How to Support San Diego’s Asian-American Pacific Islander Community Right Now

There’s no place for hate in San Diego.

In the days since the mass shootings at Atlanta massage parlors, we’ve seen an outpouring of shock, anger, and grief for the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community, who were the target of an anti-Asian hate crime that left eight people dead, six of them women of Asian descent.

Unfortunately, anti-Asian hate crimes have been on the rise since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting group created in response, released a report that showed a total of 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate in the United States from March 19 to December 31, 2020. Incidents ranged from verbal harassment and avoidance to physical assault, with women being targeted 2.5 times more than men, and 7.3% incidents involving victims over 60 years of age.

In San Diego County, the AAPI community makes up 12% of our population, representing more than 400,000 citizens and an estimated 30,000 AAPI-owned businesses, according to the San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG). As fellow San Diegans, we must stand in support of our Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander friends, neighbors, co-workers, family, and community members and condemn all forms of anti-Asian hate. It’s time to denounce the xenophobic, coronavirus-related rhetoric of 2020 and become real advocates for a community that truly helps make San Diego America’s Finest City. Here are seven ways you can uplift San Diego’s AAPI communities right now:

Support local nonprofits and community organizations

Asian Pacific Islander American Public Affairs (APAPA) San Diego is a grassroots, non-political nonprofit that promotes increased AAPI civic participation through education and voter registration, leadership programs for secondary school and college students, and fellowship/mentorship opportunities for adults to prepare them for judicial, appointed, and elected office. The Asian Pacific American Coalition (APAC) seeks to improve the quality of life for AAPI with education, empowerment through voter involvement and engagement by support of AAPI cultural and educational events. Volunteering for either organization is a great first step if you want to become an advocate for the AAPI community through community service, or donate if you are able.

Patronize AAPI-owned restaurants and bars 

One of the easiest ways to support San Diego’s AAPI community is to spend your dollars at AAPI-owned restaurants and bars. The Convoy Pan Asian Cultural and Business Innovation District is a great place to start, but other areas of the city have their own unique enclaves. Little Saigon is home to Pho Hoa, Tita’s Kitchenette is a Plaza Boulevard-area favorite and Mira Mesa is the destination for Bolsa and Filipino fast food at Jollibee. Sweeten the pot by buying gift cards for friends or yourself, grabbing some merch and of course, tipping generously.

For a comprehensive list of Asian-owned restaurants in San Diego, check out HelpAsianBiz, a website created by North Coast high school senior Kaia Culotta. Thrillist spoke to Culotta about her inspiration for taking on the project. “I first started hearing news stories last year about Asians facing discrimination because some people were unjustly connecting them to the origins of the coronavirus. Because of this, some people were deliberately avoiding Asian-owned small businesses, which were already struggling because of pandemic restrictions” she stated, explaining further, “As someone who's very proud of my Asian heritage and whose grandparents owned a small business, I was inspired to help. I realized there was no easily accessible list of Asian-owned restaurants in San Diego, so I decided to create one.” 

Using a free online course, Culotta spent roughly 300 hours teaching herself to code, earning certification in Responsive Web Design before creating the web page. With help from the Asian Business Association of San Diego, she researched and linked restaurants across San Diego County, grouping them by geographic area such as City of San Diego, Coast, North County and others. To contribute a restaurant to the project, use the link on the HelpAsianBiz home page.

Shop at AAPI-owned grocery and retail stores

Get sushi-grade tuna, fresh wasabi root and tubs of miso at Marukai Market, then walk across the parking lot to Marukai Living for an amazing variety of cosmetics, porcelain, and electronics, or wander the aisles of Marukai Value for hard-to-find Hawaiian snacks, boruto body pillows, and unique flavors of Twix and Spam. Zion Market specializes in Korean food and houses the excellent Paris Baguette bakery, while Vĩnh Hưng features Vietnamese pantry staples, specialty cuts of meat and banh bao.

Support AAPI arts and entertainment 

The San Diego arts and cultural scene wouldn’t be the same without the contributions of organizations like Pacific Arts Movement, whose flagship event, the San Diego Asian Film Festival, takes place in Fall 2021 and is currently accepting submissions. Support them by volunteering, donating and/or purchasing tickets for the SDAFF and other showcases

Report hate crimes

All hate-based harassment and other incidents, regardless of severity, should be reported and if you or someone else is in immediate danger, call local authorities to report it as soon as poosible. Visit Stop AAPI Hate and Asian Americans Advancing Justice to report an incident of anti-Asian hate, which helps them gather data for further efforts in educational resources, policies, and protection.

Learn how to intervene safely

We’ve all seen videos of Asian Americans and other minorities on the receiving end of public harassment in stores, on public transportation, and on the street, with bystanders casually watching it happen. You may want to offer help, but you’re understandably afraid. You know who else is afraid? The person being bullied, intimidated, and humiliated. But how can you intervene safely? Hollaback! is a grassroots initiative to raise awareness of and combat street harassment while avoiding directly confronting the aggressor. They’ve put together a free guide for bystander intervention and a free interactive, virtual bystander intervention and de-escalation training, including youth training, online, voter, sexual, police-sponsored, and other harassment situations.

Check in on your friends

Don’t assume that your friends are okay just because they aren’t talking to you about AAPI violence. Reach out in a call, a text, or arrange a safely distanced visit and let them know that you care about their wellbeing and safety. Tell them you’re available if they feel unsafe or need to talk. Be the ally they need right now.

Mary Beth Abate is a San Diego-based freelance writer by way of Chicago and Los Angeles. Her hobbies include yoga, pickling and fermenting stuff, reading cookbooks and drinking fabulous gin. Keep up with her experiments @MaryBeth_Abate.