Nationwide protests over the last weekend unfolded across the US in reaction to the Atlanta gun violence that killed six Asian women among eight who were slain early evening Tuesday March 16, all within an hour in three different locations by a lone white American male.
Activists and officials linked the Atlanta killings to an apparent surge in violence against Asian Americans. It has been pointed out that with the emergence of Covid-19, anti-Asian xenophobia and bigotry has grown exponentially.
Many observers opine that anti-Asian attacks and bias grew alongside anti-Chinese rhetoric and disinformation traced to racist language utilized by former President Trump’s to fire up his base. This politically motivated sentiment is also echoed by prominent Texas Republican leaders such as Senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn who continue to blame China for Covid-19.
Here in San Antonio on March 14, a Vietnamese-American owned noodle shop was vandalized, spray-painted with graffiti such as “Go back to China,” “Kung Flu” and “U die.” “Kung Flu” and “China Virus” are phrases used by Trump multiple times. A few days earlier, the owner Mike Nguyen interviewed by local CNN had expressed his misgivings and criticized the premature lifting of masking in public spaces, announced by Republican Governor Abbott.
Words mouthed by a national leader do have dire consequences, as exhibited by Trump cultists. I believe it is a situation that is not unfamiliar to Filipinos in the time of Duterte. American numbers, however, as a result of their leader-inspired hateful rhetoric would, of course, pale in comparison!
Texas Public Radio joined the conversation by observing that we are experiencing “the culmination of more than a century of false stereotypes, racist tropes, targeted political rhetoric and even state-sanctioned discrimination against Asian people in the U.S.”
A new study based on police department statistics across major U.S. cities found a nearly 150% surge in anti-Asian hate crimes in 2020, reflecting a growing trend of discrimination against Asian Americans. The report was released by the Center for the Study Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino. The study analyzed hate crimes in 16 large cities and it concluded that the rise was experienced in tandem with the rise in Covid-19 cases early in 2020.
The Migrant Center of New York, also noting the rising hate crimes against Asian Americans issued a statement: “Chinese Americans and other Asian-Americans, including Korean, Japanese, Vietnamese, Filipino, and Burmese descent, among others, have been reported to have been subject to racist, xenophobic attacks.” One of its volunteers, a Filipino-American, had fallen a bloody victim, who thankfully survived.
NY-based Philippine Daily Mirror reported that a Fil-Am immigrant, Noel Quintana, while on his way to work last February 3, in a Manhattan subway train, was attacked with a box-cutter blade. He was slashed horizontally across his face, “from cheek to cheek under his nose.” (Quintana survived and a suspect has been arrested with the aid of surveillance video).
In solidarity with the nationwide protests, San Antonio expressed its stand, decrying anti-hate crimes and racism across the nation. Last Saturday, dozens gathered in the Main Plaza in front of the San Fernando Cathedral downtown in a vigil headlined: STOP ASIAN HATE!
San Antonio has enjoyed a cosmopolitan growth that counts upon a very prominent Asian content.
The vigil was organized and emceed by Gina Ortiz Jones, a U.S. Air Force veteran and a first generation Filipino-American. It was participated in by a cross-section of the community leadership from across the city and county, all expressing a common concern over how all can change the narrative of crimes against the Asian-American community. Heading the local dignitaries were Mayor Ron Nirenberg and Police Chief William McManus, with former Mayor and Housing Secretary Julian Castro also in attendance.
In her opening remarks, Gina Ortiz Jones said that “It’s important that we stand up and that our voices be heard and we push back on these attacks.” “It’s been a year, a year that the Asian-American community has been attacked and scapegoated,” adding that “In the wake of the Atlanta killings, local Asian-American business owners warily wonder if they were to be next!” “No one should have to ask those types of questions in the United States of America,” she said. “But here we are.”
It is noteworthy to mention that among the community leaders who spoke, there were three other Fil-Ams. There was Ms. Myra Dumapias who represented the AAPI for Justice (Asian American Pacific Islanders); Ms. Melinda Rodriguez, of the Asian American Chamber of Commerce; and Dr. Dahnet Bluhm, President of the Philippine Nurses Association of San Antonio.
One by one, Asian American business owner-community leaders spoke about why this fight is personal for them. Each speaker shared a similar message of wanting equality and asking for no one to turn a blind eye.
In the brief remarks of the Mayor, he reflected on his being also an Asian-America. He is a quarter Filipino on his maternal side. “My mother was an immigrant from Malaysia. Her family from India and the Philippines. My father’s parents were Jewish immigrants who came to the United States before World War Two. Every single person in this community has a story in which they were also not part of the accepted class.”
Heretofore, a majority of Asian-Americans are known to prefer the shadows and silence of their respective communities, thus allowing for false stereotypes to often predominate. While the pandemic may have aggravated racism and even heightened political rhetoric, the Atlanta incident has certainly also evoked indignation and righteous anger, as never before. “Enough is enough” was a sentiment felt and pronounced across nation in the various venues of protest rallies.
Do I see tolerance and pacifist patience finally giving way to activism and assertiveness? Let us hope so. That may be the only way we can break the cycle. Fight back and stem the tide of hate-enabling racism.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Tomas 'Buddy' Gomez III began his professional media career in ABS-CBN's (previously Chronicle Broadcasting Network) DZQL-Radio Reloj in 1957, after which he spent 25 years with the Ayala Group.
In 1986, the then Pres. Cory Aquino appointed him Consul General to Hawaii and later served as her Press Secretary.
During the Ramos administration, he was chairman and president of state-owned IBC-13 Network.
After government service, he became an ‘OFW’ in the U.S., working as front-desk clerk and then assistant general manager of a hotel. He also worked as a furniture and antique restoration specialist.
He is now retired and lives in San Antonio, Texas.
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.