The morning after the Atlanta spa shootings, a man beaten an elderly Asian woman on San Francisco’s Market Street in a seemingly unprovoked attack.
In recent months, the Asian-American community in the San Francisco Bay Area has been inundated with reports of attacks like these, from robberies to robberies to deadly assaults.
So when eight people, six of whom were Asian women, died after a shooter searched three Asian-owned businesses in the Atlanta area, many in the Bay Area Asian-American community were very familiar with the pain. and the fear that followed.
“It’s so stupid,” said Betty Louie, a consultant for the San Francisco Chinatown Merchants Association. “I am capable. I’m fine, I’m safe. But I am afraid to go do my afternoon walk. I don’t feel safe anywhere right now. “
Police investigators warned it was too early to determine whether the shooting was racially motivated. But for many, the shooting in Georgia was not tragically surprising, the expected culmination of the rampant hatred against Asians across the country that is only now making its way into the public consciousness. “We knew it was only going to get worse and it was only a matter of time before something like this happened,” said Max Leung, a local community organizer.
The shooting took place on the same day that Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit coalition, released a report documenting nearly 3,800 hate incidents against Asia during the pandemic, a number that experts believe is only a fraction of the actual total. . . California, the state with the largest Asian population, had the highest percentage of reported incidents, at 1,691.
In the Bay Area, an 84-year-old Thai, Vicha Ratanapakdee, was killed in an apparently unprovoked attack in San Francisco at the end of January. Several elderly Asians were attacked in Oakland’s Chinatown in February. And last week, a 75-year-old Hong Kong man died in Oakland after being mugged and assaulted by a man who police say had a history of victimizing elderly Asians.
San Francisco police said Wednesday they had arrested three men suspected of assaulting a 67-year-old man inside a laundromat in Chinatown last month. The city police department said it would increase patrols in Asian neighborhoods.
In San Francisco’s Chinatown, where foot traffic is slowly beginning to return after a year of shelter-in-place and pandemic-related economic downturn, local merchants have a WeChat channel where they warn each other of perceived dangers and robberies and imminent assaults.
For Jennifer, a Chinatown store owner who asked not to reveal her last name out of fear for her safety, that was really all they could do to protect each other. Her own store has been raided multiple times in snatch and grab attacks – a group of children would walk in and overwhelm her and then run out of items before she could stop them. When he called the police, there were never any repercussions.
“I was so scared,” he said. “I feel desperate. Even when you call the police, it doesn’t work. How you feel? No one can help you. I’m trying to get a gun license. I need something here. I don’t know what I’ll do. “
For many in the community, the frustrating part is that crimes like these robberies are not defined as hate crimes, even though the community has seen the same people return to Chinatown to rob the same stores and ultimately head to a certain population. In Oakland, prosecutors recently charged a man in connection with the murder of a 75-year-old Hong Kong man who police say “has a history of victimizing elderly Asians.” “They know the Chinese, they know the old men on Stockton Street, they know they can’t defend themselves,” Jennifer said.
“At this point, I started to realize this: nothing is fair,” Jennifer said. “You just have to defend yourself. All Chinese, you just have to get together and do something. “
At the start of the pandemic, Leung founded the SF Peace Collective to patrol Chinatown and protect older people and women who were under attack. Although many speak about hatred in terms of the pandemic and the anti-Asian rhetoric of the “kung flu” and the “China virus”, Leung said the violence had started long before March 2020.
After the shooting, he felt numb, he said.
“There are no more tears left to cry,” Leung said. “I am crying inside now. One of my friends said it best yesterday: she said she feels lonely. Even at these Asian solidarity rallies and marches, it’s just us. The community feels so alone and so vulnerable. “
Leung is fed up with the mental gymnastics people go through not to recognize when Asians experience hatred. “The fact that he claimed to have a sex addiction and yet targeted only Asian sex workers tells me that he fetishized Asian women,” Leung said of the Atlanta shooting. “This is all racist.”
A few weeks ago, a gun was pointed at Leung while patrolling Chinatown. You are receiving death threats. You are afraid to leave your home, but you know you have to, so when you do, you do it with great anxiety.
“I’m tired,” Leung said. “I am tired of having to show that we face discrimination. I’m tired of having to prove that we belong I’m tired of having to show that we are allies. I’m tired of having to apologize for talking. I’m tired of being fired with gas. I’m tired of blaming the victims of the Olympics for oppression. I’m tired of thinking of others while no one else thinks of us. I am tired of having to internalize the pain. I am so tired “.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism