An Epidemic of Hate: A brief historical overview of anti-Asian racism in the U.S.


Click here to access the pdf.


For the past ten years, I’ve been facilitating One Human Race workshops using the PBS documentary Race: The Power of an Illusion. In three hours, it provides an overview of racism in the U.S. from the beginning through urban renewal. It’s a powerful experience. I’ve found that when people see how the parts fit into the big picture, they truly understand the intentional and systemic nature of racial inequity.

When the COVID-19 crisis hit and hate incidents against Americans of Asian descent increased, I began to construct a short overview of anti-Asian racism. I know a bit about anti-Asian bias through my husband and his family. I’ve seen the look of dissatisfaction on the face of someone who asked where he was from when he gave the correct answer (Colorado), and I’ve heard the exasperation when the person asked again, “No, where are you really from?” People who are more politically correct but still insist on knowing ask, “Where are your people from?” (When I say I’m from Texas, no one bats an eye although it’s clear from my complexion that my ancestors were from Europe. No one cares what part of Europe they came from.) I knew something about the history of Asians in the U.S., but I was surprised and heartbroken by what I learned. I’ve only scratched the surface; I hope this article will make you curious to learn more.

Click here to access the pdf.

Reflection Questions

  • What were you most surprised to learn about the history of Asian people in the U.S.?
  • What anti-Asian stereotypes are you familiar with? Are they similar to stereotypes that are applied to other groups?
  • Who benefited from anti-Asian rhetoric and how? Does anyone still benefit?
  • What did it mean to look like an American in the early 20th century? What does it mean now?
  • What steps can you take to become more comfortable with people who look different from you?
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