Worker unions say this is not an isolated incident.
“Attacks on retail workers are on the increase. Parliament needs to act now to toughen the law,” Mark Wilkinson, senior organizer at the union GMB, which represents over 600,000 workers, said in a statement Friday.
Acts of customer aggression have risen in the UK and the US since the start of the pandemic – staff members are in the uncomfortable position of having to police mask-wearing in stores or enforce social-distancing rules. Some are quitting retail jobs in search of better pay and working conditions, helping to fuel a labor crunch.
Flight attendants will get self-defense training from July to stop violent passengers assaulting staff, the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) announced in a Thursday press release.
The voluntary training, led by federal air marshals, was paused during the pandemic, but the TSA said it was bringing the classes back to “deter assaults against officers and flight crew.”
Flight attendants told Insider earlier in June that they felt burnt out from dealing with aggressive passengers as travel bounced back.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has so far reported more than 3,000 incidents of unruly passenger behavior in 2021, most involving travelers refusing to comply with the federal mask mandate.
The FAA has opened 487 investigations into passenger incidents – more than triple the number from 2019, before the pandemic started, and the highest number since the agency started listing its investigations in 1995.
The TSA said passengers had also assaulted security staff, noting two separate cases this month where it said TSA airport officers were attacked. In one incident, a traveller bit two officers and faces a $13,910 civil fine, the TSA said.
The TSA said in the press release that it may “pursue criminal charges and a civil penalty up to the maximum allowable by law” for unruly passengers.
Airports welcomed 2.1 million air passengers on June 20, up from 590,456 for the same day in 2020, and the highest number since March 7 last year, according to TSA data.
The House on Tuesday passed a bill that addresses the rise in violence and discrimination against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The lower chamber approved the legislation, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, in a 364-62 vote.
The bill directs the Department of Justice to expedite the review of coronavirus-related hate crimes, provide guidance to state and local governments to improve public reporting on hate crimes, and raise awareness about hate crimes during the public health crisis.
Democratic Rep. Grace Meng of New York, who championed the bill, said it makes clear that hate against Asian Americans is “unacceptable” and “will not be tolerated.” The legislation also demonstrates that “Congress has the Asian American community’s back,” she added.
“An attack on the Asian American community is an attack on all of us,” Meng said during a press conference ahead of Tuesday’s vote.
The bill’s passage comes after the Senate overwhelmingly approved it 94-1 last month in a rare bipartisan effort. Republican Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri was the lone “no” vote, arguing it was “too broad.”
The federal government has been under pressure to respond to the spike in anti-Asian hate crimes during the pandemic. The nonprofit group, Stop AAPI Hate, has reported 6,603 incidents of physical assault, shunning, verbal and online harassment, and civil-rights violations against AAPI communities in the US from March 2020 to March 2021.
Meng and fellow Democratic Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii introduced the legislation in March in the wake of a mass shooting at three massage parlors in the Atlanta area that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. The deadly attack sparked national outrage over the uptick in anti-Asian violence coinciding with the spread of COVID-19 across the country and former President Donald Trump elevating terms such as “Chinese virus” and “kung flu.”
“Those of Asian descent have been blamed and scapegoated for the outbreak of COVID-19 and as a result Asian Americans have been beaten, slashed, spat on, and even set on fire and killed,” Meng said on Tuesday. “We are here today to say that Congress is taking action.”
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) – Israel unleashed new airstrikes on Gaza early Tuesday, hitting a pair of high-rise buildings believed to be housing militants, as Hamas and other armed groups bombarded southern Israel with hundreds of rockets. The escalation was sparked by weeks of tensions in contested Jerusalem.
Since sundown Monday, 26 Palestinians – including nine children and a woman- were killed in Gaza, most by airstrikes, Gaza health officials said. The Israeli military said at least 16 of the dead were militants.
During the same period, Gaza militants fired hundreds of rockets toward Israel, killing two Israeli civilians and wounding 10 others.
In a further sign of rising tensions, Israel signaled it is widening its military campaign. The military said it is sending troop reinforcements to the Gaza border and the defense minister ordered the mobilization of 5,000 reserve soldiers.
But, in a potentially positive sign, officials said Egypt was working on brokering a cease-fire.
The current violence, like previous rounds, including the last intifada, or uprising, has been fueled by conflicting claims over Jerusalem, which is at the emotional core of the long conflict.
In a sign of widening unrest, hundreds of residents of Arab communities across Israel staged overnight demonstrations – denouncing the recent actions of Israeli security forces against Palestinians. It was one of the largest protests by Palestinian citizens in Israel in recent years.
Egypt is trying to broker a truce, but Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says fighting could “continue for some time.”
Israel and Hamas, an Islamic militant group that seeks Israel’s destruction, have fought three wars and numerous skirmishes since Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.
Recent rounds of fighting have usually ended after a few days, often helped by behind-the-scenes mediation by Qatar, Egypt and others.
