Hyphen magazine - Asian American arts, culture, and politics


Openish Thread: Is Recent "Black on Asian" Violence a Hate Crime?

Folks, this is a contentious issue, so we're going to discuss it calmly, intelligently, articulately, and politely. Cursing, name-calling, ad hominem attacks, excessive "passion," or anything that smacks even remotely of racial stereotyping will be deleted without seeing the light of day. Thank you for making this a productive debate.

Hyphen blog has been following the community uproar over the recent attack in Oakland upon an Asian American man, that resulted in his death. The Oakland attack was committed by two young African American men. This attack followed on the heels of two attacks in San Francisco -- again by African American young men upon Asian American elders -- which resulted in a woman's hospitalization and a man's death.

Please read the following articles and editorials for more details:

A San Francisco Chronicle Archive Search of articles handling the issue.

An SF Chronicle summary of the issue.

A New York Times summary of the issue.

KGO-TV's piece on the issue.

C.W. Nevius' Chronicle editorial on the issue.

A second Nevius editorial in the Chron.

William Wong's take in the Chron on an Oakland community meeting about the recent killing.

ETA:

Vincent Pan of Chinese for Affirmative Action's opinion piece in the Chron.

Street Soldiers Radio call-in podcast about the issue.

On the one hand, the Asian American communities in both San Francisco and Oakland are contending that attacks upon Asians by African Americans -- that often go unreported by immigrants with poor English skills or a tendency to distrust cops -- happen frequently. Nevius cites an unnamed police survey of strong-arm robberies, which showed that "In 85 percent of the physical assault crimes, the victims were Asian and the perpetrators were African American."

Some Asian Americans contend further that they are targeted specifically because they are Asian ... and that these attacks border on, or are clearly in the realm of, hate crimes. They claim that the police and some community groups are downplaying blatant racism in an attempt to prevent racial tensions from flaring up.

But the police contend that only certain Asians are being targeted, along with certain Latinos, for their age and small stature, because of the vulnerability to attack that this confers. They also cite Asians' tendency not to report such crimes as an added inducement. They emphasize that it's only a small minority of African Americans committing these crimes, and that the crimes are violent robberies and not hate crimes.

Some African American groups, while deploring the attacks, are doubtful that the attacks are racially motivated. And there is a general grumbling in the community that the media's handling of the issue emphasizes Asian American fears, while ignoring the roles African Americans have played in getting victims help, and in serving as witnesses that helped catch the perpetrators. There's concern that the media is playing off of stereotypes and mainstream fears of violent, young, black men -- a story told more often than it is true.

There is also the issue -- rarely touched upon -- that the San Francisco Bayview/Visitacion Valley neighborhood in which so many of these attacks occurred is one of the embattled San Francisco African American communities. This neighborhood has been diversifying, and gentrifying, at the usual San Franciscan rate in the past several years -- which means that longtime black neighbors are being pushed out. The implication is that this recent history heightens tensions, even if it doesn't contribute to violence.

In the absence of any clear evidence that black-on-Asian violence is endemic, or that it is racially motivated, what do you think about this situation? Is it true that (some) African Americans are targeting Asian Americans out of hatred? Or are (some) Asians targeted because they appear -- or are -- vulnerable? Are Asians putting themselves at risk by refusing to report crimes or cooperate with police? Are Asians creating tensions by "invading" traditional black neighborhoods, and not being good neighbors? Is the media playing all of this up because a race war sells newspapers?

Discuss.

ETA: Bernice Yeung just sent me these statistics for your information:

  • Bureau of Justice statistics between 2002 and 2006 on violent attacks on Asians vs. non-Asians put the attacks on Asians at "11 violent victimizations per 1,000 persons age 12 or older, compared to 24 per 1,000 persons for non-Asians." There was no breakdown of non-Asian groups.
  • FBI hate crime statistics for 2008 has overall hate crimes against APIs as its second lowest number, after Native Americans/Alaskan Natives. Whites committed far and away the most hate crimes against APIs. These numbers are absolute, not proportional.

Please keep in mind that these are statistics on reported crimes, and that the contention of both sides of this debate is that APIs seriously under-report crimes. So these numbers don't necessarily reflect the actual picture of violent crimes against APIs.

 

Image at top is a screen grab from the KGO-TV report.

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Anonymous wrote 3 years 5 weeks ago

In order to promote

In order to promote reconciliation and peace among these two groups, there needs to be some level of education. Black Americans need to learn about the history and background of their new neighbors and Asians need to learn about the history and background of African-Americans. The best venue for this long term reconciliation to occur is in the school system, where the children of these two groups shall sit side by side. Why not challenge children to truly open up their minds and learn about someone who may seemingly look and act differently from them? Over time these children will begin to realize that humanity is simply beautiful in that the color of blood is neither black nor white. It is red!

Anonymous wrote 3 years 44 weeks ago

Whoops, one more thing-about

Whoops, one more thing-about the hate-orade going on w/ shops owned by Asians opening in the "hood"-quit tha bleeping hate!  If they want to open a shop there it's cool.  I mean, I certainly don't mind a bit-if you have the money to open up a shop-go for it! :D 

Anonymous wrote 3 years 44 weeks ago

These comments

First off, I want to say that as a female African American college freshman, I find these crimes that are happening appalling.  No matter what the race o/ ethnicity of these culprits are, they need to be hit over the head w/ the book. I also find the crimes that are happening in Philly equally appalling.  I happen to have a lot of friends who happen to be Asian, and I really can't imagine myself ever having conflicts with them in any way shape, or form.  Ironically, I live in Ohio, not the most diverse state in the country, but starting from high school 'til now, I have a lot of friends that just happen to be Asian.  How that happened, who knows? Then again, I do have a love of learning about different cultures and try to see the similarities in different ethnic groups more than the differences. Now with that being said...

