Story at a glance

  • Hate crimes against Asian Americans surged last year after the coronavirus outbreak, which President Trump repeatedly called the “Chinese virus.”
  • President Biden signed an executive order condemning anti-Asian racism accelerated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Racist attacks against Chinese Americans and other Asian Americans have persisted, some targeting older citizens.
  •  

In 1982, Vincent Chin was beaten to death by two white men who reportedly thought the 27-year-old Chinese American man was Japanese. Nearly four decades later, Vicha Ratanapakdee was killed after being pushed to the ground in San Francisco. The 84-year-old was a Thai American, but amid an onslaught of anti-Chinese racism during the coronavirus pandemic, his death has once again brought the Asian American community together. 

"Our family has endured multiple verbal Anti-Asian attacks since the beginning of the pandemic...this time it was Fatal," wrote Eric Lawson, Ratanapakdee's son-in-law, in a GoFundMe fundraiser for a memorial that has raised more than $57,000, exceeding an initial goal of $10,000. 


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The 84-year-old is the latest victim of anti-Asian racism and one of several older Americans targeted by perpetrators. Using the hashtags “#JusticeForVicha” and “#AsiansAreHuman,” the community is fighting to spread awareness about the epidemic of violence. Asian American actors Daniel Wu and Daniel Dae Kim have offered a $25,000 reward in the case of another assault in Chinatown in Oakland, Calif. 


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While hate crimes against Asian Americans aren't new, the onset of the coronavirus pandemic led to a surge in reports of racist attacks. The wave of anti-Asian racism followed a record high number of hate crimes reported by law enforcement agencies in 2019, a majority of which were motivated by bias against race, ethnicity or ancestry.

"As cities reopen and social interactions resume, I fear the incidents of hate crimes will increase. I fear that businesses and restaurants in Chinatown will remain empty. And I fear that once the 'Health care Hero' status fades, I will only be left with the bias against my skin tone and the mask I cannot take off," said Alex Tran, a Vietnamese American doctor, in an essay for Changing America.

Anti-Asian sentiment even reached the White House, where President Trump repeatedly referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus.” As far as is currently known, the coronavirus was first seen in humans in Wuhan, China, but there is no evidence to support that the virus is “Chinese” in nature.

President Biden hinted at Trump's remarks in a memo condemning racism, xenophobia and intolerance against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, in which he acknowledged the role of the "federal government."

"I’m directing federal agencies to combat resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we’ve seen skyrocket during this pandemic. This is unacceptable and it’s un-American.  I’ve asked the Department of Justice to strengthen its partnership with the Asian American and Pacific Islander community to prevent those hate crimes," Biden said at the time.


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Published on Feb 09, 2021