Chinatown in L.A. paralyzed by fear as hate crimes near 4,000 cases

By Tristan Maglunog
May 21, 2021

CHINATOWN, LOS ANGELES – The Asian American community of Southern California is holding onto their fears a little tighter after an increase in hate crimes as they look for guidance to mitigate the situation. 

Sometimes referred to as the AAPI community, an abbreviation for the phrase, “Asian American and Pacific Islander,” many of the most prominent hate crimes of recent times have openly targeted Americans of AAPI descent. Hate incidents towards the AAPI community have risen during the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a national report documented by Stop AAPI Hate, a hate incident reporting center, there have been over 3,795 incidents reported from March 19, 2020, to Feb. 28, 2021.

Although the fear for the elderly is at much alarm, it was said that senior citizens comprise just six percent of the reports, the lowest of all ages. The rise in xenophobia has a clear source of origin. On March 16, 2020, former U.S. President Donald Trump openly named the coronavirus as the “Chinese Virus,” instigating hate. Although discrimination has skyrocketed since then, hate towards Asian Americans is no stranger to U.S. history.

Ever since the first Asian immigrants had set foot on U.S. soil in the 19th century, in search of gold, their treatment has been anything but shining. From various acts of suppression through immigration and isolation tactics, Asian Americans have been subjected to mistreatment historically.

William Louie, whose family has owned the K.G. Louie CO. Shop in Chinatown Central Plaza since 1938, says that Asian American discrimination is relatively unknown in Chinatown.

“Well, it’s only a fear because it’s happening to other people. Luckily it hasn’t happened to us,” said Louie.

Louie, who watches over his family’s traditional crockery store once a week, has said that his experiences at Chinatown have been peaceful, but he does not turn a blind eye to the attacks.

“People that are prejudiced, people that are racist, and they just go knocking down people, somebody should knock them down,” said Louie.

In nearby Little Tokyo, the “Love Our Communities: Build Collective Power” rally was held on March 13 in response to the violence and hate towards the AAPI community. Organized by various grassroots organizations from many different backgrounds, the rally served as a space for healing. President and founder of the New Breath Foundation, Eddy Zheng, says that the attacks have brought unity among people.

“It’s very difficult to have a united front, however, because of the issue of harming our elders and women, and those types of attacks, it outrages people. And when people are outraged, they want to take action.”

Eddy Zheng

People of all races and cultures gathered to unite in solidarity. The sympathy felt among allies had influenced many to come out and support the AAPI community. Ulysses Salcido, a Hispanic American, believes that the struggles immigrants have are a collective experience.

“I understand some of the problems and issues that the community is facing, whether that’s from a lack of resources, xenophobia, or just not feeling comfortable in your own body as you transition from an immigrant family to what we call an American family,” said Salcido.

Many rally goers have openly expressed what the solution is to the upsurge in Asian hate incidents. However, a common factor shared was the distrust with the police, as personal experiences have factored into frustration. Donnie McCormick, a rally attendee, says that his police experiences have been negative, as they would show up to domestic violence situations without taking action.

“Living in LA calling the police does not solve the problem in the way that you would assume and that we’ve been brought up to believe,” said McCormick.

In response to the increase in tensions, the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) reaffirms its stance on serving the AAPI community, stated in a press release immediately after the Atlanta shootings.

“While we continue to work closely, we look to deepen our relationship with the AAPI community and demonstrate our ongoing and enduring commitment to show support,” said the LAPD.

The solution to solve Asian American discrimination lies not in the perceived security from the police but from a community effort. According to rally supporters, it takes compassion and education to combat ignorance.

“We need to invest in ethnic studies to really understand we have to humanize each other because we have more in common than differences,” said Zheng.

McCormick, who is white, acknowledges the misunderstandings of not caring for other people’s issues in the past, and since then, he has changed his mindset entirely.

“Ultimately, it’s listening. It’s telling people, basically calling things out when they happen and not being complicit and not being silent,” said McCormick.

Jaena Sta Ana, a Filipina American, says that sympathy goes a long way, especially in terms of the violent attacks on the elderly. Sta Ana hopes that people will understand what it means to feel for others’ struggles.

“Imagine your own family, your own kids being treated the way our communities are treated,” said Sta Ana. “Imagine if your elderly community was the one being shoved down by bullies, just because of the color of their skin.”

“When people are outraged, they want to take action.”

Eddy Zheng, President & Founder, New Breath Foundation

The Asian American Community is Breaking the Silence.

“Ultimately, it’s listening. It’s telling people, basically calling things out when they happen and not being complicit and not being silent.”

Donnie McCormick, Rally Attendee

“As model minorities in corporate culture, we work really hard in corporate America, yet we hit a bamboo ceiling that is almost like a glass ceiling because it’s invisible.”

Kevin, Chinese American

“There would be students yelling Ni hao at us as we walked through the courts.”

Ashley, Taiwanese American

 “He was fetishizing Asian women, and I feel like that was completely strange and out of hand.”

Audrey, Taiwanese American

 “‘I’m just as American as you are like of course, I think in English.’ She responded with ‘Well yes, but no, not exactly.’”

Emily, Chinese American

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