After a week of accountability for police, Anti-Asian hate still persists nationwide
The Senate recently passed a bill to combat Anti-Asian hate, but the battle is still uphill for Asian communities across the U.S. and the nation as a whole.
In recent weeks, the nation has shifted its focus from anti-Asian violence towards the ongoing epidemic of police brutality against people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement, as it waited impatiently for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial.
All oppression is interconnected, and no one cause is inherently more worthy than another, but COVID-19 related violence, discrimination and harassment against Asian-Americans still remains a pressing crisis.
While being tuned in and taking action concerning every single social justice issue occurring within your own country and elsewhere is emotionally exhausting, there is always something to do, and staying informed is a great start.
On Friday, April 23, a 61-year-old Asian man named Yao Pan Ma was physically attacked in New York City along Third Avenue and East 125th Street around 8:20 p.m.
Ma was collecting cans in the area when a male assailant emerged seemingly out of nowhere, striking him from behind and knocking him to the ground.
The perpetrator then kicked Ma in the head multiple times. A witness, Armetha Knight, came forward to describe the attack in an interview with the New York Daily News.
“He was minding his business with his shopping cart,” 37-year-old Knight reported. “When he got to the scaffolding, an African-American man attacked him from behind.”
“He hit him from behind and then curb-stomped him,” Knight continued.
Fortunately, a bus driver observed Ma lying on the ground unconscious, and immediately called the NYPD. The department’s Hate Crimes Unit is currently investigating.
61-year-old Yao Pan Ma fighting for his life. Ma's niece says he immigrated to New York 2 years ago, moved to Harlem after their Chinatown apartment burned down, recently lost his job to COVID. Collecting cans was how he helped support his family. #StopAsianHate https://t.co/s83uNRlkhD pic.twitter.com/tCyMdMtPXp
— CeFaan Kim (@CeFaanKim) April 25, 2021
According to the police description of the suspect, he was an adult male with a dark complexion who was last seen wearing a black jacket, black pants, white sneakers, and a multi-colored baseball cap.
Ma’s niece told ABC7 News that her uncle immigrated to NYC two years ago and settled in Harlem after their Chinatown apartment burned down. Then, due to the pandemic, Ma lost his restaurant job, and was simply trying to make ends meet.
Ma’s wife, 57-year-old Baozhen Chen, spoke to the New York Post, describing Ma as a very hard-working man.
“He picks up bottles to help pay the rent and the bills. He is innocent. He did not do anything wrong. He is a very kind person. He is quiet. He doesn’t cause trouble to make people mad,” Chen said in Mandarin.
Chen is demanding justice for her husband, who remains in a medically-induced coma. “Please capture him as soon as possible and make him pay,” she said.
In a tweet on Friday, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio pledged to deliver justice for Ma and his family, writing: “Make no mistake, we will find the perpetrator and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”
This is outrageous.
Make no mistake, we will find the perpetrator and they will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
If you have any information on this vicious act of hate please contact @NYPDHateCrimes IMMEDIATELY. https://t.co/fkacVfST4K
— Mayor Bill de Blasio (@NYCMayor) April 24, 2021
Governor Andrew Cuomo also denounced the attack, claiming that the incident does not exemplify “who we are as New Yorkers,” and that they will not let “these cowardly acts of hate against members of our New York family intimidate us.”
In a way, Gov. Cuomo is correct — the city has not been letting anti-Asian sentiments and hate crimes go unacknowledged.
At the end of March, the NYPD increased outreach and patrols in Asian communities, through the use of an all-Asian staffed team of undercover police. Not long after, the new team was able to make their first arrest.
On Tuesday, April 6, a woman named Sharon Williams walked into a nail salon in lower Manhattan, and began cursing out the workers.
An Asian plainclothes officer from the new team took notice of the situation and began questioning her, prompting Williams to call the officer a “monkey.”
Williams was charged with criminal trespassing and aggravated assault as a hate crime.
