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Rutgers professor speaks on racist attacks against elderly Asian Americans

XinQi Dong, Henry Rutgers distinguished professor of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research, said the recent attacks on elderly Asian Americans demonstrate the need for more elder abuse prevention measures. – Photo by Rutgers.edu

There have been recent cases in Northern California of people shoving elderly Asian Americans, injuring them and in one case killing someone, according to an article from CNN. 

This is part of a general rise in racist attacks against Asian Americans since the start of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, said XinQi Dong, Henry Rutgers distinguished professor of Population Health Sciences and director of the Institute for Health, Health Care Policy and Aging Research.

“Our country has a long history (of) scapegoating Asians and other minority populations — from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 to the 1982 murder of Vincent Chin, a Chinese American,” he said.

Dong said the current data is incomplete for the most recent incidents, but several organizations have been keeping track of reported incidents throughout the country over the past year, such as Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Hate, a reporting center launched in response to the escalation in xenophobia and bigotry during the pandemic.

Stop AAPI Hate received more than 2,808 reports of Asian American discrimination from 47 states and the District of Columbia between March 19, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2020, according to a press release by the organization. Of these reports, 126 accounts involved Asian Americans older than 60 years old.

Dong said the incidents may be more prevalent in areas with larger Asian populations. From Stop AAPI Hate’s reports, 43.8 percent of attacks were attributed to California, 13 percent to New York, 4.1 percent to Washington and 2.8 percent to Illinois, all states with high Asian American populations, according to the release.

More research is needed to understand the effects of discrimination on various Asian subgroups and ways to minimize impact on health, especially for more vulnerable populations such as the elderly, Dong said. Older Chinese Americans have been found more likely to experience considerable discrimination while on the street or in public settings, he said.

“We know discrimination can lead to real harm, both physical and psychological,” he said. “Our research in older Chinese Americans in the Chicago area found that discrimination is associated with depression, poorer health status and increased risk for social isolation.”

He said research has also found that older Chinese Americans who experienced discrimination had approximately twice the odds of having suicidal thoughts in comparison with those who did not experience discrimination.

Dong said the attacks signal a need for more focus on elder justice initiatives, particularly elder abuse prevention and increased resources among minority populations for addressing the harmful effects of elder abuse.

In response to the recent incidents, hundreds of people gathered in San Francisco on Feb. 14 to condemn the violence against the Asian American community, according to an article from ABC News. A group of Bay Area residents also formed Compassion for Oakland, where volunteers offer to chaperone anyone in the Oakland Chinatown neighborhood to help them feel safe.

With more than 400 members, Compassion for Oakland is one of many organizations trying to combat the racism toward Asian Americans in their communities at this time.

“We need to empower Asian Americans and communities and combat the underlying narratives and racism that contribute to the hate,” Dong said.


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