Good heavens!! What's with the hate-orade? :O (Just to be specific 3, and I have to use humor to call the 3 out to try to calm myself down)

@ Zohan-dude, you really had to use the term "negro"? Wha...?

@ Yan Shen-did a brotha or a sista hurt you in some way?  Look I'm sorry.  I wish you would've lived in my area-you would probably be thinking differently now.  Now look, I just have a really good feeling that there are black people (me for one ;) ) who are criticizing these crimes that are geared towards Asian people.

@pzed-did you really have to go there w/ the comment "if blacks don't want to be stereoytyped as criminals, they need to police their own community. or hey, maybe they should stop, you know, committing crimes."?  I'm having a twitch in my right eye b/c of that comment.  Still have it, still have it...I'm sorry, I have to a little bit comical to calm myself down here. You do know that we are trying to stop the shiggedy going on in these neighborhoods right?  Sadly, due to the media's fascination with Lindsey Lohan and Kim Kardashian, these happenings are being looked over.  Look, I understand that you were mugged by 2 black kids.  I can't imagine how that feels to be mugged (I do hope that it doesn't sound like I'm undermining your experience, please know that I'm not-promise), but an experience like that does not give one the right to use a comment like that.  Just...really?!  I mean, dude, that's a bit of a low blow there, pal.  Just...really?!

Ann wrote 4 years 9 weeks ago

Weird. I'm black woman and

Weird. I'm black woman and I used to live in a semi-poor side of Houston. It has since been taken over by Hispanics like most of Houston, but that area used to be mostly black and Asian. I had mostly Asian friends. If Asians are really better off like society wants us to believe, why do most Asians live or go to school with blacks?

Anyways, most of my friends are Asian, even my boyfriend is Asian. My we Houston blacks know how to get along better with Asians. So sad to see what's happening in Philly. I realize they are all fighting for the limited resources, but that doesn't justify terrorizing old people and students.

Lauren wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Economic Implications Overlooked

Claire, I think it's safe to say that there is a very high economic implication in many of the stories being told.

I believe no one should EVER be singled out for a crime because of racial/ethnic background (or ANY reason for that matter).  But I also believe that if most of the commenters who have been mistreated by Blacks had walked through a primarily black neighborhood, but in a wealthier area of town, this wouldn't have happened.

I have had horrible experiences as well. Walking past a group of young black gentlemen in a section of the neighborhood I refer to as the "hood", one man audibly said "I'd f*** her". I live in New York City and am exposed to every kind of "Black" person you can imagine - black american, african, west indian, etc and the main difference is economic status.

It's also not fair to target economic groups but I think the evidence indicating most of these crimes are committed by people of a certain economic and/ or educational level is overwhelming.

Please, everyone, as you rehash your horrific accounts with certain minority groups, please remember that this was an interaction with not just people of a certain

My argument is not that the victims shouldn't have been in certain areas. It is, rather, that instead of lumping ALL black people in one category of violent, dangerous, unpredictable, and rude, it's important to indicated the type of neighborhood and economic status.

After all, a lower-income person with little to no education of ANY race is probably more likely to commit a violent/hate-based crime.

Lxy wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Racist Rationalizations for hate crimes

<i>"East Asians have to understand there are a set of rules that we play by in American and that includes treating people equally, irrespective of their skin color.  Until they learn to play by our rules, unfortunately they are going to continue to see their hostile behavior come full circle.  I know this is unpleasant to hear, but it is something we as a community have to work on."</i>

This is a classic case of blaming the victim--including murder victims. Pathetic.

In essence, this guy is trying to rationalize hate crimes against (East) Asians as a community.

If that itself isn't racist, then nothing is.

And you are dead wrong about the "rules that we play by in American (sic)." America ain't about "treating people equally, irrespective of their skin color."

This is patriotic American propaganda that I doubt you even believe.

You ever heard of Arizona's SB 1070 law?

You know, the racist profiling law targeted against "illegal immigrants" by Arizona.

That is only the tip of the iceberg of how America treats people--in the real world.

http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2009/03/25/MNAM16MA7P.DTL&type=printable

By your logic, immigrants in the USA would be totally justified in jacking up Americans as a people.

After all, it would only be a case of your own hostile and *institutionally* racist behavior towards immigrants coming full circle.

 

Zohan wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

double standard

I often lol at most peep in CA feel pity toward black no matter wat wrong they did. There is always some pity excuse behind it. If a whit man beat up a old negro lady and throw her under the bus we'll called that hate crime, but when  negro man beat up Chinese lady we called that random crime happen in SF.

Jagrmeister wrote 4 years 15 weeks ago

Reality

The reality is that East Asians are not being targeted because of their size or vulnerability.  The unpleasant truth why East Asians are being targeted and not Southeast Asians, for example, is that Chinese-Americans tend to demonstrate the worst, most discriminatory behavior towards blacks.  I see it everyday in the Bay Area.  East Asians get away with treating blacks in a way that is so disrespectful and racist, no one else, certainly not whites, would be allowed to get away with it.  Now this is all starting to come full circle in anger back at their community, and not surprisingly, they want to cry foul and play the victim.  But this is retalliation for their own behavior towards African-Americans.  A few incident on how east asians treated blacks left me speechless.  In one case, at a drycleaners, the asian owner wouldn't even respond to a black customer who had come in and had questions.  In another, an asian restaurant blatantly seated a white couple ahead of a black family that had quite clearly arrived first.  I felt bad at the time for the family- I guess I was too shocked to say anything.  

East Asians have to understand there are a set of rules that we play by in American and that includes treating people equally, irrespective of their skin color.  Until they learn to play by our rules, unfortunately they are going to continue to see their hostile behavior come full circle.  I know this is unpleasant to hear, but it is something we as a community have to work on.

