A leading Asian American fashion designer has joined a swath of other celebrity voices from the community speaking out against a rise in hate crimes targeting Asian Americans.
Designer Phillip Lim has spoken out about the rise in attacks, which since being first reported on last year have continued to get worse as the coronavirus pandemic has ravaged the American economy and cost more than 470,000 lives in the US.
Recently there were assaults on a 91-year-old Asian-American man in Oakland, a 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman in San Jose, a Filipino man in Manhattan and the murder of an 84-year-old Thai American in San Francisco. According to a report from the Asian American Bar Association of New York there were more than 2,500 reports of anti-Asian hate crimes related to Covid-19 reported between March and September in 2020.
“This spans all generations, on the streets, in schools; it feels like ‘open season’ to take out our frustration on the Asian community,” Lim said.
Lim’s words follow public statements from the actors Daniel Dae Kim, Daniel Wu and Olivia Munn, who spoke out against the violence, saying: “I’ve found myself at a loss for words at the rise of anti-Asian hate crimes. The racist, verbal and physical assaults have left my community fearful to step outside.”
Lim said he believed that one of the legacies of the Trump administration has been the continued finger-pointing towards the community during the Covid-19 crisis, which has resulted in racial attacks. On Instagram Lim posted: “Our community can no longer stay silent and continue as the scapegoat for this global health and human virus.”
In his final speech as president, Donald Trump called the pandemic “the China virus” before adding: “We all know where it came from.”
Many activists and experts have cited such racist language as fanning the flames of anti-Asian-American sentiment and the subsequent spike in violence.
“The past administration deliberately channeled the cause of the virus towards the Asian community, using despicable phrases like ‘kung-flu’ and the ‘China virus’. This caused so much damage that is lasting and it has clearly led to an increase in the violence in our community,” Lim said.
He added that Trump was using the Asian American community to distract from the fact that his administration could not control the spread of the pandemic. “He is responsible,” said Lim. “He is the face of modern racism and doesn’t represent today’s America.”
Lim says he himself is personally experiencing racism. “I receive comments to ‘stay in my lane’, implying I should be somewhat limited as a designer because of my occupation, race and heritage,” he said.
Lim says that he is working with other fashion designers to create a creative hub that will combat racism.
“I am working with a large group of fashion peers, influencers, celebrities and government officials at the moment,” he said. “We hope to galvanise a social media campaign to drive awareness and encourage allyship amongst communities of color.” He hopes that eventually this group, as yet unnamed, will “influence policy and legislation”.
Lim added that the attacks we are seeing now are a direct result of much older issues. “These violent attacks on Asian communities are a hate crime and a symptom of a larger issue rooted in systemic racism,” he said. “This is a direct result of xenophobia and colonialism that has existed in America for decades.”