By Malene Carr and Moshtayeen Ahmad
The recent murders of eight people in Atlanta—including four Korean and two Chinese women—a brutal assault on a Filipino woman in New York City, an attack on a Chinese grandmother in San Francisco, and the murder of an elderly Thai man in California are, unfortunately, just a few examples of increasing violence against Asians in the United States since the beginning of the pandemic and the outgrowth of hateful rhetoric vilifying Asians. Stop Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate’s website has received 3,795 reports of hate-related harassment or violence as of March 16. Since then, Anti-Asian hate crimes rose nearly 150 percent in the nation’s largest cities.
Foreign policy rhetoric has domestic consequences, damaging U.S. interests abroad. Negative rhetoric about Asian countries can translate into negative perceptions of Asian Americans. The Asian American Foreign Affairs Association (AAFAA) urged Department employees to be aware of recent internal guidance on foreign policy messaging distinguishing between foreign governments, foreign nationals, and AAPI communities in the United States. Incorrect terms play into U.S. adversaries’ strategies of sowing division within multicultural societies.
AAFAA and the South Asian American Employee Association (SAAEA) have been promoting AAPI initiatives at the Department of State to build an inclusive workplace. In July 2020, AAFAA, SAAEA, and the Office of Civil Rights co-hosted an “Open Conversation” to advance the institutional culture and stand up for injustices in the workplace.
More recently, in response to the Atlanta murders, AAFAA held listening sessions for the AAPI community, March 23, where participants recognized shared pain and called for action. During the event, members expressed disappointment that managers did not constructively raise the issue. Many participants voiced fear for themselves and their loved ones. AAFAA and SAAEA continued to highlight these issues during AAPI Heritage Month in May through speaking events featuring Department officials, U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth, actor Daniel Dae Kim; professional panels; and cultural performances.
The surge in anti-Asian violence at home is a liability abroad. It has prompted diplomatic rebuke, challenged U.S. legitimacy to advocate for human rights overseas, and handed global competitors opportunities to criticize America.
Malene Carr is a student at the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) and FSI chair of the Asian American Foreign Affairs Association. Moshtayeen Ahmad is a team lead in the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations’ Office of East Asian and Pacific and South and Central Asian Affairs and president of the South Asian American Employees Association.