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Decorative lanterns hang above Mott street in Manhattan’s Chinatown district before the start of the Chinese Lunar New Year, New York, NY, February 9, 2021.
© 2021 Photo by Anthony Behar/Sipa via AP Images
Cities across the United States are seeing numerous unprovoked attacks against Asian-Americans, particularly older people, according to a new study by a coalition documenting and addressing anti-Asian hate and discrimination.
On January 28 in San Francisco, 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee was knocked to the ground and killed while walking in his neighborhood. There have been over 20 attacks in Oakland’s Chinatown in the past two weeks that the local Chamber of Commerce considered to be targeted against Asians. On January 31, an assailant violently knocked a 91-year-old man to the ground and later attacked an older man and woman. On February 3 in New York City, Noel Quintana, 61, was slashed across the face, and on the same day in Oakland, a 71-year-old grandmother was knocked to the ground while crossing the street and robbed.
Such attacks are not new. On Twitter, the hashtag #VincentChin has surfaced, highlighting historical anti-Asian xenophobia and racism fueled by the US auto industry decline of the 1980s, leading to the murder of Chinese American Vincent Chin in Detroit by two men who blamed Asians for their losing their jobs. Neither served prison time.
Former President Donald Trump fueled anti-Asian sentiment during the Covid-19 pandemic by using discriminatory rhetoric to describe the coronavirus, and may have contributed to the racist and violent attacks across the United States. Between March and December 2020, the coalition Stop AAPI Hate documented over 2,800 anti-Asian hate incidents nationwide.
Shortly after taking office, President Joe Biden signed a memorandum denouncing the Trump administration’s discriminatory sentiments directed at the Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and to better combat anti-Asian racism. As the new administration and local governments turn their attention towards this human rights issue, they should look to local efforts to combat anti-Asian violence and reimagine community safety.
Community and political leaders need to continue speaking up and denouncing these violent acts, and officials need to ensure those who carry out criminal offenses are held to account.
Various community organizations have raised funds to support victims. Activists have called for increased investment in community-led programs and for attention to the factors that prevent Asian Americans, particularly older people, from feeling safe in their communities.
Federal and local agencies need to do more work with communities to combat racism. The richest country in the world should not leave its most vulnerable communities to fend for themselves, especially during a major crisis.