Author Archives: Michaela Mateo

Rise on Asian-American Hate Crimes

Since the beginning of the pandemic, a surge of Asian-American hate crimes have risen throughout the United States, with incidents centering in the Bay Area and New York. 

On Jan 28, 2021 in San Francisco, 84 year-old Thai immigrant Vichar Ratanapakdee was aggressively shoved to the ground by an unknown assailant in front of his own home. He later succumbed and died from a brain hemorrhage in the hospital. Authorities have since arrested 19 year-old Antione Watson and was charged on suspicion of murder and elder abuse. 

The senseless attack on Mr.Vichar became the beacon call for action against Asian-American hate crime all over the Bay Area. Local residents fear for the safety of their eldery family members and demand for an increase of police presence in the downtown area. Many believe the crimes are rooted in the racial backlash of the pandemic towards Asian-Americans. 

Moreover within that same week, in San Jose, CAa 64 year-old Vietnamese woman was attacked and robbed by two men. She was assaulted  while withdrawing money at an atm for Lunar New Year and was left beaten on the ground. 

In New York, a 61 year-old Filipino man was brutally slashed across the face with a box cutter on a subway and barely escaped with his life. 

In Oakland, CA, a 91 year-old man was pushed and thrown to the ground by an identified man and went into a coma. 

These crimes have only increased and up to twenty attacks have been reported since January. Attacks consist of racial slurs, physical attacks, being spat on and so forth.

Furthermore, the shortage of news coverage and headlines about these attacks created a lack of awareness among communities locally and across the country. An interview with Barangay Chabot, a Filipino-American club at Chabot college, revealed that even among young college students, the news of these attacks were unforeseen and sudden.

“I just felt disappointed and heartbroken that it wasn’t getting the same coverage as a lot of other stories do and it sucks that it’s being downplayed. a lot of people even know about the hate crimes going on, unless you’re on social media [like] instagram.” expressed club member Rebecca Swain. 

The club members also voiced their opinions about how police are handling these investigations and their trust in higher authority is being shaken. Gerald Mayupao says,

“I think those in power, they don’t want people to see this as an issue and gather together and try to start movements again… I just feel like when it comes down to trying to investigate hate crimes and try to get publicized, there’s definitely people out there who try not to leak out this information so it doesn’t stir up a commotion.

 A lot of activists are fighting against what has happened, and I feel like these people [higher authority] didn’t want that to happen.” 

More than half of these crimes have not been investigated as hate-crimes due to insufficient evidence that may conclude it as a  “hate crime”. According to Cythia Choi, Co-Executive Director of the Chinese for Affirmative Action, the National Data on Anti-Asian Hate Incidents have summed up that;

  • Most crimes are considered “incidents” and not hate crimes
  • There are crimes reported from all 50 states, includin the District of Columbia
  • 56% of the incidents took place in either California or New York
  • Women are likely to encounter hate 2.3x more than men
  • 6% of the victims are seniors (ages 60+) 

Choi expresses, “It’s very disturbing to see that 70 percent of our respondents are women. And it isn’t surprising to women…
“to women of color, that we encounter much more street harassment… we encounter more sexualized, misogynistic, racist kinds of experiences…these are stories we are getting and younger women are experiencing this at a higher rate.” 

There are also the issues of fear among Asian communities or the lack of information to report incidents, making it difficult to get a real estimate of hate crimes happening in the nation.

 “We know that this is just the tip of the iceberg, we know there are a lot of people who don’t know about a reporting center, [or] don’t want to go to a site and describe the trauma that they’ve encountered…we really see this as the canary in the coal mine.”says Choi. 

The roots of xenophobia have greatly damaged many communities and right now, it is making waves within Asian communities, that perhaps it may be the catalyst for denying help from organizations such as AAPI. For club member Isabelle David, being part of the Filipino-American community, she has one message for her elders, “You don’t have to be resilient, we often glorify this idea of resilience…just getting through it in the face of struggle prevents a lot of us from getting the help that we need. [It] allows us to accept things that happen to us that we should not be accepting. I just want people to know that vulnerability is okay… 

We deserve help.” 

In that sense, the label “Model Minority ” comes to light and how much harm it does than good. The label stereotypes Asian communities as the “perfect” minority; silent, intelligent, and obedient as long as they are allowed to excel under the terms of the American dream. Hard-working in the face of diversity and never needing any assistance from other groups around them. It is the biggest misconception to describe Asian communities. It largely affects how Asians behave towards each other and how they expect treatment from other communities. 

Ms.Choi emphasizes the importance of it’s negativity by stating, 

“We don’t see [Model Minority] as positive, it erases part of our community and to know it was an intentional attempt to deny that there is structural racism…if Asians can pull themselves up by the bootstraps, then there must be something wrong with other racial or ethic groups, that somehow they’re not intellectually or culturally capable…that there is something wrong with their culture and values…as Asian-Americans, we have to wholeheartedly reject that [idea].” 

