Asian Americans in the U.S. are growing in numbers—and in resilience.
According to the U.S. census, the Asian American population in the U.S. went up 6.3% over the last decade. In San Francisco alone, the population jumped from a little over 805,000 in 2000 to more than 873,000 in 2019.
But crimes against Asian Americans also spiked, especially during the pandemic. The FBI reports hate crimes increased significantly last year. Specifically, anti-Asian hate crimes went up more than 73 percent in 2020. Additionally, The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino found a 164% increase in reports of anti-Asian hate crimes in the first quarter of 2021, compared with the same period last year—with a 140% change in San Francisco. It was a struggle, and heartbreaking for many to see and be wary of.
“While I didn’t face any violence or hostility to me personally, it was a period of high stress, frustration and anger knowing it was happening to others, and the fear that it could happen to me anytime,” said Tim Horn, director of station operations at Alaska Airlines in San Francisco.
This Lunar New Year represents so much more for many in the Bay area: courage, strength and boldness. There have been wins alongside the struggles, like raising DEI awareness and funds, such as California dedicating $10 million towards the nonprofit Stop AAPI Hate.
“After this past year, Lunar New Year means an opportunity to turn the page and make adjustments and new commitments toward my goal of living the best version of myself that I can,” Horn said.
Elmer Tosta, a customer service agent at SFO, is eager to celebrate—privately and publicly—with festivities, fireworks and food. He hopes the new year will be kind. “Hope and optimism are what I’m thinking about as we approach this new Lunar Year,” he said. “This isn’t limited to thoughts about the pandemic possibly being behind us, but also about prosperity, health, and good fortune for our families, neighbors, communities, and workplaces.
Horn hopes we can all turn a new leaf together, as the 2022 Alaska Airlines Chinese New Year Parade float, complete with marching bands, fighting lion and dragon dances and more, comes through the city. The return of the float is a thoughtful symbol of revival.
“The float also makes me proud to work for a company that makes such a bold commitment in one of its hub cities,” Tosta said of San Francisco’s 35 percent Asian American population. “Alaska’s contribution says a lot about their strong support for diverse cultures through this public display.”
Equity and inclusion remain top of mind. Meantime, there will be many additional events in Chinatown and SF. And, Horn will be helping his own team learn more about Lunar New Year in several ways, from communications to visual displays and savory delights—using his knowledge for good.
“And of course, through yummy potlucks that delight our taste buds and also educate us on ethnic foods,” he added.