Lxy wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

One thing to keep in mind. In

One thing to keep in mind. In the USA, acts of violence, racism, and hate crimes against a particular group will ultimately not be admitted, let alone addressed, by society until that victimized group stands and compels people (including so-called Progressives) to acknowledge these issues. In other words, don't look to Mainstream America (whether Left Wing or Right Wing) for justice. It ain't about justice. It's all about power. If you don't have power in the USA, you don't exist and your concerns or experiences don't count as "reality."

sgpark wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

In Claire's defense

I don't think she is characterizing the presence of Asian immigrants in poor black neighborhoods as an "invasion".  She puts that word in quotes for a reason.  Seems to me she's re-phrasing a common point of view/stereotype that gets used to villainize the Asian side of the conflict and putting it out there for critique/discussion.

On a more general note, I think the inability to address the fact that there are racists in ALL populations is ridiculous.  The more disadvantaged the population, the more blatant and violent the form racism will take.  While there are idiots out there who will use these realities to generalize about and stereotype whole populations, that shouldn't motivate people who are trying to constructively deal with such conflicts to ignore or lie about what is going on.  Because mischaracterizing street-level realities that effect real individuals for ideological reasons pretty much dooms any effort to find solutions.

I think it's important for Asians in these kinds of communities to understand what their presence means, economically, to the long-time black residents. While the Asians who move in do so because they, too, are poor, the reality is that Asians face far fewer barriers to moving out of that poverty.  As they do so, they serve as the vanguard of gentrification and threaten these neighborhoods' identities.  Immigrants in general tend to have a very simplistic view of upward mobility.  They also bring racism with them, in addition to acquiring it here.  They tend to be unable to understand the particular situation and history of poor black Americans, and that can translate into lack of respect and sympathy, and a tendency to "use" African American patronage to move out of poverty without ever being motivated to see African Americans as neighbors and care about them or the future of the neighborhood.

I also think it's important for black community leaders to speak up and acknowledge that racism against Asians exists and motivates crimes.  You can't decry something you won't admit exists.  Besides, acknowledging that one's own community has racists just like everyone else's does a lot to diffuse resentment on the part of other ethnic groups, who feel that black Americans get a "pass" when it comes to racism from within their own community.  Such resentment is a barrier to communication, understanding, and sympathy, and it needs to be addressed.

r. yee wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Essay by Ying Ma, "Black Racism"

Black Racism
By Ying Ma

In what passes for discussions on race these days, small problems are
often blown up large, while real traumas are completely ignored. For
instance, despite what President Clinton's "Race Initiative" panel has
said, the very rawest racial conflicts in present-day America don't even
fit into the tidy mold of white-majority-oppressing-colored-minority
that activists constantly promote. Though civil rights groups and most
of the media studiously ignore this fact, the nation's most fractious
racial battles are now conflicts between minority populations.
Particularly horrific is the animosity directed at Asian Americans by
blacks in low-income areas of urban America.

At age ten, I immigrated from China to Oakland, California, a city
filled with crime, poverty, and racial tension. In elementary school, I
didn't wear name-brand clothing or speak English. My name soon became
"Ching Chong," "Chinagirl," and "Chow Mein." Other children laughed at
my language, my culture, my ethnicity, and my race. I said nothing.

After a few years, I began to speak English, but not well enough to
trade racial insults. On rides home from school I avoided the back of
the bus so as not to be beaten up. But even when I sat in the front,
fire crackers, paper balls, small rocks, and profanity were thrown at me
and the other "stupid Chinamen." The label "Chinamen" was dished out
indiscriminately to Vietnamese, Koreans, and other Asians. When I looked
around, I saw that the other "Chinamen" tuned out the insults by eagerly
discussing movies, friends, and school.

During my secondary school years, racism, and then the combination of
outrage and bitterness that it fosters, accompanied me home on the bus
every day. My English was by now more fluent than that of those who
insulted me, but most of the time I still said nothing to avoid being
beaten up. In addition to everything else thrown at me, a few times a
week I was the target of sexual remarks vulgar enough to make Howard
Stern blush. When I did respond to the insults, I immediately faced
physical threats or attacks, along with the embarrassing fact that the
other "Chinamen" around me simply continued their quiet personal
conversations without intervening. The reality was that those who cursed
my race and ethnicity were far bigger in size than most of the Asian
children who sat silently.

The racial harassment wasn't limited to bus rides. It surfaced in my
high school cafeteria, where a middle-aged Chinese vendor who spoke
broken English was told by rowdy students each day at lunch time to
"Hurry up, you dumb Ching!" On the sidewalks, black teenagers and adults
would creep up behind 80-year-old Asians and frighten them with
sing-song nonsense: "Yee-ya, Ching-chong, ah-ee, un-yahhh!" At markets
and in the streets of poor black neighborhoods, Asians would be told,
"Why the hell don't you just go back to where you came from!"

When it came time for college, I left this ugly world for a beautiful
school far away. Finally, it was possible to pursue a life without
racial harassment backed by the threat of violence. I chose not to
return to my old neighborhood after college, but I am often reminded of
the racial discrimination I endured there. On a bus not too long ago I
saw a black woman curse at a Korean man, "You f---ing Chinese person!
Didn't you hear that I asked you to move yo' ass? You too stupid to
understand English or something?"

In poor neighborhoods across this country Asians endure daily racial
hatred just as I did. Because of their language deficiencies, their
small size, their fear of violent confrontations, they endure in
silence. Unlike me, many of them will never depart for a new life in a
beautiful place far, far away. So each day they grow more bitter against
a group that much of America refuses to acknowledge to be capable of
racism: African Americans.

In a fair and peaceful world, racial harassment will be decried without
regard to its source. The problem today is that prominent black leaders
rule out even the possibility of black racism. Activists like Al
Sharpton and Jesse Jackson intone that racism equals "prejudice plus
power," and that since blacks in America lack power, they are simply not
capable of practicing racism against anyone. John Hope Franklin, chair
of President Clinton's race panel, angrily insists that racism is
something suffered, not dished out, by blacks. Many black professors,
writers, polemicists, and politicians repeat the same mantra. What might
appear to be black racism, writes syndicated columnist Leonard Pitts,
actually boils down not to racism but to acts of crime and rudeness from
the perpetrators, and tough luck for the recipients.

