In response to another recent subway attack and a widely-condemned New York Daily News cartoon depicting him as an Asian tourist, Democratic New York City mayoral hopeful Andrew Yang called out a rise in “anti-Asian sentiment” and hate crimes at a press conference Tuesday at the 21st Street-Queensbridge F train stop.
He was joined by his wife, Evelyn, a Queens native, who described the cartoon as a “racist disfiguration” of her husband’s face.
Yang also warned his campaign rivals not to take advantage of any anti-Asian sentiment in the city, saying he normally wants to give people “the benefit of the doubt,” but that in light of recent events, continued broadsides against him as a neophyte and fake New Yorker have made a connection “impossible to ignore.”
“I’m talking about statements that are over the course of a campaign that has been going on for months,” Yang said of rival campaigns either explicitly or implicitly saying that he is not a true New Yorker.
Evelyn, who became visibly emotional when she spoke at the news conference, decried a “toxic narrative” of her husband being “not a real New Yorker … somehow more foreign, less of this place.”
Yang was joined by several prominent city and state lawmakers of Asian descent, several of whom spoke about their experiences with racism while out in public.
Through most of the crowded primary campaign, Yang has held off from attacking competitors, even heaping praise on some, such as former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, whom he said would be an ideal deputy mayor given her experience in city government.
Before I came to the United States for college, I had never considered myself a person of color. Nor did I think of myself as generically “Asian.” I was a South Korean who’d grown up in Hong Kong – belonging to two places where, as far as skin color went, I had always been part of the racial majority.
It isn’t just Asian Americans who are grieving, nor just Americans. The fact of the matter is that racism in America is no longer an exclusively American issue, particularly for those who are not white.
For the global Asian community, the Atlanta shooting has been the wake-up call to a reality that Black and Latino people have known for years: that national identity is irrelevant when it comes to racial trauma. The compartmentalization of identity across national lines no longer serves us, because, as the randomness of identity-based violence shows us time and time again, those who suffer from it could be any of us.
Identifying as Asian American
As an Asian person currently living in America, I’ve often reflected on the distinctions between Asian Americans and “Asian Asians” in this country – the latter category for Asian people who, despite not being US citizens, feel a strong affinity to the US for reasons ranging from work and education to family and love. The distinction is often subtle, even arbitrary: there are Asians who are American but spend most of their lives living abroad, and Asians who aren’t American but spend most of their lives in America. Beyond the legal matter of citizenship, using the “American” suffix can be, in many cases, a matter of self-identification.
Historically, the usage of the term “Asian American” was a way for people of different ethnicities to signal solidarity across national lines. Before the term was first coined in 1968 by two students at the University of California Berkeley – who were inspired by the Black Power Movement to encourage unity in the fight for racial justice – most Americans of Asian descent would refer to themselves by their nationalities.
In other words, to be Asian American has always been more than an identity – to wear the label was initially an attempt to “express an idea,” Daryl Maeda, a professor of Asian American Studies at the University of Colorado, Boulder, told NBC News. “And that idea is that as Asian Americans, we have to work together to fight for social justice and equality, not only for ourselves, but for all of the people around us.”
In the decades since, the term Asian American has become part of the mainstream American lexicon. But it may be worthwhile to return to thinking about it not as an inherited identity, but rather an idea whose lessons are applicable even to those outside the country.
America’s racism affects all of us
In the last four years, I’ve had to redefine my experience of Asianness as an international student temporarily based in the United States, where the inevitable process of becoming a person of color has been alternately illuminating and difficult. I remember how, during my freshman year, I’d inadvertently begun attributing my racial identity to unexplainable feelings of apprehension or self-doubt.
One day, when I felt small and out of place in a seminar, I realized I was the only non-white person in the room. At parties, I’d wonder if no one was noticing me because I was Asian and thus, according to Hollywood conventions, less attractive. But on other occasions, I’d reflexively wonder if any sign of romantic interest from another person was directly related to my Asianness. Instances like these would occur repeatedly over the three years that followed, even in a college where close to a third of students identify as Asian, in a town where Asians make up the second largest ethnic group.
My parents, who have never spent more than two weeks in the United States, have had to learn these painful lessons from Seoul, South Korea. When the coronavirus pandemic first began, my dad would warn me against walking around alone, afraid I’d be harassed. For months, my mom has implored me to switch up my running routes in case I become an easy target for a stranger’s fit of race-based rage. These narratives of violence are very real to them, although neither of them has ever considered themself a person of color; to them these words are unfamiliar lingo, imported by a daughter far from home.
