February 19, 2021

Our Country Is Failing Its Asian American Senior Citizens — We Must Step Up To Protect Them

Our Country Is Failing Its Asian American Senior Citizens — We Must Step Up To Protect Them

(Image via Getty)

“Yeah, my intuition is telling me there’ll be better days / I sit in silence and find whenever I meditate / My fears alleviate, my tears evaporate / My faith don’t deviate, ideas don’t have a date / But see I’m growing and getting stronger with every breath.” — J. Cole

The nightmare scenario is here. Another week in the pandemic, and another series of vicious attacks on unsuspecting Asian American senior citizens. Another broken hip, a half-dozen more stitches, trolley assaults, and subway attacks. Rest in peace Vicha Ratanapakdee.

As highlighted in the #stopasianhate social media campaign:

  • Since COVID-19, anti-Asian hate crimes have increased by 1900% in the United States
  • Nearly 3,000 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents were reported in over 47 states and the District of Columbia
  • 3% of the reports counted the most vulnerable — elderly Asians — as the victims
  • Many crimes go unreported or are not classified as hate crimes

This week, I wanted to write about the Lunar New Year, but it doesn’t feel like there is much to celebrate when the specter of hate-mongering hangs over Asian American senior citizens’ heads like a sword of Damocles.

Four years ago, Fox News made “gentle fun” of Asian American senior citizens. We warned them of its consequences.

Our language and interactions with each other matter. Six years ago, I penned my fear of America’s deep legacy of anti-Asian racism and how it would continue to haunt our future generations. Now the dog whistles — of “sanctuary cities,” “border walls,” “anchor babies,” “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu” — have reverberated into anti-Asian violence and hate crimes.

I remember Vincent Chin, do you?

Representation is immeasurable. “Entertainment” skits masquerading as journalism that seek to alienate citizens who look different is disrespectful at best and only serve to influence xenophobic behavior.

I couldn’t help but see my parents’ reflection in those being patronized by Jesse Watters and Bill O’Reilly. Growing up, I saw my father bullied because of our race. I didn’t speak up then because I didn’t have the courage. I’ll be damned if I don’t speak up now.

Four years ago, The Dallas Morning News ran a picture of a drowned 3-year-old Syrian boy who washed up on a beach. The photo accompanied a column about the rhetoric of the recent presidential campaigns. Back then, I feared our national political rhetoric might be causing waves of international consequence. It is a fear that has been realized. The nightmare scenario is staring us in the face.

As Gemma Chan wrote earlier this month: “Hate crimes against Asians and Asian Americans have skyrocketed. The community is in pain from these completely unprovoked attacks but the crimes are too often ignored and underreported. Imagine if this was your father or grandfather?”

In the seminal Citizenship Clause case involving Wong Kim Ark, the Supreme Court stated: “We are entirely ready to accept the provision proposed in the constitutional amendment, that the children born here of Mongolian parents shall be declared by the Constitution of the United States to be entitled to civil rights and to equal protection before the law with others.”

Back then, some politicians argued that the Chinese were so different in so many ways that they could never assimilate into American culture, and they represented a threat to the country’s principles and institutions. Let the record reflect that we have assimilated into American culture, even at the expense of losing and letting go of some of our own culture.

And now our parents and grandparents are being dehumanized, left traumatized, and facing attacks on a daily basis.

We need to continue to voice our outrage. We need to step up to protect our most vulnerable.

This isn’t a political issue, it’s a humanitarian issue. If you witness someone being bullied or assaulted, please speak up and shield them.

We could all use someone in our corner right now, especially those who can’t protect themselves from sucker punches, unprovoked attacks, and hate crimes.

If you’re interested in learning more about this issue, please check out: “A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions” by the Asian American Bar Association of New York (AABANY) and Paul Weiss.

Renwei Chung is the Diversity Columnist at Above the Law. You can contact Renwei by email at projectrenwei@gmail.com, follow him on Twitter (@renweichung), or connect with him on LinkedIn

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