Rationalizers of black racism ignore the fact that identical actions
inflicted by whites would be universally decried as intolerable.
Ultimately, their arguments simply grease the skids for further
traumatizing of "unlucky" victims. And to real-life casualties of racial
animosity, motivation is not especially relevant. Loss is loss. Pain is
pain.

Unfortunately, Asian Americans-and especially their leaders-have failed
to speak out on this matter. Complaints from wounded individuals
regularly boil into public view, however. In mid-August, I attended a
crowded press conference held in New York's Chinatown to discuss
Indonesia's history of discrimination against ethnic Chinese (which
peaked this May in a wave of bloody anti-Chinese riots). One woman at
the event began to hysterically scream out her frustrations over black
American racism against Asians. The woman, Mee Ying Lin, shouted,
"Chinese suffer from racial discrimination by blacks every day. We
should help persecuted Chinese overseas, but why is no one dealing with
our own troubles in America?"

Rose Tsai, head of the San Francisco Neighbors Association, and
candidate for a seat on the city's Board of Supervisors, suggests that
everyday Asians rarely defend themselves against ghetto racism because
"Asian culture is just not that confrontational.. Asians are unlike
blacks who got to where they are in politics by being militant."

Tsai explains that Asian involvement in politics is at a nascent stage,
that it is difficult for her organization even to convince Asian
immigrants to vote, let alone make a political stink against racial
harassment. "Asians are just not used to standing up for our own
rights," says another Bay Area Chinese activist with frustration.

That might explain the quiescence of recent immigrants who speak
imperfect English. But what about the growing cadre of Asian activists?
They are far from passive or non-confrontational. In just the past two
years, organizations like the Asian American Legal Defense Fund, the
National Asian-Pacific American Legal Consortium, the Organization for
Chinese Americans, and others have voiced loud condemnations of "racism"
in American society. But they have focused on events like the recent
investigation of Asian donors of illegal campaign funds, the Republican
opposition in Congress to Bill Lann Lee's nomination as director of the
Office of Civil Rights, a cover drawing for National Review that showed
the President, Vice President, and First Lady dressed in Manchurian
garb, and even a recent cover photo for this magazine that showed a
handsome Asian male scowling angrily at the camera.

If vocal Asian activists are able to work themselves into a frenzy
attacking everyday political tussles and editorial cartoons for their
alleged racist motivations, they are obviously capable of confrontation.
Why then do we never hear these national activists condemning black
racism against Asians in our inner cities?

Some Asian-American activists say the reason they have not confronted
anti-Asian racism among blacks is because the tension does not exist on
the national level, but is merely confined to some local areas. Karen
Narasaki of the National Asian-Pacific American Legal Consortium claimed
in a recent interview that black animosity is different in each city and
ought to be handled differently in each case by local organizations.
David Lee, executive director of one such local organization, the San
Francisco Voters Education Committee, concurs: "There may be a few
communities and a few areas where tensions exist-so it is better for
community groups rather than a national organization like the
Organization of Chinese Americans to deal with such problems."

Representatives of national Asian organizations also cite resource
constraints to explain their quiescence. They say black-Asian clashes
are not a serious enough national issue to expend scarce time and money
on.

There is a difference, however, between not being able to expend effort
and not wanting to. Asian activists on the national level also
matter-of-factly justify black racism in inner cities as a direct result
of competition between Asians and their black neighbors over limited
economic resources. Narasaki, while acknowledging she is not an inner
city expert, insists that many black and Asian conflicts "have to do
with the lack of economic opportunities" in cities. Echoing this
refrain, Stanley Mark, program director of the Asian American Legal
Defense Fund, asserts that "we can't talk about race without talking
about economic disparities."

In this vein, Asian activists consistently mention that racial problems
occur when Asian merchants move into predominantly black neighborhoods
and flourish. The vicious year-long black boycott of a Korean store in
Brooklyn in 1990, and the looting and burning of Korean stores in
south-central Los Angeles during the 1992 Rodney King riots serve as
shining examples of conflicts linked to economic disparities.

The excuse of economic disparities fails miserably to justify violence
and harassment, however. For some observers, it also brings up memories
of Nazi persecution of Jews, African attacks on Indian merchants, and
recent murders, rapes, and robberies of ethnic Chinese in Indonesia. All
of these atrocities were committed against people deemed economically
well off by larger masses facing difficult times.

In any case, the economic disparities rationale falls apart in the many
instances where racism flourishes in the absence of class differences.
At San Francisco's Hunter's Point public housing complex, for instance,
low-income Southeast Asian residents, who are in the minority, have
consistently encountered racial harassment from their black neighbors.
Racial slurs, physical threats, violence, and destruction of property
have festered for years. Philip Nguyen of the Southeast Asian Community
Center, who has worked on the case for years, notes that there are no
economic differences between the Asian and black families in the
complex. The Asians, he says, are very quiet and have made every effort
to befriend the black residents, yet serious friction has persisted for
ten years.

Joe Hicks, executive director of the Los Angeles City Human Relations
Commission, painstakingly tried to bring blacks and Asians together
after the Rodney King riots. He believes that "much of the hostilities
are due to blacks' jealousy of Asian economic success, a sense of
alienation, and the self-perpetuating belief that blacks will always
lose out in the racial equation in America." He adds that "certainly
economics gives a basis to many of the problems," but asserts that "even
if tomorrow we can have a level playing field for both racial groups, we
would still have animosity and racial strife" because prejudices would
still remain.

