Credit: Erich Martin, ACLU


Credit: Erich Martin, ACLU

Stop The Blame is a national campaign aimed at confronting the recent surge of anti-Asian scapegoating in American politics. More and more political leaders are reacting to escalating tensions between the U.S. and Chinese governments by promoting anti-Asian rhetoric, discriminatory surveillance measures, and unconstitutional land ownership bans. These actions wrongly conflate the Chinese government with ordinary Asian people who have nothing to do with it — ultimately fueling hate, racism, and discrimination against countless innocent people.

It is possible for our leaders to address legitimate national security threats without inflaming anti-Asian racism and discrimination. But in an effort to score political points and rile up voters, many politicians continue to cross the line. They’re over sensationalizing threats and using misinformation to direct blame towards Asian people for economic, national security, and public health issues.

What is anti-Asian scapegoating?

Anti-Asian scapegoating — or the act of unfairly casting blame on Asians and Asian Americans for societal issues out of their control –- is a political tactic used to manipulate voters by deflecting attention from legitimate problems and swaying public opinion against an alleged common “enemy.”

–  The Blame Game, How Political Rhetoric Inflames Anti-Asian Scapegoating (2022)

Since 2020, Stop AAPI Hate has received thousands of hate act reports that involve anti-Asian scapegoating. This includes acts of hate where Asian Americans were blamed for the COVID-19 pandemic, harassed to “go back to China,” and accused of “spying for the Chinese government” or “stealing jobs and sending U.S. dollars back to China.”

This campaign aims to mobilize thousands of everyday people to take action against anti-Asian scapegoating. We will:

  • Hold leaders accountable for racist anti-Asian political rhetoric. Research shows a strong connection between anti-Asian political rhetoric and anti-Asian hate in the U.S. For example, in the week after former President Donald Trump first used the phrase “Chinese virus” online in March 2020, Twitter hashtags expressing anti-Asian sentiment increased by 174 times.
  • Oppose unconstitutional land ownership bans targeting Chinese and other immigrants. Lawmakers federally and in at least 33 states have proposed more than 80 land ownership bans that target Chinese people. An increasing number of legislation applies to not just the Chinese Communist Party, but also innocent Chinese immigrants who have nothing to do with the Chinese government. This is blatantly discriminatory and unconstitutional.
  • Urge Congress to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to address harms on Asian American communities. Section 702 of FISA allows the government to acquire the communications of non-Americans located outside of the United States without a warrant. But as currently written and interpreted, it leaves the door open to unfettered, warrantless surveillance that encroaches on the privacy of everyday Americans — including innocent South Asian, Muslim, and Chinese Americans.
  • Educate the wider public about the history and dangers of anti-Asian scapegoating. The United States has a long history of treating Asian Americans as “perpetual foreigners” and unfairly scapegoating Asian communities as threats based on our race, ethnicity, religion, or ancestry. Understanding mistakes of the past is critical to ensure the darkest parts of our history are not repeated.

History is repeating itself

Anti-Asian scapegoating dates back to the earliest chapters of U.S. history — from the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, to the Alien Land Laws that swept across states in the 19th and 20th centuries, to Japanese Incarceration during WWII, to the Supreme Court’s 1922 ruling excluding Asian people from U.S. citizenship.

These anti-Asian policies, coupled with anti-Asian political rhetoric, has fueled hate against innocent Asian people for centuries. Multiple Chinatowns were systematically burned down in the 1800s and 1900s. A violent mob attacked, harassed and robbed Chinese residents in Los Angeles in 1871, murdering 19 people in a racial massacre. And amid a backdrop of anti-Japanese political rhetoric in 1982, Chinese American Vincent Chin was brutally beaten to death by two autoworkers in Michigan who mistook him for Japanese and unfairly blamed him for the loss of American jobs. More recently, the events of 9/11 led to increased and widespread discrimination and surveillance of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian Americans.

Throughout the years, these actions have been deemed racist and un-American — and many discriminatory laws and measures were either struck down in courts or repealed by state legislatures across the country. But despite the lessons history has offered, we’re experiencing a resurgence of anti-Asian scapegoating today. Our political leaders are repeating the same mistakes of our past.

As modern-day anti-Asian scapegoating gains traction in U.S. politics today, Asian American communities are in increasing danger. We must take action now to ensure our safety and protect our shared American values of equal rights and opportunity for all.