The effects from the rise of hate against Asians has created a rift in the safety net and trust that communities have built with each other, especially for their local authorities. The shift has been prominent and ongoing, ever since the Civil Rights movement to the Black Lives Matter movement and now, through the Stop Asian-American and Pacific Islander Hate movement (Stop AAPI). 

During March 2020 to March 2021, Stop AAPI reported 6,603 hate incidents spanning across the United States targeting Asians and Pacific Islanders. There have been increasing counts of violence and hate speech geared towards Asian communities, from the eldery down to young children experiencing hate in their schools. 

  • Children(17 and younger) targeted at 11%, while elders (61 and older) 6.6%.
  • Physical assaults increased form 10.2% in 2020 to 16.7% in 2021
  • Online hate incidents increased from 5.6% in 2020 to 10.2% in 2021

These “incidents” are only increasing in number each day and in order for an accurate account of these crimes, citizens are encouraged to report any crime they witness or experience to these reporitng sites;

New York State Hate Crimes Task Force: 1-888-392-3644 or text “Hate” to 81336

NYPD Hate Crimes Task Force: 1-888-440-HATE or email: [email protected]

Stop AAPI Hate: Report hate crimes; incident forms are available in Chinese, Korean and other languages

Stand Against Hate: Report hate crimes via Asian Americans Advancing Justice (this page is available in Chinese, Korean and Vietnamese)

There have been too many casualties stemming from these hate-crimes that if there is a time to stand up against them, towards all and any races, that time is now.

California Washed in Purple

From the beginning of March of 2020, businesses have experienced lockdown and quarantine due to the widespread of the COVID19 pandemic, resulting in mass restrictions and closures. 

Business owners all over the nation have had to reluctantly close their businesses for the sake of health safety. Moreover, those that remained open have had to follow strict guidelines on how they operate during the pandemic. 

There are 4 tier-level color coded systems used to track the lockdown that ranges from purple, red, orange and yellow. Purple, representing widespread cases, was a fixed veil over the State of California. In this tier, schools, businesses, and activities that promoted large gatherings were restricted to maintain social distancing. Moreover, social-distancing required people to stay 6 feet apart from each other. Most importantly, masks are mandatory to go inside a business or building that acquires many people. 

During the lockdown employers and employees, especially within the food industry, felt the impact heavily. While they were allowed to open for business, they were not able to accept customers inside their restaurants. 

Christine Aguado, a former employee at Gerry’s Grill, a very popular and often frequented Filipino restaurant in Union City, explained, “The restaurant I worked for had to close at the beginning of the pandemic [and] two months after we started to operate on a take-out only basis. This meant that only 20% of our staff got back on the payroll; just the kitchen staff and the host who were in charge of answering the phone…it was hard to keep up with the increasing demand.”

The biggest problem we had to deal with was the lack of staff willing to go back because they were scared of getting exposed to Covid.” 

Counties all over the state shut down effectively and swiftly following the announcement from Gov. Gavin Newsom on March 12,2020. However, many businesses and residents alike posed immense displeasure at the inconvenience and loss they were experiencing. 

Throughout the summer months of 2020, multiple protests against mask wearing popped up all over the United States, with people declaring  their individual rights and liberties against wearing a mask. An article from Forbes Jul 2020 highlighted one protestor, Tara Hill, an avid anti-mask Florida activist, quoting, “This is a virus that is very well contained. Everyone is responsible for their own healthcare decisions…We want our choices respected as well.” 

Despite ongoing backlash from anti-mask wearers, the majority of the US residents abided by the guidelines and followed restrictions. Workers, such as Lupe Hernandez, who continued to work through the pandemic shared her experience as a restaurant host and cafe employee, “When the pandemic first initially hit, the coffee shop that I work at had to close for a few months. When a few coworkers did test positive for the virus, we closed again for almost two months. It was hard not knowing when would be a safe time to return to work.” 

Small businesses were hit the hardest by the pandemic and their survival counted on daily foot traffic, but because of the lockdown they barely made ends meet. Most owners made the drastic decision to file bankruptcy and close permanently. These types of measures are what business owners and employees hope to prevent and while they are obedient to the guidelines, they hold bitterness towards lack of government aid and programs to help them stay afloat.

The wait for vaccines seemed to rile up the most anxiety upon workers who desire to get back to work.

“I think the government has tried, but it’s never enough, especially when it comes to small business.” Hernandez expressed,  “There wasn’t much that could have been done except wait for the tests and vaccines to emerge. The gov’t needs to continue to provide access to the tests and vaccines, and also healthcare to low-income families in order to make sure people can stay healthy and go to work.”

With an increase in vaccine distribution and healthcare organizations and citizens rushing to get their vaccinations, hope for a safer environment is on the rise. As of May 2020, California released news of counties switching to Red and Orange zones meaning, business and outdoor activities may now be observed in limited capacities, mandatory mask wearing and being fully vaccinated. 

