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Photo: Yonkers Police Department
Surveillance footage showed the whole attack in NYC. Photo: Yonkers Police Department

On eve of Atlanta spa shooting anniversary, an AAPI hate crime in New York

Surveillance footage captured a 67-year-old Asian woman getting punched over 100 times by her neighbor, who is now in police custody.

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Since the start of the pandemic in March 2020, the organization Stop AAPI Hate has recorded more than 10,000 incidents of anti-Asian racism, many of them resulting in the deaths of innocent people.

The impacts of these attacks have been particularly devastating for Asian American & Pacific Islander (AAPI) women.

According to The National Asian Pacific American Women's Forum (NAPAWF), over the last year, 74% of AAPI women reported experiencing racism and/or discrimination.

“Most Appalling Attack”

On Friday, March 11 a 67-year-old Asian woman in Yonkers, New York was returning home and entering her building and was attacked by 42-year-old Tammel Esco.

In surveillance video, Esco is seen punching the woman over 100 times, while the victim continues fighting to stand up. Esco also reportedly used a racial slur before attacking the woman, and stomped and spit on her. 

When police arrived, they found and arrested Esco without incident. He was charged with one count of attempted murder as a hate crime and assault in the second degree involving a victim 65 or older.

The victim, who was not identified, suffered multiple contusions and lacerations to her head and face and bleeding in the brain. Admitted to the hospital, she was listed in stable condition.

Yonkers Police Commissioner John Mueller called it one of the most appalling attacks he has ever witnessed. 

"To beat a helpless woman is despicable and targeting her because of her race makes it more so," Mueller said. 

Compounding Trauma

This week is already a time of somber reflection on the pervasive and long-standing violence against women of the Asian diaspora. 

Tomorrow, March 16, 2022, will mark the one-year anniversary of the Atlanta spa shootings which tragically claimed the lives of eight people, including six Korean women. 

March 16 is also the 54th anniversary of the Mỹ Lai massacre, in which U.S. soldiers killed 500 civilian women and children during the Vietnam War. 

While a majority of the nearly 11,000 hate incidents that have occurred over the past two years have been rooted in COVID-19 related racial scapegoating, many Asian women seek to remind the public that it goes much deeper.

Deep-rooted violence and unconscious biases

AAPI women have faced both racism and gendered objectification from the moment we arrived in the United States.

Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of NAPAWF, explained some of these instances in a USA Today op-ed on Monday, March 14. 

“Afong Moy, the first recorded Chinese woman brought to the United States, was placed on exotic display. Our nation's first immigration law, the Page Act of 1875, stereotyped East Asian women as prostitutes to bar them from the country,” Choimorrow wrote. 

This lethal combination of misogyny and xenophobia has established a false perception of Asian women as “submissive,” or worse, “easy targets.” 

Writer Frankie Huang said on Twitter that when people are quick to write off incidents as not racially motivated, as many did with the Atlanta spa shootings, there is a failure to acknowledge the way that mainstream consciousness views Asians.

Huang describes this as “a deep seated racial bias that doesn’t always manifest in the form of conscious hate.”

“My view is that the attackers that have been targeting Asian women and elders are likely not fueled by a virulent hate or even blame COVID on us, they just feel like they can get away with it,” Huang wrote. 

The solution to this crisis of gender and racially based violence must be as multifaceted as the issue itself, and activists have already voiced that more policing is not the answer. 

One thing that remains paramount is to shift the public perception of people with Asian heritage, especially women. Viewing this vulnerable population as submissive, docile and weak, whether consciously or not, must come to an end. 

In a letter to media professionals, Choimorrow said that every day, countless AAPI women are standing up to instances of hate, speaking out and “snapping back” when a stranger tells them to “return to their country.” 

“This is a testament to the collective resilience of AAPI women – women who balance their responsibilities for work and family in the face of anxieties over their personal safety every single day,” she wrote. 






 

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