An Egyptian official confirmed that the country was trying to broker a truce. But the official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was discussing sensitive diplomacy, said Israeli actions in Jerusalem had complicated those efforts. A Palestinian security official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed the cease-fire efforts.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, meanwhile, has warned that fighting could “continue for some time.”
Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus, an Israeli military spokesman, told reporters Tuesday that the military was in “the early stages” of strikes against Gaza targets that it had planned well in advance.
Israel carried out dozens of airstrikes, including two that targeted high-rise buildings where militants were believed to be hiding.
At midday, an airstrike hit an apartment building in central Gaza City. Local media said an unknown number of militants had been killed. But the force of the blast sent terrified residents, including women and children who were barefoot, running into the streets.
An earlier airstrike struck a high-rise elsewhere in Gaza City as people were conducting dawn prayers, residents said. Health officials said two men and a woman were killed. The woman’s 19-year-old disabled son was among the dead, residents said.
Ashraf al-Kidra, spokesman for the Gaza Health Ministry, said a total of 26 people were killed and 122 people were wounded. He said Israel’s “relentless assault” was overwhelming the health care system, which has been struggling with a COVID-19 outbreak.
The escalation comes at a time of political limbo in Israel.
Netanyahu has been acting as a caretaker prime minister since an inconclusive parliamentary election in March. He tried and failed to form a coalition government with his hard-line and ultra-Orthodox allies, and the task was handed to his political rivals last week.
One of those rivals is Israel’s defense minister, who is overseeing the Gaza campaign. It was not clear whether the toxic political atmosphere is spilling over into military decision-making, though the rival camps have unanimously expressed support for striking Hamas hard.
The support of an Arab-backed party with Islamist roots is key for the anti-Netanyahu bloc’s efforts. But the current tensions might deter the party’s leader, Mansour Abbas, from joining a coalition for now. The sides have three more weeks to reach a deal.
The violence has coincided with Ramadan
The current round of violence in Jerusalem coincided with the start of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan in mid-April.
Over the weekend, confrontations erupted at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, which is the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site in Judaism.
Over several days, Israel police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets at Palestinians in the compound who hurled stones and chairs. At times, police fired stun grenades into the carpeted mosque.
On Monday evening, Hamas began firing rockets from Gaza, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem. From there on, the escalation was rapid.
Conricus, the army spokesman, said Gaza militants fired more than 250 rockets at Israel, with about one-third falling short and landing in Gaza.
The army said that a rocket landed a direct hit on a seven-story apartment block in the coastal Israeli city of Ashkelon. Israeli paramedic service Magen David Adom said it treated six people injured in the rocket strike. Two were hospitalized in moderate condition.
Later, a second building in the city of Ashdod was hit, lightly wounding four people, Israeli police said.
Conricus said the military hit 130 targets in Gaza, including two tunnels militants were digging under the border with Israel. He said Israel’s new system of concrete barriers and electronic sensors, intended to thwart tunnel digging, has proven effective.
He did not address Gaza Health Ministry reports about the dead children.
In Gaza, most of the deaths were attributed to airstrikes. However, seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in an explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket.
Dozens of mourners took part in the funeral of Hussein Hamad, an 11-year-old boy who was among the dead.
More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.
Israel struck scores of Gaza homes in its 2014 war with Hamas, arguing it was aiming at militants, but also killing many civilians. The practice drew broad international condemnation at the time.
Israel’s tactics in Jerusalem have drawn angry reactions from the Muslim world.
Regional power house Saudi Arabia on Monday condemned in the strongest terms what it said were attacks by Israeli forces against the sanctity of Al-Aqsa and the safety of its worshippers. The Saudi Foreign Ministry called Tuesday on the international community to hold Israeli forces responsible for any escalation.
Laub reported from the West Bank. Associated Press writer Ilan Ben Zion contributed from Jerusalem.
Throughout my K-12 public school education, the term “Asian American” appeared only once: during my 11th grade history class when covering the bombing of Pearl Harbor. I squirmed uncomfortably in my chair as my classmates began to shift their gaze over to me, the only student of East Asian descent, as our teacher lectured about the aftermath of such a catastrophic event – the US government’s edict that put 112,000 Japanese Americans into internment camps. Although I was a New York-born Korean American, my classmates could not tell the difference, and I was not spared from stares riddled with judgment.
I wanted to be anything other than Asian
Growing up in the suburbs of New Jersey, I was made painfully aware of the fact that I was “non-white.” Although I was never bullied outright because of my race, the accumulation of microaggressive incidents drove home the message that I did not belong. From a young age, I realized that no matter how unique and different my lived experiences were, they would always be compared to the very limited Asian history to which my peers and acquaintances had access.
My “best friends” in middle school would be genuinely shocked when they saw the school’s only other female student of East Asian descent and mistake her for me – miraculously ‘healed’ from my disability. Due to my cerebral palsy, I’d usually use my wheelchair in school or, other times, walk with a noticeable limp and abnormal gait. So, the fact that they could not distinguish me from the other girl doubled the insult of the situation.
