A shocking video taken in Oakland, California’s Chinatown, showing a 91-year-old man shoved face-first into the sidewalk, has been widely circulated over the past few weeks. This attack has left the community on high alert during a time when anti-Asian hate crimes are on the rise. Other attacks, too, such as one that led to the death of the 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco, have reinvigorated the outrage and hurt that Asian communities felt at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. “When President Trump began and insisted on using the term ‘China virus,’ we saw that hate speech really led to hate violence,” said Russell Jeung, chair of the Asian American studies department at San Francisco State University and one of the leaders of Stop AAPI Hate. “That sort of political rhetoric and that sort of anti-Asian climate has continued to this day.”
“When I first saw the video [of the man being attacked in Oakland], I was just sad,” said Alexis Koehl, vice president of Hope College’s Asian Student Union. “It was very upsetting to see and disappointing since they have been happening since the beginning of the pandemic especially when the people targeted are the communities’ elderly.” Koehl is a sophomore pursuing a degree in biology.
“This may be the first time you are hearing about this violence if you are not following Asian American news because the mainstream media does not spotlight our stories,” said civil rights activist Amanda Nguyễn. “Racism kills.” NYPD data showed in September that there has been a 1,900 percent increase in anti-Asian hate crimes in New York City in the past year–there were 20 incidents in the first half of 2020 alone, compared to 1 in the entirety of 2019.
In response to this worrying spike, a widespread effort called #EnoughisEnough in New York City has formed, led by a group of prominent New York City Asian-American chefs and restaurant owners. The group focuses on donating meals to homeless centers, specifically ones located in areas such as Chinatown with large Asian-American populations, as well as areas like Harlem and the Bronx, which have African American and Latinx populations. “We want to empower people who feel like their opinions don’t matter,” said chef and owner of East Village Taiwanese restaurant 886 Eric Sze. “Sometimes in Asian cultures, it’s nailed into your head that your voice doesn’t matter and that you have to conform. But this needs to change and we need to inspire more people to speak out, not just in the food industry, but in the fashion industry, and in tech as well.”
What can Hope College do to help? “We can spread awareness to break the silence surrounding the racism towards the Asian community,” says Koehl. “We also need to educate ourselves and recognize the need for solidarity and allyship.”