More than ever before, news of America’s racial tensions is available in their language, on the websites they visit, and in the news they follow. The constant availability of international news, in tandem with the harsh spotlight shone on America since the Black Lives Matter protests last summer and the rhetoric of Donald Trump’s presidency, has meant that America’s issues have become personal to them, too.
For the record, South Korea is one of the most racially homogenous places in the world. And yet, I find it astonishing that increasingly, more and more people there know what it means to be a person of color. South Koreans understand that, in the United States, you might be considered Chinese or Japanese in addition to being Korean. It’s become unsettlingly common for broad generalizations to replace specific national identities, leading us to understand that the ways in which we self-identify – especially in a foreign country – will not always protect us.
When I learned about the shootings, the first people on my mind were an Atlanta-based Korean couple I’d met in Seoul last summer, who’d told me how much they loved their city and its vibrant Korean American community. Any of the women who’d been shot could’ve been their parents or in-laws, I thought. It could’ve been them. And then I realized that, had I gone to school in Atlanta, it could’ve been me; had my parents migrated to the United States like Koreans have done in large numbers since 1960, it could’ve been them, too.
The past few weeks have been unimaginably painful for Asian Americans across the world who know the United States as their constant and permanent home. It is a pain that I, as a foreign national, can’t claim to know with the same intensity. But the burden of dismantling racial violence does not fall on American shoulders alone.
To learn of the shootings in Atlanta is to remind ourselves that the duty to care is not restricted to our inherited identities. To say the victims’ names – Soon Chung Park, Hyun Jung Grant, Suncha Kim, Yong Ae Yue; Delaina Ashley Yaun, Paul Andre Michels, Xiaojie Tan, Daoyou Feng – is to know that grief can be felt in many places, in many languages. This tragedy is personal to all of us, wherever and whoever we are.
Sery Kim, a candidate running for the 6th congressional district in Texas, has lost two GOP endorsements after news that she made anti-Asian remarks.
In early March, Sery Kim, who is Korean American, received the backing of California Republican Reps. Young Kim and Michelle Steel. The two have since dropped their endorsement, following Sery Kim’s comments earlier this week, in which she said Chinese immigrants aren’t welcome in the US.
During a GOP candidate forum on Wednesday, Sery Kim and others running talked about China’s influence and immigrants who come to the US from China.
“I don’t want them here at all,” Sery Kim said about Chinese immigrants, to applause from the audience. “They steal our intellectual property. They give us coronavirus. They don’t hold themselves accountable.”
“Quite frankly, I can say that because I’m Korean.”
In a statement, the two California lawmakers said they “cannot in good conscience” continue to back Sery Kim.
“As the first Korean American Republican women to serve in Congress, we want to empower and lift up fellow members of the AAPI [Asian American and Pacific Island] community who want to serve their communities,” the lawmakers wrote.
They asked Sery Kim to apologize for her remarks, saying they “talked with Sery Kim yesterday about her hurtful and untrue comments about Chinese immigrants, and made clear that her comments were unacceptable.”
Sery Kim has not “publicly shown remorse, and her words were contrary to what we stand for,” they said, also adding that the two “will continue to speak out in support of our AAPI community.”
Sery Kim, speaking to CNN, said her remarks were intended only with respect to the Chinese Communist Party.
“I am shocked that in an effort to counter Asian-American hate the liberal media is targeting me, an Asian and an immigrant, in an effort to paint me as anti-Asian and anti-immigrant just for speaking against the oppressive Chinese Communist Party,” Sery Kim said in a statement to CNN. She did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment.
Sery Kim’s comments come at the same time as numerous anti-Asian attacks unfold.
More than 1,800 New Yorkers have signed up to walk Asian Americans from any public area to their destination in an effort to combat and prevent anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.
Volunteers – many of whom speak Mandarin or Cantonese – are patrolling New York City neighborhoods like Chinatown and offering escorting services to anyone who asks for their help, Pix11 News reported.
Volunteers, Pix11 News reports, give out flyers and wear bright safety belts. Each shift lasts two hours. A fundraiser to support the SafeWalks initiative has raised about $17,000 since it was posted to GoFundMe in February.
“We need to show our humanity. We can’t let people hurt our seniors, our elders,” volunteer Lisa Gold told Pix11 News.