Soon after, I started to wear thick, dark eyeliner in an attempt to make my eyes look bigger and rid them of their slants. I tried to deceive people into thinking “Kim” was my middle name, and religiously suntanned my skin. I wanted so badly to erase my Asian heritage and appear more European. Although I was a first-generation Korean-American, such a distinction made no difference to my peers. No matter how much I tried to minimize my Asianness and assimilate into the Western culture, the “Asian” in “Asian American” would always weigh significantly more than “American.” It wasn’t “whiteness” I was striving for, but literally anything other than Asianness.
Those incidents cut deeper than the straightforward bullying I would receive because of my physical disability. I understood the concept of ableism before realizing that the microaggressions against my Asianness were, indeed, racism.
It was ingrained in me from a very young age that I ought to respect my elders (even when they were wrong), keep my head down, and work hard to fit in. To my family, the model minority “myth” was anything but a myth; it was something they’ve striven to embody. This mentality has made my father continuously tolerant of strangers saying “ching chong ting tong,” treating him like an imbecile, and mocking his “broken” English throughout his 30 years living in this country.
It was not until freshman orientation in college, after receiving an invitation to the students of color reception, that I realized that I was considered a “person of color”. I had spent the years prior feeling alone in being one of the few, if not the only, non-caucasian student in class. So seeing that invitation and knowing that such an affinity group existed immediately gave me a sense of belonging, perhaps for the first time in my life. Once I spotted other Asian American/Pacific Islander (AAPI) students at the event, I relaxed, assured that my presence was warranted.
Violence against Asian Americans continues
During the 19th and 20th centuries, Asian immigrants were subjected to villainization and horrendous racial violence. This instigated the creation of the “Asian American” identity during a time when racial justice was considered a black-and-white issue. Although Asian countries were often in conflict with each other, those who immigrated to America started to put their differences aside and stood together in solidarity. During the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the term “Asian American” was officially coined by student activists and helped shape decades of advocacy. Yet, none of this was included in my high school US history curriculum.
To most Americans, the recent uptick of violent hate crimes against Asian Americans comes as a surprise. Amid the rise in COVID-19 cases in the United States, there has been an increase in violence stemming from anti-Asian bigotry. Recently, such crimes have been targeted at the elderly in the AAPI community. It wasn’t until celebrities and influencers mobilized the #StopAsianHate social media campaign that mainstream news outlets started to cover these incidents more in-depth.
The ‘model minority’ myth
There is a deeply-rooted tradition in this country that sees everyone in the AAPI community as monolithic. All Asian Americans are seen as the ‘model minority’ – successful, hard-working, and largely wealthy. However, many communities in the Asian diaspora are subjected to extreme poverty levels in America, like the Nepalese, Micronesian, and Burmese.
As a former New York Magazine writer arrogantly demonstrated in a 2017 piece, the old, haggard trope of Asian Americans goes like this:
“Today, Asian-Americans are among the most prosperous, well-educated, and successful ethnic groups in America. What gives? It couldn’t possibly be that they maintained solid two-parent family structures, had social networks that looked after one another, placed enormous emphasis on education and hard work, and thereby turned false, negative stereotypes into true, positive ones, could it? It couldn’t be that all whites are not racists or that the American dream still lives?”
Although the passage is problematic on many levels, the most dangerous is its perpetual message of “hard work” and “overcoming hardships” which is central to the model minority myth. This stereotype harms the well-being and mental health of Asian Americans, who in addition to the hate crimes of the past year, faced prolonged unemployment. In the last three months of 2020, nearly half of Asian Americans who’ve lost jobs that year, stayed unemployed for 27 weeks or more – far longer than had white, Black, or Latinx Americans. And yet, Asian American job losses have gone unnoticed.
Not only does the myth diminish the real struggles that the AAPI community has continuously faced, it also systematically pits Asians against other minority racial groups, creating unnecessary tension and hatred.
However, no matter how much “whitening” there is of Asian Americans, we will never have the same rights and privileges as white Americans. Despite being born on American soil and living here all my life, I still get asked, to this day, “where are you really from?”
To the gaze of America, we will forever be “foreigners.”
It is not until the vastly different ethnicities and cultures in the Asian diaspora become recognized and accepted in this country that such racism will truly stop, and we will finally become “full Americans” in our own right.
When we are approximated to white Americans, our Asian American identities – full of rich history and unique practices – are erased and our struggles are illegimatized. It also intensifies the colorism among Asian Americans, pitting fair-skinned Asians against those with darker complexions, and ultimately dismantling the cohesive and diverse Asian American collective.
Asian Americans are a vastly diverse group of people, comprising dozens of nationalities, ethnicities, and religions, as well as different genders, (dis)abilities, education levels, and socioeconomic statuses. Not recognizing such diversity and erasing our identities is yet another form white supremacy, with too high a price tag.