Editor’s Note: This article contains mention of racism, anti-Asian sentiments and violence.
This past summer, as quarantine regulations were relaxing a bit, my Vietnamese mother returned home one day in a daze. She had just finished a visit to the doctor’s office and relayed to me what had happened. While sitting in the waiting room, aimlessly flipping through a magazine, she noticed a white mother giving wary glares her way from a few seats over. It was not before long that the woman proceeded to whisper in her toddler’s ear and relocate to another seat on the opposite end of the room.
As I reflected on how the simple existence of an Asian middle-aged woman in a clinic could bring about such disdain in another human being, this particular encounter began to resonate with me on a deeper level.
The pandemic has sparked a massive wave of bigotry and violence against the Asian community in the United States, a crisis that most people are largely not aware of, but need to be. Though my mother’s experience could be considered a mild example, it was a significant confrontation that could open the door to dangerous others.
Anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City increased by 1900% in the first ten months of 2020, and the scale of these attacks is only increasing.
Recently, in late January of 2021, an 84-year-old Thai man, Vicha Ratanapakdee, was attacked in broad daylight while on a walk in San Francisco. He was found on the sidewalk by police officers and taken to the hospital with life-threatening injuries. He passed away two days later.
In another case, in Oakland’s Chinatown, a 91-year-old Asian man was violently pushed down in a disturbing attack on January 31st. The same perpetrator is suspected of committing at least two other assaults on Asian elders that same day.
The list continues in San Jose, where a 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman was assaulted and robbed of $1,000 in cash she had taken out for the upcoming Lunar New Year Celebration. A time of celebrating luck and participating in rejuvenating festivities. A time where Asians are expected to revere their ancestors instead of mourning their elders.
As disheartening as it is, these examples barely skim the surface of the issue, and many attacks still remain yet to be publicized. They are occurring all across the United States, even in our own backyard.
For example, on the morning of Lunar New Year, four Asian-owned businesses in Columbia, Maryland were burglarized and robbed in a racially-targeted strike. Establishments such as Urban Hot Pot, Kung Fu Tea and BonChon were targeted while non-Asian businesses in the surrounding area were left undisturbed.
These racially-motivated hate crimes are ongoing and require immediate increased media coverage, both at a local and national level. When these attacks first started, and the severity of the situation became abundantly clear, there was an acknowledgement of this crisis across many personal and promotional social media accounts. However, these accounts lack the reach to spread national awareness.
Most recently, NBC Nightly News managed to shed some light upon the state of this anti-Asian violence, with a national report on the crisis that was conducted on February 27. Although this was a notable step in the right direction, the length of time it took for such a major news outlet to focus their attention on the Asian-American community, and the failures of others to do so, is concerning.
It should not have to take 3000+ hate crimes and increasing death tolls for news channels such as NBC to become involved. The earlier the call to action, the better and safer our community will be. The earlier the spread of awareness, the more support we can gather and the quicker we can end this violence.
The chaos that this virus has wreaked upon the world has brought to light inequalities and divides that live and thrive in our own neighborhoods. We must acknowledge this horrific violence and the racism that threatens our Asian-American communities, and as a result our unity as an entire country.
In support of the victims and those living in fear of these attacks, we must bring justice and peace. This starts with media attention, as only an increased awareness can bring this issue to the table of our government leaders and to the minds of all American citizens so we can end this violence.
Written by Opinions Columnist Vivian Pham.