Assaults on Asian-Individuals in New York fueled concern, concern, and anger

Maggie Cheng could only see the video once.

“I’ve never cried like this before,” Ms. Cheng said, describing her reaction to security footage showing her mother being knocked to the ground on a crowded street in Flushing, Queens, last week. “To see my mother being thrown like this, she looks like a feather. She looks like a rag doll. “

The celebrity highlighted and widespread social media attack on Ms. Cheng’s mother was one of four attacks against Asian American women in New York City that day. Taken together, they fueled fears that the tide of racism and violence directed against Asian-American citizens during the pandemic was rebounding in New York. Those concerns heightened after a man of Asian descent was stabbed to death near Chinatown Thursday night.

The number of hate crimes involving Asian-American victims reported to the New York Police Department rose from just three in the previous year to 28 in 2020, although activists and police officers say many additional incidents have not been classified as hate crimes or have not been reported.

Asian-Americans are grappling with the fear, fear and anger caused by the attacks fueled at the start of the pandemic by former President Donald J. Trump, who often used racist language to pinpoint the coronavirus, according to activists and elected officials to point out.

In New York City, where Asian Americans make up an estimated 16 percent of the population, the violence has terrified many.

“The attacks are random and fast and furious,” said Jo-Ann Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, a nonprofit network of community groups. “It caused a lot of fear and paranoia. People don’t leave their homes. “

Xenophobia and violence are compounded by the economic fallout from the pandemic and fear of the virus, which dealt a major blow to the Asian-American communities in New York.

Many of the attacks do not result in hate crime charges as the police need evidence that identity was the motivating factor, such as an audible racist mistake, self-incriminating testimony or a history of racist behavior by the attacker.

So far this year, three attacks on people of Asian origin in New York have resulted in hate crimes. The last came Thursday when a 36-year-old man was stabbed to death near federal court in Lower Manhattan and rushed to the hospital in critical condition, police said. A suspect was arrested that evening and later charged with attempted second degree murder as a hate crime and assault, forgery and criminal possession of a gun.

A police department spokesman said the motives behind last week’s attacks, including that on Ms. Cheng’s mother, are unclear and are not currently being investigated as hate crimes.

Leaders who urged elected officials and police to face the problem say the response so far has felt sluggish.

“I’m really angry,” said Ms. Yoo. “I asked for something, some kind of proactive response from town hall.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio said this week that the city is working to improve communications with community leaders, create a website where people can report and respond to attacks, and focus subway patrols on potential bias crimes. He also pointed to the Asian Hate Crime Task Force that the department formed late last year.

“If you dare to raise your hand against a member of our Asian communities, you will suffer the consequences,” de Blasio said at a press conference.

Assistant Inspector Stewart Loo oversees the task force made up of 25 volunteer detectives speaking 10 languages. He said it should encourage Asian Americans who are reluctant to cooperate with the police.

“The feeling within the Asian-American community is that the police either don’t care or are not doing enough,” he said.

The NYPD said it arrested 18 hate crimes involving Asian-American victims in the past year, and the cases are pending.

However, many Asian Americans feel that their complaints are not being taken seriously by police and prosecutors, said Chris Kwok, a board member of New York’s Asian American Bar Association.

“The political and social invisibility of Americans in Asia has real consequences,” said Kwok. “Invisibility comes from Asian Americans who are considered permanent aliens – they cannot cross that invisible line to become real Americans.”

Several publicly known incidents early on in the pandemic were not treated as hate crimes, Kwok said. If it had been them, it would have “sent a signal that this is unacceptable and that there would be consequences if you cracked down on Asian Americans,” he said.

In April, a man doused a 39-year-old woman with a caustic chemical when she was taking out the trash outside her Brooklyn home and severely burned her face, hands and neck. In July, two men set an 89-year-old woman on fire near her home in Brooklyn, causing hundreds of New Yorkers to march in protest. Neither has been classified as a hate crime.

