ myth. “There are assumptions of the Asian American class privilege, which leads to many discriminatory issues to be overlooked.”

The main hope of the Asian American and Allies club is to spread awareness on issues that Asian American members of the local community face and how to help solve those issues. The club is open to anyone who wants to be part of a learning and understanding community.

“I think it’s important that everyone is able to be aware of [other peoples’] situations since we are growing up in America, which is a very diverse country,” Nguyen said. “So to be open-minded about your Asian American friends and what they are going through, you are able to be just more sympathetic and understanding of the society around you.”

Although the club is still new, the Asian American and Allies club is already planning for the future. Members talk about controversial subjects like racism and discrimination, but also balance this with trips to restaurants to experience different cultures first-hand as a group.

“I know that the club wants to create a safe place for Asian American students and allies to gather and learn from one another’s cultures, discuss sociocultural issues, and raise awareness,” Giuffre said. “My hope is that the students are inspired by each other and learn how to advocate for themselves and be proud of their backgrounds.’’