LA Times Column: A Search for Answers to Anti-Asian Violence

Frank Shyong, March 22, 2022

William Yu, 46, is healing from the multiple stab wounds he suffered in Chinatown earlier this month at the hands of a random attacker. But the incident has already left scars on the way that he and his family see themselves, said his brother David.

Now he cannot stop thinking about the bystander who did not intervene, a man in a hoodie riding a bike who watched his brother struggle with his attacker for nearly half an hour. He wonders if his parents should be taking walks at night. After he drops his wife off at work, is she safe to walk to her building?

William Yu

“Prior to this I didn’t feel the whole Asian hate component. It wasn’t affecting me or anybody I know,” Yu said. “Now it’s like, there is a bit of fear and anxiety. What’s going on?”

Yu isn’t alone. A survey released last week by the Pat Brown Institute for Public Affairs finds that 1 in 4 Asian Americans surveyed in Los Angeles said they have experienced a hate incident since the pandemic began. And a new online poll by the research firm AAPI Data found that 1 in 6 Asian Americans nationwide experienced race-based violence in 2021.

And last week, I wrote about Yongja Lee, 65, a Korean American liquor store owner in Long Beach who was stabbed in the neck and is now paralyzed from the neck down.

But truly combating racism requires us to take on bigger political questions that we Asian Americans do not all agree upon.

How do we make safer neighborhoods for vulnerable Asian elders without attacking the gentrification that has emptied the neighborhood at night? How can we combat street crimes without understanding why crime exists in some neighborhoods but not others? How do we reduce random public attacks without solving the homelessness and housing crisis? How can we reject xenophobia without disentangling our patriotism from our nationalism?

A flood of racist invective lobbed from a presidential pulpit at the start of the pandemic triggered a rash of street violence and open hostility toward Asian Americans. The violence has reached Asian Americans of all stripes: immigrants, their children, Republicans, independents, Democrats — anybody who could be mistaken for Chinese. It has sparked political reverberations in the Asian American community that will be felt for years.

Yu works with the homeless and mentally ill, and believes that they deserve compassion and help, not criminalization.

But “things are getting unsafe,” he said. “What would happen if my brother hadn’t fought back? I don’t care red or blue or who. We need to protect the residents of L.A. What’s going on is not really working.”


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