Asian activists who are not otherwise inclined to ignore prejudice are
often strangely anxious to apologize for black racism. In interviews,
they note that Asians harbor many prejudices against blacks too. This
explanation, however, has no power to explain the kind of harassment I
and many others like me experienced as young immigrant children
beginning life with no animus toward anyone.

Asian prejudice toward blacks surely exists. But whatever biases might
be harbored in the minds of Asian immigrants, many of whom had never
seen a black person before arriving in the U.S., they certainly don't
rate at the level of destroying black people's property, scaring their
elderly folk, or threatening and assaulting their children-the kinds of
pressures Asians in many urban areas now endure routinely. Asian youths
in particular typically start out with little or no inclination to
distrust or dislike African Americans. Young Asians are usually far more
willing than their parents to accept a new country and new friends,
including black ones. In many cases, it was only after innumerable
frightening chases, assaults, and humiliations that Asian attitudes
toward blacks turned defensive. Those of us whose open minds were
confronted with hostility and hatred will never accept the insulting
assertion that our suffering resulted from our own prejudices.

It seems that leaders of the Organization of Chinese Americans, the
Asian American Legal Defense Fund, and related groups are disconnected
from the real concerns of many of the Asians they claim to represent.
David Lee, whose Bay Area organization is attempting to promote local
dialogue among minority journalists, believes that a fundamental
disconnection exists between the national Asian spokesmen and the new
majority of Asians who are recent immigrants. The prominent Asian civil
rights leaders, he notes, tend to be American born, to speak little of
their ethnic languages, and to be unable to read the local ethnic
newspapers. Many of them do not know or understand the problems in low
income areas, because they live comfortable middle-class lives. And so
"it is not surprising that they are silent about black-on-Asian
discrimination," Lee summarizes.

Bong Hwan Kim, executive director of the Korean Youth and Community
Center in Los Angeles and an active member of the Black-Korean Alliance
that attempted to bring African- and Korean-Americans together in the
eight years before the south-central riots, describes a disconnection in
the Korean community between first-generation immigrants and
acculturated second generation residents with less familiarity with
inner-city life. After the shops of Koreatown were looted or burned, he
reports, the more suburbanized Koreans pushed inter-ethnic
bridge-building efforts, while the first-generation immigrants who
toiled in menial jobs, bridled at having to sit across the table from
those who looted and burned their property. Meanwhile, few of the
prominent national Asian organizations even condemned the violence
perpetrated against Koreans in L.A.

Stanley Mark of the Asian American Legal Defense Fund argues in defense
of the national Asian organizations that people hear less from the Asian
leaders about black-on-Asian racism than white-on-Asian racism simply
because there is less of the former than the latter. Mark insists he
knows of no case where an Asian was seriously hurt or killed by a racist
black American.

Underlining the disconnect between national and local perceptions, Liu
Yu-xi, an organizer of the New York coalition of Chinese Americans that
mobilized hundreds of thousands of normally politically apathetic
Chinese to protest Indonesian violence against Chinese residents,
chuckled at Stanley Mark's ignorance of cases of black racism. Liu, who
has known of many racially motivated physical attacks against Chinese in
New York, observes, "Such crimes are reported often in the local Chinese
papers, but the national Asian activists obviously do not know how to
read Chinese."

When asked why prominent Asians have said little about racial harassment
by African Americans, Bill Tam of San Francisco's Chinese Family
Alliance flatly stated, "I think they are afraid to say anything." To
him, it appears that Asian leaders are often fearful of the national
black leadership. National Asian organizations generally follow the lead
of black civil rights groups like the naacp so slavishly, another Bay
Area activist told me, that even when the latter's stances (for
instance, on quotas and preferences) are opposed to the interests and
beliefs of many Asian citizens, the Asian activists don't challenge
their allies.

Rose Tsai of the San Francisco Neighbors Association was a little more
blunt: "Most Asian leaders do not wish to acknowledge that there exists
a problem because they do not want the minorities to fight amongst
themselves." As a result, national Asian spokesmen speaking for their
brethren are without any inkling of the real problems they face, or what
kind of racism is dragging them down. Recognizing the complex issues
between blacks and Asians, Philip Nguyen of the Southeast Asian
Community Center has a simple proposal: "Fight, not against or for any
group, but against racial discrimination."

Ying Ma, who immigrated to the United States in 1985, is a research
associate at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York.


Published in Fresh Thinking About Race in America November/December
1998 Issue <http://www.taemag.com/issues/issueID.136/toc.asp>

Available on the AEI website at
http://www.taemag.com/issues/articleID.17109/article_detail.asp

Yan Shen wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

I love how everyone is

I love how everyone is approaching this as though it were a conflict with two equally culpable parties,

Regardless of how blacks feel about Asians or vice versa, I don't see any reports of systematic Asian on black violence. The conflict seems to me to be entirely one sided.

Instead of everyone attempting to skirt around the issue, I'll just state it quite explicitly. No one is willing to call out this black on Asian bigotry because in this country we have a neurotic sensibility which leads us to freak out against criticizing blacks in any way whatsoever, because my god that would make us seem racist.

So instead of calling a spade a spade, we try to concoct the most convoluted explanation for the simply fact that certain individuals in the black community are quite capable of harboring racial animus and bigotry.

Imagine if whites in say Alabama were systematically targeting blacks. The entire country would've been in an uproar already. I'm so sick and tired of listening to this apologist [WORD REDACTED. I'M SERIOUS, PEOPLE, DO NOT CURSE! I WILL DELETE THE NEXT POST! - cl].

carmen wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

hi claire.

i was born and raised in San Francisco's bayview & mission district, so this issue impacts me deeply.  my thoughts? it is about time asian americans came together to address this issue that is usually unspoken but silently known in the community.

whenever people do not see statistics, numbers, hard evidence, they start to question the validity of one's argument.  that's the whole point of the asian community coming together in the first place- so we can have our voices heard.  this is only the first step- but please take into account the concerns of the community- they didn't just magically appear, they are rooted from somewhere. obviously, people have not reported many of these incidents, if at all any. there are a few reasons due to that

1- some may believe that reporting to officials will NOT lead to a beneficial result (i.e. being resolved, catching the attacker, etc- and from experience, this rarely happens)

2- if anything, there are too many difficulties reporting the crime, taking time out of their busy day, language barriers, etc. so why even report the crime if you believe no good will come out of it?

