Harvard PhD Students Create Map Displaying Anti-Asian Aggression in Boston, NYC

Harvard PhD students

Two Harvard University Ph.D. students have created a crowdsourced map displaying anti-Asian aggression in Boston and New York amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

The map, which was created by Boram Lee and Ja Young Choi using Google “My Maps,” shows more than 40 markers that represent verbal and/or physical aggression towards Asian Americans in Boston and New York, according to Boston Globe.

“I’ve been in Cambridge for six years,” Lee, an international Ph.D. political science student from Korea, said. “And I’ve never seen this before at this level.”

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The co-creator hopes that by shedding light on these incidents and microaggressions that often go unheard of that the victims will feel empowered to share their experience.

“We don’t set a too-high bar for complaints,” Choi, a Korean Ph.D. student who is studying neuroscience, said. “Our goal is not to get them direct help. It’s more for if I, as someone who feels vulnerable to this type of aggression, want an outlet to make my voice heard. If there’s enough information about what happened and where and when, then we would record it.”

In order for the attacks to be recorded on the map, victims will have to submit a Google form asking several details of the incident. The co-creators would then pinpoint the location on the map themselves without revealing any of the private information of the sender.

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Details of the incident required in the form include when, what and where it happened, the number of people the victim was with during the incident, if it was reported to the police, if the victim was wearing a mask at the time, and the victim’s nationality. Those who submit their forms can also add video clips, pictures or any links related to the attack. The intended purpose of the questions is to show the extent of the discrimination and how victim-blaming would prove ineffective based on location, class or which ethnic group the person belonged to.

The map was originally focused in Boston, but the creators have since expanded its reach to New York City after a request. To make it even more accessible, they enlisted the help of their friends to look through new submissions and translate the text into various East Asian languages.

Boston Globe reported that the map’s potential continues to grow as many people on social media as well as local Asian advocacy groups are expressing interest in it. However, Lee never intended to use the project for academic research. Instead, “she’s focusing on her original goal: to quote the project’s findings in a letter to Harvard administrators, who she hopes will issue concrete measures or a statement of support for affected students.”

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“Me and [Harvard’s] government department, the program I’m in, were trying to draft a letter,” Lee said. “This data could make the letter a little bit more credible or a little bit more compelling.”

Feature Image via Google My Maps

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