#StopAAPI Hate: Social Justice, Journalism & Curation Through Social Media
On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings took place in the Atlanta area; the majority of victims were women of Asian descent. Though these events were a shock to some, they were nothing new to Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. What role did mainstream journalism, social media, and the curation of both those things play into this contrast in reaction?
For starters, since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, anti-Asian sentiments and hate crimes have been on the rise. According to the Stop AAPI Hate reporting center’s national report on hate crimes against AAPI, there have been almost 4,000 reported hate incidents between March 2020 and February of this year. However, just because mainstream focus is now being directed at the issues the AAPI community faces, like all BIPOC communities, what they face didn’t start with the pandemic.
However, writing for The Marshall Project, Michelle Pitcher interviewed Oakland activist Carl Chan, who believes that “at least 80% of incidents go unreported” due to fear of retaliation and, culturally, of the shame that comes with being labelled a victim.
Kavitha Rajagopalan, community engagement manager at the Center for Community Media at City University of New York’s Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism, spoke to Natasha Ishak for Nieman Lab, saying: “Asian communities in particular remain invisible in traditional media … But Asian community media have been covering the many crises that now seem to be coming to a head for decades.”
Social media was the site of many pointing out that coverage of this — as well as other hate incidents and crimes against AAPI — was sorely lacking.
At first, curating which coverage was and wasn’t accurate or insensitive presented a challenge.
Korean news outlets, like The Korean Daily and the Korea Times, focused their reporting on learning more about the victims’ identities and the shooter’s motivations instead of skirting around or ignoring them, as Ishak points out.
Jeong Park, a reporter for The Sacramento Bee, told Ishak: “The first thing that’s very noticeable is who they’re choosing to quote.”
Social media users like Park were key in curating a good deal of this coverage, as well as translating parts of it into English for some users. In this way, social media has not only helped uplift the issues facing the AAPI community to others, but has also served as a way for users to become more educated on those issues.
Even when this information is shared through traditional mediums, like television, social media platforms, like YouTube, and the algorithms on them can help users view content like Bowen Yang’s appearance on Saturday Night Live to talk about the rise of anti-AAPI hate crimes.
Hashtags are a great way for users to keep discussions on and information about these issues organized, as well as to show their support.
Curation of social media through use of things like hashtags also plays a role in users’ ability to lift up sources of information they trust. There are also many ways social media provides for non-AAPI people to put themselves in these shoes, including podcasts.
Social media also provides accessibility to this information — and to firsthand accounts from people who are directly affected by it — so that those who don’t live in communities with high AAPI populations are.
Even if information is widely spread, it’s not necessarily reliable, though. As the old saying goes: Just because it’s on the Internet doesn’t mean it’s true. There is a unique kind of demand for self-discipline in spaces where information like this is being shared on social media.
If there’s one thing we do know, at least, it’s that social media can be a powerful tool for platforming voices that otherwise might not have been heard through community-drive curation.
For better or worse, the things the most people care about will rise to the top of trending lists and perform well in algorithms. When those things are social justice-related, movements like #StopAAPIHate have shown us their potential to become powerful tools for change.