3- i, myself have been a target for almost getting jumped a few years back. i was at a bus stop minding my own business when 3 african american girls tried to take my purse. unlike most people, i fought back (well, i basically spoke up for myself and yelled at them) and managed to get away. i don't let people walk all over me & i'm not one to keep my mouth shut even if that meant putting myself at physical risk. why didn't i report this attempted robbery? it's something that happens in our community so often- it honestly didn't even cross my mind.

it is dissapointing that we do not report these small incidents due to the mind set described above of many asian americans.  it seems like the only time they are reported, is when someone ends up dying or in the hospital.  what about the teenagers who were jumped on their way home? (my brother, my friends) elderly who were robbed on the bus? (my aunties, grandma AND mom) or other acts of harrassment (like throwing glass bottles from the bus at the head of an elderly man on the street? YEAH, disturbing but i have SEEN it happen)  Yes, i understand that we don't have quantitative data regarding this incident- but based from personal experience, it is definitely apparent.  It must be, if you walk to the bus stop and are overwhelmed with anxiety, or think, "aw, shit!" when you see a group of young african americans staring and you and start to head your way.  unfortunately- this is how it is for many Asian Americans in the community (yes, i'm stereotyping, but the unfortunate truth is that this thought has ran through my mind (i'm sure it has in others)- even though i KNOW that many af. am.s are even capable of such violent acts) sadly, this cycle just leads to stereotypes and prejudices being reinforced against both groups, but sometimes analyzing them can reveal the underlying reason as to why they are there.

yeah- asians are small, don't tend to report crimes, and tend to not fight back.  these stereotypes don't justify the ONLY reason as to why Asian Americans are targets. there are other reasons that can be deemed "racially motivated"

you asked if these incidents were due to asians "invading" traditional black neighborhoods? maybe- but please keep in mind that a lot of Asians in San Francisco are low income and can't really afford to live in expensive communities.  Communities such as hunter's point, the mission or chinatown are just more feasible- perhaps these acts of violence may be due to asians coming into these communties

in the past, situations such as these with violent crimes resulting in them, have been deemed as hate crimes.  Take Vincent Chin's death in 1970, for example. A white american who was recently laid off saw some correlation from him losing his job due to a growing number of asians in the automobile industry.  his attack against vincent chin was ruled a hate crime in one trial.  but due to his multiple trips to court, Ebbs ended up without any jail time at all for murdering Chin. let's not let this once again be a vincent chin case where at the end of the 3rd or 4th trial the judge, he ruled it to NOT be a hate crime due to the lack of hard evidence.

My point is, there is definitely racial tension in these communties. they may be due to issues like unequal access of education, jobs, housing and etc in teh community. people need to address the larger issues at hand within the community, rather than primarily saying asians are "vulnerable targets" or other prejudices like "blacks are just violent." doing these things will only push us backwards.  hate crimes- that may be too strong of a term, but racial tension within the community definitely plays a role

Anonymous wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

thanks Claire

It's sad that it takes violent crimes that we've seen recently to initiate discussions on this vital topic. Thanks for starting the blog, Claire. I have been really sad/upset over the recent deaths of the two Chinese immigrants in S.F. and Oakland. My heart goes out to the spouses or relatives of the victims. I don't really want to rant on about the tension between Black and Asian communities here, it would be not useful to anyone. However since my parents were Chinese immigrants, I recall that there were always issues of racial and class perception growing up in an insular Chinese family - very little English spoken at home. You can imagine what my mom was thinking when my best friend in elementary school came over to play, (he was Black). Anyhow, she ended up liking him alot and he was much better at math than I was, for real. We lived on the borders of Spanish Harlem and Black Harlem which was separated by Madison Avenue, sort of like the DMZ of upper Manhattan. I was always aware of the tension, the class differentiation among the three neighborhoods. As a child I was probably unaffected by racism or class consciousness since I didn't care what color my friends were. Probably by middle school most of us learn prejudice due to our human fallibilities and irrational thinking. Unfortunately we all grow up and consequently maintain those sterotypical and fear based biases to one degree or another. If you combine racist attitudes with economic disparities or lack of education, you have a powder keg. I believe the latter will cause violence more that the former, as reality has born this fact out.

This is a very complex issue and it will not be solved in our lifetimes. Since the 1950's I've not really seen attitudinal changes among Asian immigrants nor of the Black underclass toward one another. Chinese have a saying - 违强陵弱 - wéiqiánglíngruò. translated: "to avoid the strong and attack the weak". Again, the question is whether the overridng factor is race, Chinese seniors being easy targets or perhaps a mixture of both. In the meantime, as a community or body politic, we have to remain rational and attempt to address economic justice and education, and especially matters of race, language issues and cultural differences. The fact that there have been stunning achievements in inter-racial endeavors in the Bay Area means it is possible to find the middle way. This, unfortunately is no consolation to the relatives of those who died at the hand of sudden violence. As yellow people, we cannot ignore the the fact that Asians historically, do have pre-conceptions of Africans/African Americans that are based on ignorance and fear, (real or imagined) - this perpetuates racist attitudes, the same can be said of other national or racial groups. No one has a monopoly on being racist. The proponents of "buy a gun" self-defense or hurling expletives against African Americans is self defeating in my opinion. We do not need escalation of the tension that now exists in S.F or New York, L.A., etc. If the Chinese community is thinking or imagining retaliation, then we are headed in the wrong direction. My hope is that the recent deaths of Huan Chen and Tian Sheng Yu may escalate the peace and bring community leaders together for an invigorated sense of purpose, am I being naive here? Meanwhile, elderly Asians now need neighborhood support and protection from thugs, no matter what color they are.

