Published March 23, 2021

Hate crimes are taking a fearsome toll on American society—especially on citizens who bear the brunt of them. How can authorities better protect Asian and Pacific Islander communities? Are civil rights undergoing new erosions in the U.S. or are they gaining strength? Rutgers experts and newsmakers offer perspective across the media landscape.

Violence and harassment aimed at Asian Americans grabbed national attention in a particularly horrifying way last week after a gunman killed eight people, most of them women of Asian descent. While police and community advocates point out that racist incidents against Asians and Pacific Islanders have risen in the past year, the numbers are probably even higher, as many victims fear reporting such incidents. Ronald Chen NLAW’83, a Rutgers law professor and co-founder of Jersey Promise, a policy and advocacy organization for Asian Americans, tells WHYY, “To get people to report [racist incidents], members of the community have to trust that the public institutions are going to protect them and are going to help them. There isn’t that level of trust, particularly in the immigrant Asian community.”

WHYY | Advocates say reluctance to report anti-Asian harassment stems from mistrust

The election of Kamala Harris as vice president has made the eventual election of a woman as president more likely, something other countries have far more experience with. Kelly Dittmar GSNB’12, an associate professor of political science at Rutgers University–Camden and director of research at Rutgers’ Center for American Women and Politics, says the structure of our government makes it harder to elect women to high office. “We have a very candidate-centered electoral system that amplifies the stereotypical challenges,” Dittmar tells CNBC. “The presidency…continues to give power and value to masculine traits.”

CNBC | Feminist activists are eager to build on Kamala Harris’ ascent to vice president

“Mail-in voting made a huge difference for people with disabilities,” says a USA Today story citing the work of Rutgers experts. “Bills abolishing it could hinder access for tens of millions of voters across the country, according to Lisa Schur and Doug Kruse, professors in the Rutgers University School of Management and Labor Relations. They have both been studying the effects of voting legislation on people with disabilities.” The article includes the researchers’ findings that “people with disabilities faced far fewer difficulties with voting in 2020 because of mail-in voting [offered due to the pandemic], with 75 percent utilizing that option.”

USA Today | ‘Dangerous for democracy’: Why these GOP state legislatures want to restrict voting rights

Newsday publishes a first-person account of what it was like to participate in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial at Rutgers–New Brunswick. Although the essay doesn’t hold back about uncomfortable aspects of medical trials, author Melissa Connolly, vice president for university relations at Hofstra University, also conveys the positive side. “What I felt in the days after I drove away from New Brunswick can only be described as elation,” says Connolly, who also describes a poignant post-trial phone conversation in which she learned she was given a placebo. “This doctor had stayed long into the evening to deliver this news to me. Thanks to scientists like him…and to all of us willing to roll up our sleeves…we might see the other end of this.”

Newsday | My shot of hope

Researchers at Rutgers School of Dental Medicine have found that two types of mouthwash can disrupt the COVID-19 virus under laboratory conditions, preventing it from replicating in a human cell. Daniel Fine, chair of the school’s Department of Oral Biology, says that further studies are needed to determine if mouthwash can slow the spread of the coronavirus outside of the lab. “The ultimate goal would be to determine whether rinsing two or three times a day with an antiseptic agent with active antiviral activity would have the potential to reduce the ability to transmit the disease,” Fine tells ROI-NJ.’

ROI-NJ | Study: Certain mouthwashes might stop COVID-19 transmission

A Forbes article on the role of coercion and control in domestic violence features insight from Rutgers University–Newark professor emeritus Evan Stark, a leading expert on the subject. The magazine cites Stark’s “groundbreaking work on coercive control” and its “major impact on approaches to domestic abuse around the world,” including legal reforms. “We need a law that punishes offenders at the same level that we would punish people that take hostages, or kidnap people,” says Stark, “because what we’re really dealing with, although the analogy’s by no means perfect, is a kind of domestic terrorism.”

Forbes | Domestic violence: Coercion and control equates to a loss of liberty, sense of self and dignity for women

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