Anti-Asian violence has surged
In recent weeks, there have been numerous anti-Asian attacks in New York City.
The shooter, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long from Woodstock, Georgia, suggested to police that the attacks were due to a sex addiction and were not racially motivated.
Multiple research studies have identified that the number of anti-Asian crimes and violence have spiked in the last year.
An analysis from Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, for example, found hate crimes overall decreased by 7% in 2020. That same study found that hate crimes specifically against Asian people rose by about 150%.
Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit tracking violence toward Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, released a report that identified nearly 3,800 instances of anti-Asian discrimination just in the past year.
And that’s a very mild estimate, Stop AAPI hate said in its report.
“The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face,” the report says.
“Not enough has been done to protect Asian Americans from heightened levels of hate, discrimination and violence. Concrete action must be taken now,” a press release from Stop AAPI Hate said. “Anything else is unacceptable.”
Pedestrians in New York who want to request a safe escort or to volunteer can do so on the SafeWalks website, by emailing email@example.com, or by DMing the @SafeWalksNYC handle on Instagram.
YouTube refused to remove a song that talks about performing armed robbery in “Chinese neighborhoods” because they “don’t believe in bank accounts,” Bloomberg reported Tuesday.
YouTube sent an email to employees that said the firm found the song – rapper YG’s “Meet the Flockers” – highly offensive and hard to watch, but chose to keep the video up, according to Bloomberg.
The song, which was released in 2014, begins with the line: “First, you find a house and scope it out. Find a Chinese neighborhood, ’cause they don’t believe in bank accounts.”
In the email, YouTube said the firm chooses to keep videos that violate hate speech policy for educational and artistic purposes. Comedy routines and news stories depicting violent footage, for instance, can remain on the platform.
“Removing this video would have far-reaching implications for other musical content containing similarly violent or offensive lyrics, in genres ranging from rap to rock,” the letter read, per Bloomberg’s report.
Bloomberg reported that employees in message boards pushed back on YouTube’s decision, prompting the company to hold a townhall to discuss the issue.
A YouTube representative did not confirm the company sent the letter cited in Bloomberg’s story, but told Insider that it “has an open culture and employees are encouraged to to share their views, even when they disagree with a decision.”
“We’ll continue this dialogue as part of our ongoing work to balance openness with protecting the YouTube community at large,” the spokesperson added.
Asian-American hate crimes in 16 US cities increased 149% in 2020, according to an analysis of police data by researchers at California State University in San Bernardino. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition of groups tracking violence incidents, reported 3,795 incidents of verbal or physical attacks against Asian-Americans between March 2020 and February 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On Tuesday, police said a suspect punched and kicked a 65-year-old Asian woman on her way to church in New York City. Security footage revealed a security guard closed the door of a nearby building instead of helping the woman.
During a meeting of the West Chester Township, Ohio, Board of Trustees, chairman Lee Wong, 69, lifted his shirt and showed his scars to prove his “patriotism,” NBC News reported. Wong served in the US Army for 20 years.
Footage of the moment, which has gone viral on social media, shows Wong unbuttoning his shirt while speaking about how tired he is of the Anti-Asian rhetoric he’s witnessed in America.
“Don’t get me wrong, people love me in this community and I love them, too, but there are some ignorant people that would come up to me and say that I don’t look American enough or patriotic enough,” Wong says in the video, according to the BBC. “I’m not afraid. I don’t have to live in fear.”
The 69-year-old then stands up and raises his undershirt, revealing a big, dark scar across his chest.
“Here is my proof. This is sustained through my service in the U.S. military,” he says to the room. “Now, is this patriot enough?”
“Prejudice is hate, and that hate can be changed,” Wong continued. “We are human. We need to be kinder, gentler, to one another.”
Prosecutors in two major cities brought forth hate crime charges against two men in separate racially driven anti-Asian incidents.
In San Francisco, the District Attorney’s Office elevated what were initially misdemeanor charges against 53-year-old Victor Brown to felony assault and hate crime charges, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Earlier this month, Brown allegedly attacked and hurled racist slurs at an Asian American man.
In Seattle, King County prosecutors charged 51-year-old Christopher Hamner with a hate crime for allegedly throwing items at cars and screaming profanities at Asian women and children, the Seattle Times reported.
Hamner, who is being held on a $75,000 bond, allegedly yelled profanities and threw things at one woman who was stopped at a red light with her two young children on March 16. A few days later, he allegedly cut off another Asian woman’s car and threw a water bottle at it.
