On March 16, the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community and allies reacted with horror upon learning that an individual had shot and killed eight people, including six Asian women, at spas and massage parlors in Atlanta, Ga.
A law enforcement spokesperson said the suspect was having a “really bad day.”
To many, news of the Atlanta shooting and the local law enforcement’s response was unsurprising, after a year of heightened racism against our AAPI neighbors and community members. Across the United States, from even some in government, the AAPI community has been under unrelenting attack.
Last November, Americans voted out of office a president who openly and repeatedly scapegoated the AAPI community for Covid-19, using racist, erroneous rhetoric to link the spread of the disease to Chinese Americans. Not coincidentally, hate crimes against members of the AAPI community sharply spiked over the course of the past year. Although Trump exacerbated anti-Asian racism, removing him from office did not, and could not be expected to, reverse this deadly trend on its own.
Even in San Francisco, when a member of the Board of Education’s anti-Asian tweets from 2016 were uncovered, and community and elected leaders called on her to resign, she claimed her words had been taken out of context and declined to step down. In a time when our communities must unite to combat racism, we cannot have elected officials that will further divide these efforts.
Bigoted language has real, tangible consequences. Stop AAPI Hate, a nationwide coalition that formed in 2020 in response to increased racism against the AAPI community, recorded 3,795 anti-Asian incidents in the United States between March 2020 and February 2021. Verbal harassment, shunning, and physical assault were the three largest categories reported, and there were more than twice as many attacks against women than men. But these incidents were not limited to more conservative parts of the country; California accounted for more than 40 percent of the total incidents reported.
We must remember that each of these reports is from an event that actually happened to somebody, and many incidents go unreported. Sadly, San Francisco has not been immune. In just the first few months of 2021, the city has already seen many previously unimaginable attacks on our AAPI neighbors.
On Jan. 28, Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was taking his morning walk in Anza Vista when an individual ran toward him and violently shoved him to the ground — out of the blue, and in broad daylight. He died from his injuries. The suspect in Ratanapakdee’s killing was described by the district attorney as being in “some sort of temper tantrum.” Last month, Danilo Yu Chang, 59, was pushed and beaten unconscious in the Financial District, and Xiao Zhen Xie, 75, fended off an attacker on Market Street with a wooden plank.
Their stories are far too familiar to far too many.
While we are grateful to Mayor Breed and Chief Scott for increasing police patrols in parts of San Francisco where many in our AAPI community live, work, and frequently visit, it should not have to be this way. Our friends and neighbors should not have to fear verbal threats, physical taunts, or much, much worse, when they walk our streets.
These racist attacks cannot continue. It’s on all of us to make it clear that San Francisco will not tolerate acts of hate.
That’s why, in March, we joined leaders from San Francisco’s AAPI community to rally against anti-Asian racism, and it’s why we must continue to stand together in solidarity against anti-Asian racism and all acts of hate.
If you would like to support the AAPI community in the effort to #StopAAPIHate, we encourage you to learn more about and consider supporting the following organizations:
The Community Youth Center (CYC) of San Francisco serves youth with academic counseling, employment training, job placement, violence prevention education, crisis intervention and mediation, leadership development, and more. CYC gives San Francisco’s youth the tools to learn about, organize, and fight racial hate.
Stop AAPI Hate is a project of the Asian Pacific Planning and Policy Council, Chinese for Affirmative Action, and the Asian American Studies Department of San Francisco State University, and it tracks, responds to, and supports efforts to eradicate racism and discrimination against the AAPI community.
Asian Americans Advancing Justice is a national organization that has fought for the civil and human rights of Asian Americans since 1991.
Hate Is a Virus was founded in April 2020 in response to the rise in Covid-19-related hate crimes against the AAPI community; it has raised more than $30,000 to support community organizations throughout the country.
Act to Change is a national nonprofit focused on combating bullying against the AAPI community, empowering students, families, and educators with tools and knowledge to stop and prevent bullying in their communities.
The Asian Pacific American Leadership Foundation was founded in 2004 to prepare and equip Asian Pacific American leaders for public service and civic involvement.
We need to recognize that these incidents are not the result of “bad days” or “temper tantrums.” By continuing to listen to the AAPI community, confronting racism when we see it, and working together — in every community and at every level of government — we can reverse this sick trend. We must.
Catherine Stefani is District 2 supervisor; Selina Sun is president of the Edwin M. Lee Asian Pacific Democratic Club; and Michael Chen serves on the board of the club.