Hernandez exclaims, “Now that there’s a vaccine I definitely feel safer in my work environment. My current job is at the coffee shop and all my coworkers including myself have gotten the vaccine. We definitely feel like we can move forward working together with a little less stress.

In light of recent events, slowly but surely, California and the rest of the nation is coming back to their “normal” daily lives with the ease of restrictions and guidelines. Businesses who have had to close down and employees who were laidoff are now have a chance in renewing their hopes in restoring what they lost due to the pandemic. All we may do now as a society is to keep up our patience and teamwork in opening up our counties once again. 

Hopefully, we will see California in the “yellow tier” soon.” 

Parkland Tragedy Remembrance

February 14, 2021, marked the third anniversary of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting that killed 14 students and three staff members. Memorials and tributes were raised in Parkland,FL, in honor of those who passed from the tragic event. 

The 2018 high school shooting was deemed one of the most deadly and horrific school shootings to date since the Sandy Hook Elementary school (located in Newtown,CT) mass shooting back in 2012. The perpetrator killed 20 students and six teachers.

Many survivors and affected families from both shootings still have PTSD and yet, are continuing their activism against gun control and violence till this day. 

An interview from NBC news on Feb 2021, featured a student survivor, Sam Grady, sharing her thoughts and ordeals from the horrific event.

She expresses, “There’s still trauma there, everyday honestly I do have to say it’s really hard to wrap my mind around for years like it seems so long ago, but at the same time it seems like it was [just] yesterday.” 

In the wake of the anniversary, President Joe Biden called for a renewal of gun reforms and bills to be enacted through Congress stating,“ This Administration will not wait for the next mass shooting to heed that call. We will take action to end our epidemic of gun violence and make our schools and communities safer … 

We owe it to all those we’ve lost and to all those left behind to grieve to make a change. The time to act is now.”

A Sandy Hook student survivor that goes by the name ‘Ashley’, stated her thoughts in an interview with Now This News on Biden’s efforts toward gun control. She expressed, “He understands what losing a child is like and he understands the amount of trauma and pain that comes behind losing a child … I think for him to be able to connect to that is so powerful because he can make a difference.” 

Gun control and reforms began their journey on the coattails of the Sandy Hook shooting, however, was continuously rebuffed and blocked by Republican representatives due to the belief of unfair restrictions and limitations placed on gun purchases. 

On March 11, 2021, Two bills passed through the House of Representatives, which consist of stricter vetting on gun purchases online and in-person and allow an extension of 7-10 more days for the FBI to complete comprehensive background checks. These bills concentrate on eliminating gaps in current gun laws, such as the Charleston loophole- which exposes the weakness of the 3 day background check on gun buyers to be unreliable and inaccurate. The loophole is termed after the deaths of the 9 people killed in Charleston, South Carolina in 2015 due to the shooter being able to purchase a gun and dismissing the 3 day background check. 

Gun reform has been called for action since the tragic events of the Columbine shooting in Apr 1999, but only now we are seeing legislation and action from our government. 

Gun violence and deaths have not stopped but increased. There are still many questions unanswered as to why our nation is still on the path of gun ownership and weak regulations. Only time will tell, when the people of the United States will finally stand together in the fight against gun violence.  

Japan Shocked from Recent Earthquakes

On February 13, 2021, a 7.3 magnitude earthquake shook Fukushima, Japan and its residents awake and alert. It lasted for no more than 30 seconds but many feared a tsunami warning, which thankfully never happened. There were no deaths reported but more than 100 citizens were injured

Millions of homes across the region lost power and water, creating a small panic in the middle of the night. Landslides occurred but no injuries were discovered. The effects were also felt strongly in the Miyagi prefecture.

The event eerily reminded residents of the 2011 Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami, also known as the “Great earthquake disaster of East Japan “, that had a magnitude of 9.1, making it the most powerful earthquake to be recorded in Japan.The region was devastated with a death toll of nearly 20,000 people, with many missing residents still not found. 

News coverage by AJ+ (Al Jazeera Media Network) regarding grieving services such as discontinued toll booths are being used by tsunami survivors by “calling” and sending messages to their missing loved ones. “I feel better when I talk and think he’s listening to me, so I come here a lot,” 76-year old Sachiko Okawa says, who lost her late-husband who was swept away by the tsunami. 

Unfortunately, since the 7.3 earthquake, Japan has been experiencing waves of aftershocks ranging from 4.2-5.3 magnitude earthquakes. Scientists speculate that they are still receiving the shocks from the 2011 earthquake.  

The most recent major earthquake reported was on March 20, 2021, located in the Miyagi prefecture with a scale of 6.9 magnitude. This earthquake also caused multiple structures to shut down, lose power and increase fear among Japan residents. 

According to the Japan Meteorological Agency, the Miyagi earthquake was a confirmed aftershock from the 2011 Tohoku earthquake. Nevertheless, in the midst of concurrent earthquakes and the still ongoing pandemic lockdowns, it is safe to say that the Japanese government and its citizens are well prepared and will survive any outcome regarding any national crises that come their way.