Random attacks on elderly Asian Americans are being tied to former President Donald Trump’s assertion that the novel coronavirus is a “Chinese” disease.
The U.S. has seen a spike in crimes against a community that has become the victims of hate and rhetoric, a community already considered vulnerable and less likely to report crime, reported Eric Westervelt for NPR.org.
“Oftentimes, perpetrators have used the exact same language of the prior president, words like ‘Wuhan virus, kung flu, China virus, China plague,” said Dr. Manjusha Kulkarni, executive director of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council in Los Angeles County.
“And sometimes they have even weaponized the former president himself, saying ‘Trump is going to get you, go back to your country.’ What President Trump did was foment hate against Asian American communities and really put people in harm’s way…We need so much work to be done to undo some of the harm of the prior administration,” she added.
Bay Area cities have stepped up patrols in areas with a high Asian populace and have or are creating special command and response teams to combat the brazen daylight attacks.
“Why are you attacking me? Is it because I do not look like you? That’s what I felt as an Asian American watch-ing the events unfolding before my eyes against my fellow Asians,” said Tu Tran from inside his San Quentin prison cell. “I saw my elderly parents, my friend’s elderly parents, our innocent brothers and sisters being shoved, robbed, and killed, all be-cause people have allowed their humanity to become dark with racial hate.
Many ethnic groups have responded sympathetically to the plight of Asian Americans who have been attacked.
Watching the events in the Asian communities unfold from my prison cell was upsetting. It hurts my heart to know that some-one died for no other reason than his or her ethnicity,” said SQ resident Mark Hensley, who is White.
Attacks on elderly Asian Americans have become problematic across U.S. cities.
“These attacks taking place in the Bay Area are part of a larger trend of anti-Asian American/Pacific-Islander hate brought on in many ways by COVID-19, as well as some of the xenophobic policies and racist rhetoric that were pushed forward by the prior administration,” said Dr. Kulkarni.
“People are always blaming others out of pure ignorance and fear. This virus affected us all in multiple ways. Hate of the Asian community, when there is not one Asian American who isn’t suffering [as much] as every other American, is insane,” said African-American SQ resident Anthony “Habib” Watkins.
President Joe Biden recently signed a memorandum pledging to combat anti-Asian and Pacific Isander discrimination in his racial equity-focused executive orders, reported Westervelt.
Nearly 3,000 incidents of hate crimes against older Asian Americans have been reported across 47 states and the District of Columbia according to the NPR.org report.
“We carry another burden [being] viewed as ‘perpetual foreigners’ and not truly ‘American,’” said San Francisco attorney Dale Minami to SFGate.com in an email interview.
For a group of Asian/Pacific Islander Americans who are already experiencing racism, the attacks on the elderly paint a daunting portrait of life in the community.
“I think there’s always been racial violence against Asian Americans, especially against the elderly,” said Chinese American lawyer Rina Wang. “I think it’s been exacerbated in COVID, but we’ve certainly seen this before the pandemic.”
The words “are you attacking me because I don’t look like you” have become the call for support among some incarcerated people here in San Quentin as a show of solidarity against racism and violence.
“My hope during these unfortunate times is that our prison community of brothers and sisters of all races embraces those words to bring healing to an already divided system that perpetuates stereotypes within an environment in need of healing,” said SQ resident Michael Moore.