Bob Hsiang   

Anonymous wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Divide and conquer. Again.

Asians have prejudices against Blacks. Asians have prejudices against other Asians. Blacks have prejudices against Asians. Some of these are based on actual experience, much of it is based on stereotypes received from family, community, media and so on.

Stereotypes are generalizations of a group that are not based on facts. It could be that the tiny percentage of Blacks who rob Asians are doing so based on a stereotype, but that doesn't make it true of all Asians, right? When you are the victim of a crime, of course it hurts and you want justice. But just because a Black person's actions seem to validate your prejudiced stereotype doesn't make it true of the entire group.

If in response Asians start making generalizations about Blacks, we all fall prey to divide and conquer. Asians and Blacks can be easily set against each other because these prejudices and stereotypes already exist in society and are reinforced. Divide and conquer has been employed many times in the past and continues today; it's very effective. This doesn't mean that the communities don't have issues to work out with each other. But we need to be courageous and ask the bigger questions.

What are the economic factors at play in the situation? What are the historical factors at play?

What can both communities do as allies to respond to these types of crimes? What would we need to learn about each other to do so effectively? Asians and Blacks often know very little about each others' histories.

What social changes should we fight for together?

Claire Light wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Thank you for the perspective

Thank you for the perspective Anonymous. I think you're right that we need to step back and take a look at the context, ask bigger questions. But I also think we have to do more than ask. I think we have to actually try to answer them. Could you take a whack at a few answers?

  • What do you think are the economic factors at play in the situation?
  • What do you think are the historical factors at play?
  • What do you think both communities do as allies to respond to these types of crimes?
  • What do you think we need to learn about each other to do so effectively?
  • What social changes do you think we should fight for together?
Harry Mok wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Vincent Pan opinion piece in the Chronicle

Vincent Pan of Chinese for Affirmative Action has an opinion piece in the San Francisco Chronicle today.

He argues that the question should not be if this is about race, but how race matters and how to move "toward hope and unity, rather than despair and division."

Without intervention, a cycle begins in which harassment escalates into robberies and assaults, and even homicides, with the stereotyping of African Americans as assailants growing on the one hand, and Chinese American elders and youth as targets on the other.

He also offers some suggestions to support victims and address the systematic social problems in the San Francisco neighborhood where the attacks are taking place. 

Whether there is black on Asian crime or black on black crime, there seems to be many problems in the area and this is just a part of what is going on.

(Full disclosure, Chinese for Affirmative Action provides office space and other support to Hyphen)

 

 

Jolly Bob wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Jolly Bob

Claire...

I'm a little confused by your article and by your subsequent response in the comments section. You call for more stats to support the idea that Asians are being targeted, yet don't really tell us how this will prove that there is or isn't any racial motivation in these attacks.

Just because a survey shows that Asians experience lower violent crimes than other groups doesn't mean that the violent crimes that they do experience aren't racially motivated. It a non-sequitur to use crime stats to determine motivations.

Also, I'm a little disturbed at the way you've phrased some of your ideas....<i>"Are Asians creating tensions by "invading" traditional black neighborhoods, and not being good neighbors?"</i>.

Wut?!! Are women that wear mini skirts creating tension amongst horny young men and not being responsible about their sexuality, and so are somehow contributing to their own rape? That's the logic you seem to be espousing.

I appreciate your attempt to provide an unbiased perspective on this issue, yet if I were to ask myself that if I were someone unfamiliar with the social realities of America what would your article have taught me? Well, I hear loud and clear how African-Americans are victimized by society and that they are being pushed out of their traditional neighbourhoods, but what about the experiences of the Asian community? Not much has been said about them except that they are somehow "invading" neighbourhoods they apparently have no right to be in and that their fears and concerns about this issue are being unfairly over-represented in the media.

Somehow, you've managed to make the victims into instigators.

Claire Light wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Jolly Bob, this comment

Jolly Bob, this comment thread isn't about me, or what you *think* my opinions on this issue are. I've expressed no opinions on this issue in this post -- only restated those of others. Please stick to expressing your own opinions, and stop trying to turn me into the bad guy. I'll delete any more comments setting up straw men.

sgpark wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

A whole bunch of things that shouldn't be conflated

Claire, there will only be statistics if there is a will to gather and analyze them.  I think what all of the commenters are observing is that there is a widespread lack of will to acknowledge that hate crimes can be committed by African Americans or that Asian Americans suffer from racism in America.

The worst, crudest and most threatening racism I've ever experienced has come from African Americans in disadvantaged neighborhoods.  I think this is true of many, many Asian Americans and Asian immigrants.  It's not a justification for the stereotyping of and racism against blacks that we too often see from members of Asian communities.  It's not an excuse for feelings of enmity against all poor African Americans.  But it is what it is.  It exists.  I would wager that it's an almost universal part of the Asian American experience, but it's one that prominent Asian Americans do not want to discuss and white Americans don't want to hear.  This is most likely why nobody has any hard statistics or facts.  There's a perception that, even if this is going on, Asian Americans do not suffer from lack of opportunity, therefore it's not important enough to warrant the disturbance of granting it entrance into public awareness.

Obviously, the conflict is essentially one of class (or perceived class) and of nativists vs. immigrants.  Race just happens to overlay this conflict neatly.

Middle and upper middle class > first generation educated Asian Americans seem to feel that it's more important to try to address the lack of opportunity faced by poor blacks than to focus on the problems less rich, more recent Asian immigrants (who are the population most likely to experience regular conflict with African Americans because of proximity, frequency of interaction, etc.) face.  I'm not sure this attitude is entirely wrong.  But it's important to remember what Asian American activists have been saying all along: not all Asians are privileged; many suffer from poverty and other disadvantages; and the problems of all people who face challenges based on race and/or economic status are important.