The hate crime charges come as people across the country protest the rise in anti-Asian-American attacks.
There has been a rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans since the coronavirus pandemic started. Stop AAPI Hate, a reporting center that has been tracking cases from March to December of last year, said they received “over 2,808 firsthand accounts of anti-Asian hate” crimes.
There were rallies in over a dozen cities held on Saturday alone, ABC reported.
“We’re out here to say that we’re not going to tolerate racism towards Asian American communities,” Satya Vatti, an organizer with the Answer (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) Coalition, told ABC affiliate WSB in Atlanta.
In Los Angeles, hundreds marched for a mile through Koreatown carrying signs and demanding an end to discriminatory acts towards Asians, CBSLA reported.
The rallies come after a 21-year-old man was accused of killing four people at Young’s Asian Massage in Acworth, Georgia, before heading to Gold Spa and the Aromatherapy Spa in Atlanta, where another four people were killed earlier this month.
All 23 Democratic governors and the governor of Guam signed on to a letter released Friday in solidarity with and support of the Asian American Pacific Islander community. Only two Republican governors – Govs. Charlie Baker of Massachusetts and Larry Hogan of Maryland – out of 27 joined them
“Today, and every day, we stand in solidarity, in support, and in shared resolve with the Asian American community,” the letter said. “Hate will not divide our states, territories, and communities. We condemn all expressions of racism, xenophobia, scapegoating, and anti-Asian sentiment.”
The letter acknowledges America’s racist past, saying this year will go down in history along with the Chinese Exclusion Act, Japanese internment, and the mistreatment of Muslims and Sikhs after 9/11.
“What is happening to Asian Americans is simply un-American. We condemn racism, violence, and hatred against our AAPI communities, and we must do more to protect, lift up, and support” the community, the letter said.
More than 60 Republicans and Democrats who have previously served as Cabinet secretaries, senior White House officials, and congressional chiefs of staff for the past six presidents signed a separate statement urging the Biden administration and Congress to protect the Asian American community.
The signatories include Elaine Chao, labor secretary under George W. Bush and transportation secretary under Donald Trump; Gary Locke, commerce secretary under Barack Obama; and Norman Mineta, transportation secretary under Bush and commerce secretary under Bill Clinton.
The release of the letters coincided with Stop AAPI Hate’s virtual day of action.
Stop AAPI Hate is a community advocacy group launched last year to track the number of hate incidents against Asian Americans following the onset of COVID-19. The group has tracked more than 3,800 self-reported incidents of anti-Asian bias since the pandemic started.
He said his “concern about this hearing is that it seems to want to venture into the policing of rhetoric in a free society, free speech, and away from the rule of law and taking out bad guys.”
Roy went on to criticize Communist China and said the focus should not be on restricting speech but punishing criminals.
“There’s an old saying in Texas about find all the rope in Texas and get a tall oak tree. You know, we take justice very seriously and we ought to do that, round up the bad guys,” said Roy.
The comments drew widespread criticism, with Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democrat whose family were immigrants from Taiwan, calling on him to apologize.
” The largest mass lynching in American history was against Chinese immigrants. I call on Chip Roy to apologize. He shouldn’t have been glorifying lynching at this hearing and he’s confusing the fears of a foreign government with what this hearing is about, which is attacks on Americans who happen to be of Asian descent,” Lieu told CNN”s New Day Friday.
But Roy in a statement to CBS News on Saturday doubled down on the comments.
“I meant it,” Roy said. “We need more justice and less thought policing. We need to stop evildoers, such as those who carried out the attack in Atlanta this week, or cartels abusing little children. … We should restore order by tamping out evil actors, not turn America into an authoritarian state like the Chinese communists who seek to destroy us.”
“No apologies,” Roy added.
Some critics have pointed out that the expression Roy claimed is an old Texas saying is probably taken from “Beer for My Horses,” a song by country star Toby Keith in collaboration with Willie Nelson.
Keith has denied the song glorifies lynching, and told Fox News in 2008 it’s about “the old West and horses and sheriffs … and going and getting the bad guys. It’s not a racist thing or about lynching.”
Former President Donald Trump was accused in a UN report last year of whipping up anti-Asian xenophobia during the pandemic, with Trump having repeatedly sought to pin the blame for the coronavirus on China, calling the disease the “China virus” and the disparaging “kung flu.”