The increase in attacks in the city reflects a trend in the United States. Stop AAPI Hate, an initiative tracking violence and harassment against Asian-American and Pacific islanders, has had more than 3,000 reported incidents since the pandemic began, said Russell Jeung, a group leader and chair of the Asian-American studies division San Francisco State University. Of these, at least 260 were in New York City.

These attacks have lasting effects, said Kellina Craig-Henderson, who works for the National Science Foundation and has studied the psychological effects of hate crimes. She said that people affected because of their race and ethnicity may suffer from diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder, often more acutely than victims of other crimes.

“If you are a minority and this happens to you, you will become more anxious and question your place in the world,” said Dr. Craig-Henderson.

She added that hate crimes can reverberate in communities and further marginalize them.

“It sends a message to others that they could come next,” she said.

Several Asian Americans who were attacked in New York last year and reported to police said the scars were permanent.

Crisanna Tang was riding the subway to work one July morning when a maskless man spat on her and shouted that the Chinese caused the virus. None of the other passengers intervened, Ms. Tang said.

“I said, ‘Oh my god, I can’t believe this is actually happening to me,” said Ms. Tang, 31, a pathologist assistant at Jacobi Medical Center.

Ms. Tang is now hypervigilant. She took the express bus, which costs more than the subway. She stopped wearing face shields to attract less attention. She is carrying pepper spray in her pocket.

“I just wish these incidents would stop,” Ms. Tang said. “I’m concerned about the elderly community. I really worry that not enough is being done for her. “

Mimi Lau said strangers shouted racist slurs and threatened her physical safety twice in the past year, once on the express train and once in front of the mochi shop she owns in Manhattan’s East Village.

“It made me think that something was wrong with me,” said Ms. Lau, 27 years old.

Yen Yen Pong, 37, bought pepper spray after a maskless stranger approached her in Queens last April and shouted racist statements about the virus. After Ms. Pong tried to take his picture, he grabbed her cell phone and smashed it on the sidewalk.

Ms. Pong, who works for an asset management company, said Asian American women are particularly at risk. This observation was supported by data from Stop AAPI Hate, which found that Asian-American women were approached three times as likely as men in New York.

“Number one, I’m Asian. Number two, I’m a woman, ”said Ms. Pong. “What makes me a better target than that?”

New York’s Asian American Bar Association recently issued recommendations on how to combat the attacks, including clearer reporting mechanisms for victims and formalizing the Asian Hate Crime Task Force as a funded entity.

In September, more than 25 community groups condemned the task force, among other things for the effects of over-policing on people of color, including Asian Americans, and for failing to address the root causes of anti-Asian racism.

Even if the task force works to expand its reach, details of the attack and harassment may never reach the authorities. Activists say many incidents go unreported, partly because of the stigma associated with them.

Sam Cheng, Maggie Cheng’s brother, said her mother spent hours in the hospital receiving stitches for a deep cut in her forehead and that she did not want to file a police report initially.

“She tried to hide it,” said 28-year-old Cheng. “She doesn’t want any trouble.”

Two days after the attack, police arrested 47-year-old Patrick Mateo. He was charged with assault and harassment and was later released.

The New York Times reached out to Mr Mateo, who said in several text messages that he started arguing with the woman after she got too close to him in a bakery and that she later sprayed him with maces.

He wrote that he had said to the woman: “You are in America … NOT CHINA! Please give me space with coronavirus. “

Mr. Cheng said his mother’s memory of the incident was foggy, possibly because of the blow to her head, but she had pepper spray with her and she took it out during the encounter.

The Chengs urged people not to take revenge on Mr. Mateo. Ms. Cheng said her mother was eager to continue and returned to her routine the day after the attack.

“She didn’t want to live in fear or stay home,” said Ms. Cheng.

Ed Shanahan and Michael Gold contributed to the coverage. Kitty Bennett and Sheelagh McNeill contributed to the research.

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