Xiao Zhen Xie, the elderly San Francisco woman turning her experience with AAPI hate into a community boon
After fending off an attacker on March 17, a GoFundMe set up in Xie’s honor raised over $900,000. She will give it all back to her community.
Since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, Asian Americans have been walking around with clear targets on their backs. The racism started subtle, with people going out of their way to physically distance themselves from Asians in the supermarket, or giving dirty looks.
It soon escalated to verbal harassment and eventually physical assault. Asian Americans of all ethnicities have been told to “go back to China,” and that they are inherently “diseased.”
The recent Atlanta spa shootings were a boiling point for many, but the violence leading up to it, while not deadly, was just as brutal and devastating.
The most infuriating part of this growing crisis is that an alarming number of victims are over the age of 65. People with xenophobic mindsets are attacking the elderly, some of the most vulnerable Asian Americans.
thread of violence towards elderly asians that are not talked about right now:
tw / racism , death , violence
— alli (@httpquack) February 10, 2021
On Wednesday March 17, a 75-year-old Chinese woman named Xiao Zhen Xie, was punched in the face in an unprovoked attack by 39-year-old Steven Jenkins, in San Francisco. In an unexpected turn of events, Xie’s fight or flight response lit up and she defended herself.
When Xie was punched, she grabbed a wooden stick and hit back at Jenkins, leaving him with a bloodied face. Moments later, as emergency response authorities became involved, Jenkins was handcuffed to a stretcher as officers took him away.
As this was unfolding, Xie was holding an ice pack to her extremely swollen eyes, as she frantically spoke in her native language, Cantonese.
“You bum, why did you hit me?” she exclaimed.
As she recalled the incident in an interview with KPIX 5, her daughter, Dong-Mei Li, was able to translate for her. She told the CBS-owned station that she was “very traumatized, very scared,” and that her eye is still bleeding.
“The right eye still cannot see anything and still bleeding and we have something to absorb the bleeding,” she said.
MARKET STREET ATTACK VICTIM SPEAKS:
76-year-old Xiao Zhen Xie is home from the hospital. Her family says she's still "dizzy, very scared, and traumatized." She cannot see out of one eye at this time. Her grandson is working on a gofundme, will keep you posted @KPIXtv pic.twitter.com/tworjAE0v8
— Betty Yu (@BettyKPIX) March 18, 2021
According to police, Jenkins was also responsible for the attack on another elderly Asian American.
Ngoc Pham, an 83-year-old Vietnamese man, was shopping for “broccoli and groceries” when Jenkins assaulted him, leaving him with a fractured nose and neck.
The GoFundMe page started for Pham raised over $285,000, despite the original goal being set at $25,000. The fundraiser, set up by the Community Youth Center of San Francisco, explained that Pham is still in the hospital and “in good spirits.”
“Ngoc has always had a positive outlook on life as a result of him surviving 17 years in a Vietnamese concentration camp,” the GoFundMe description read.
Pham’s injuries were more serious, and 100% of the net proceeds went to covering his hospital bills.
But for Xie, whose GoFundMe page collected an incredible amount of money — nearly $900,000 — she decided to donate the money back to the community she so loves and wants to protect.
Xiao Zhen Xie’s decision to donate the nearly $1 million given to her for medical and other expenses to go instead to efforts to #StopAsianHate is deeply inspiring. We must all stand together against racism and hatred! https://t.co/MyShQZWRlr
— Jackie Speier (@RepSpeier) March 24, 2021
Xie told her grandson that “we must not submit to racism and we must fight to the death if necessary.”
Her family is going to decide where the donations will be sent at a later date.
Next Shark, the popular Asian American news source, posted an IGTV video on their Instagram account last week, featuring Bart Kwan, a Taiwanese/Cantonese Youtuber, comedian, powerlifter and entrepreneur.
Kwan began the video by recalling haunting experiences of bullying that him and his friends experienced in elementary school. Teachers and local authorities were aware of the situation, but ultimately nothing was done to protect the students.
The abuse did not stop until one day, one of Kwan’s friends was hit badly, and in response he took a basketball and aggressively threw it against the backboard on the basketball court. In a shocking display of poetic justice, the basketball ricocheted off the backboard and hit the bully in the face, knocking him to the ground with a lip that was gushing blood.
“For the first time, Jason looked hurt, like one of us,” Kwan recalled.
Jason never bullied Kwan and his friends again. Kwan told this story to make his point that more Asian Americans need to follow the lead of Xiao Zhen Xie and her bravery.
“For this to really change, I think we need all the Asian American defense attorneys to come out and make it known that if an Asian American is attacked, and out of self defense, delivers immediate, brutal consequences, that there will be help for free, in taking them to court and helping them out,” Kwan said.