Lastly, one does not have to establish a demographic trend in order to determine whether a crime is a hate crime, nor is the proof of a demographic trend any reason to think an individual crime is a hate crime.  An instance of a white person murdering a person of color shouldn't be automatically categorized as a hate crime simply because there is an established pattern of white racism against minorities.  Hate crimes are usually narrowly defined, and for good reason.  One person's crime should not be classified a hate crime because s/he shares demographic characteristics with people  who have committed hate crimes; that flies in opposition to time-honored legal principles of American criminal justice.

Also, the simple fact that a criminal harbors prejudice about the race of his or her victim does not make his/her crime a hate crime. In other words, whether a criminal is racist and whether his crime is a hate crime are two separate questions that just happen to have the same answer sometimes.

So I would say that race and racism most definitely figure in the attacks in Oakland.  There's probably a lot of racism in both directions, even if the violence most likely comes, as it usually does, from the more economically disadvantaged group.  But that doesn't necessarily make each or any of the crimes hate crimes.  And just because one/some black on Asian crimes may be/are hate crimes doesn't make all "black on Asian" crimes in the same area and time span hate crimes.

pzed wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

it happens

i don't live in cali, but i have experienced a mugging. 2 black kids held me up at gunpoint for my wallet while i was in my car.

i used to mentally chastise myself to avoid thinking along racial lines with regards to crime, but not anymore. i now have a gun and have an OCD reaction in repeatedly hitting the automatic locks on my car whenever i'm in a poor neighborhood.

1 testimonial obviously doesn't make a trend, but 1 experience was enough. i still daydream about shooting them in the back. if blacks don't want to be stereoytyped as criminals, they need to police their own community. or hey, maybe they should stop, you know, committing crimes. just a thought.

armchair_warrior wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

This isn't just a west coast

This isn't just a west coast thing, here in nyc, every time I walk near a black neighborhood someone screams pork fried rice and other things. while growing up in nyc i got spit at and sucker punched in schools etc.. the hate is there. some politicans would always say oh they are picking on the smaller guys not true at all. they would always come in groups. if they were alone people like me would fight back. but cowards come in groups to beat up asians. its pure hate. they don't see asians as people.
Alpha Asian wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

What I resent is the

What I resent is the implication that Asians are at fault and deserve the violence, because their very presence is considered foreign and an "invasion." I also resent the implication that there is "no clear evidence that Black on Asian violence is endemic." one of the frustations that the Chinese immigrant community has voiced on the Chinese language radio station is that Asian American politicians always ask them to vote and support them, but when it comes to advocating for their safety in light of a string of high profile attacks and deaths, these same politicians are silent. It's quite sad that when the immigrant community finally speaks up and is telling people outside of its community, "hey we're being targeted for violence," people are debating whether or not these assaults, muggings, burglaries and racist microaggressions they experience on a daily basis are even real. Politicians and organizations and magazines who claim to represent the Asian American perspective have failed MISERABLY in addressing the violence. They have put multi-cultural politics over advocating for the Asian immigrant community.
Claire Light wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Evidence Again

Thanks for that Barb! I write that there isn't any evidence because no one has reported hard statistics. The 85% statistic I mentioned above is the only one I've seen in any of the reports, and that was vaguely cited. I don't know where to find that information, do you, Anonymous? I'm not discounting personal testimony. In fact, I welcome personal testimony on this comments thread. I'm only saying that personal testimony doesn't prove that black-on-Asian violence is truly widespread, or a trend. Only impartial studies can show this -- and even those aren't infallible. If anyone has access to actual statistics that show the race of perpetrators and victims of violent crimes in Oakland or San Francisco, can you please link to or cite these? In the meantime, I'd like to invite anyone who has experience with these communities to offer their personal experiences here, or anyone at all to address the questions above.
Anonymous wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Claire, I think there is a

Claire, I think there is a lot of evidence that Asians are targeted by Blacks. The hundreds of elderly in SF and Oakland testify so. The two deaths and one battery in the Bay Area within the last year suggest so. The crimes against Asian high school kids in NYC and Pennsylvania say so (and so do the victims). As do the undocumented Hispanic workers that were targeted. Black kids themselves have said they target the most vulnerable - the elderly Asians. In the SFGate article linked here it said that a survey by the SFPD found that 85% of physical assault crimes in SF (of over 300) involved Asian victims and Black perpetrators. In SF, a lot of the younger-ish crowd want to be PC and work in coalition with other people of color. I certainly believe in that end. But not at the expense of our own community. If we don't call out the problem, it won't be solve. There is nothing wrong with saying there is a race problem. Don't let the message get hijacked but extremists, but don't forget our own communities.
Barbara wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Oakland Chinatown

Hey Claire, in Oakland Chinatown, we have a dedicated OPD station manned by language appropriate API officers (so this helps community actually report incidents). They tell us one major reason why elderly Asian folks are targeted is because they carry a lot of cash. Now in terms of whether there is a specific demographic of assaulters, in almost every case that the OPD tell us about, the assaulters are young African American males. I believe this is more so about the demographics of this particular area of Oakland rather than a flat out racial profiling. I am pretty sure the OPD have statistics.
Anonymous wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Black on Asian Violence

If one group of people is disproportionally experiencing violence at the hands of another group of people then it can be legitimately considered a hate crime. Or at the VERY LEAST, the acts of violence should merit a hard investigation. If the perpetrators were white, I think most people of color wouldn't hesitate to call it a racist hate crime.
Claire Light wrote 4 years 16 weeks ago

Evidence?

That's true, Anonymous, but there's a serious lack of evidence that Asian Americans are genuinely experiencing disproportionate violence at the hands of African Americans. I'm wondering if any readers out there have direct experience with these communities and can offer some insight based on their own experience? Until we get some more studies done, it'll be hard to talk about actual numbers.

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