Undercover Asian officers are working in areas that have had hate crimes to address the issue. Yesterday, one of those officers was able to step in & make an arrest during an anti-Asian incident in the @NYPD5Pct, marking the first arrest by this new initiative. pic.twitter.com/RVMtSjIuyG
— NYPD NEWS (@NYPDnews) April 7, 2021
On the other side of the country, in Capitola, Santa Cruz, California, a Japanese-American woman was the victim of an anonymous hate crime.
Melissa Tao parked her car across from a Billabong store in Capitola on Sunday, April 18, and when she returned 15 minutes later, she found that an unknown individual had left a cup of urine with anti-Asian messages written on it.
The cup of bodily fluid was left on top of Tao’s windshield, and the cup had anti-Asian phrases written on it.
Japanese American Woman Finds Cup Filled with Urine, Anti-Asian Hate Messages on Carhttps://t.co/CbohsEdXr6
— Nextshark (@NextShark) April 24, 2021
In an Instagram post, Tao shared a photo of the cup, and a long caption expressing her mixed emotions.
“My thoughts you may ask? Disgust, fear, and sadness that someone was watching and waiting for me to come back to what they may think was a joke,” she wrote.
Tao has lived in the area for 24 years, and hopes that her Instagram post will raise awareness about the situation in Santa Cruz. She is encouraging people to speak up and mobilize as a community against these atrocities.
“Anti-Asian harassment and violence has surged across the state and country since the beginning of the pandemic,” she said. “News stories the past months have created so much fear in our community and in return silences us.”
The Public Information Officer for the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office, Ashley Keehn, announced that detectives are examining the incident and searching for any information related to the case.
“This is a disgusting and disturbing incident for anyone to have to go through and will not be tolerated,” Keehn said in a statement to Nextshark.
As of Friday, April 16, the Senate passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, with a near unanimous vote of 92-6.
If signed into law, this act would efficiently track anti-Asian hate crimes, train law enforcement to better identify anti-Asian racism, and designate an official in the Justice Department to examine and speed up pandemic-related hate crime reports, among other measures.
AAPI representation in the White House has also increased, largely as a result of the activism of Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Mazie Hirono, who refused to vote for any cabinet nominees that are not of Asian or Pacific Islander descent.
While Taiwanese-American attorney Katherine Tai was confirmed as the first Asian-American to serve as United States Trade Representative in late March, she doesn’t hold one of the 15 federal department cabinet-level positions, which advocates would really like to see.
By a vote of 98-0, the U.S. Senate has confirmed Katherine Tai to become the next U.S. Trade Representative. She previously served as the top Democratic trade counsel for the House Ways and Means Committee. She’s the daughter of immigrants from Taiwan. pic.twitter.com/GM9WDDvNMR
— Wolf Blitzer (@wolfblitzer) March 17, 2021
In response, the White House pledged to appoint an AAPI liaison to the cabinet. On Wednesday, April 14, Biden officially appointed Erika Moritsugu as the senior AAPI liaison and deputy assistant to the president.
Legislation aimed at disrupting, tracking and preventing hate crimes is an integral part of the fight towards equality, as is proper representation in the spaces where important decisions are made.
But as these hate incidents continue to target Asian-American communities across the country, it’s clear that more creative solutions are needed.
Many community members have already been implementing mutual aid services including free taxi rides in NYC, Fire Departments uniting to patrol the streets, digital artwork benefiting AAPI organizations, and home-made multi-lingual pamphlets helping people report hate crimes.
The recent surge in anti-Asian violence is alarming. Racism is killing us & targeting the elderly.
Support the vital work of @AAFederation a non-profit directly TACKLING THE HATE CRIME issue head on:https://t.co/0HTiTOXvNr@CurtisSChin @jaesonma @DavidChiu @yuhline @joeyng
— Drue Kataoka (@DrueKataoka) February 20, 2021
All oppression is connected — whether it be racism, misogyny, classism or homophobia — and no one is free until we are all free. Achieving the equity we desire will take more than representation and laws, it will take efforts from all of us, regardless of our identities.