AAPI communities shaken by stabbing of woman in NYC's Chinatown and ongoing trauma of hate crimes
AAPIwomen living in NYC and across the country identify strongly with Christina Yuna Lee.
- Lee was stabbed more than 40 times inside her apartment in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood.
Nancy Wang Yuen says she was walking to a bus stop in Los Angeles when a white man shouted "mock Chinese" and racial slurs at her.
"We bombed your ass in Hiroshima!" she remembered the man telling her.
The experience was frightening, but wasn't an isolated incident, she said. Every day she would brace herself to get harassed on public transportation as she traveled to and from graduate school.
"Asian American women and other women of color have all experienced threats in public spaces," Yuen, a sociologist and author of "Reel Inequality: Hollywood Actors and Racism," told Insider. "We've all experienced some version of this where you don't feel safe on the streets because of your race and gender."
Though AAPI women have regularly dealt with harassment, the fatal stabbing of Christina Yuna Lee, a 35-year-old creative director, has only amplified fear and concern about their safety. Lee, a Korean-American, was stabbed more than 40 times by a man who followed her into her apartment in New York City's Chinatown neighborhood on Sunday morning.
The suspect, Assamad Nash, was charged Monday with murder and burglary.
While an NYPD representative confirmed the police are still investigating whether the attack was a
Many AAPI women living both in New York City and across the country identify strongly with Lee and Go, as both were Asian American women around the same age going about their lives when they were attacked and killed. Their deaths are some of the latest in ongoing attacks against AAPI people, which spiked at the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020 and have not stopped since.
According to Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit organization that tracks attacks targeting AAPI community members, more than 10,000 incidents were reported from March 2020 through September 2021.
San Francisco alone saw a 567% increase in hate crimes against AAPI people last year, according to data from the city's police department, while the NYPD reported a 361% increase in anti-Asian bias incidents in 2021.
"I feel really helpless in this moment," Yuen said. "It feels like there's no end."
Ongoing hate crimes draws attention to need for mental health resources for AAPI people
As advocates continue to fight for resources to ensure community safety,
Some, like Jo-Ann Yoo, have become more hesitant to leave their houses — and if they do, they only do so after making mental calculations about when would be the safest time to do so.
"I don't go out at night or even during the day because I'm scared," Yoo, executive director of the Asian American Federation, said. "We're told to be vigilant, to watch our surroundings. Well, Christina did exactly that."
"And what about the people who have to go to work at night or early in the morning? Who's looking out for them?" she continued. "I worry about them."
She and several other advocates noted that while Safe Walks NYC, a volunteer group emerged last year in response to an increase in subway attacks against Asian people, is undoubtedly filling a void, more institutionalized support is needed to combat these attacks.
"We're trying to keep ourselves alive," she said.
In the immediate aftermath of the 2021 Atlanta spa shootings, which resulted in the death of eight people — six of whom were Asian women — Yuen made a string of TV appearances, wrote op-eds, and spoke to everyone she could about the ways in which Asian American women are "dehumanized by racial and gender stereotypes, including the stereotype that they are submissive and make easy targets."
At first she found the experience empowering, but it wasn't long until she began to feel traumatized.
She noted that if research shows that microaggressions — a term referring to everyday verbal or behavioral slights against people from marginalized backgrounds — alone can lead to long-term physical health repercussions, then it would not be far-fetched to understand repeated attacks against AAPI people as having the ability to inflict adverse physical and mental effects too.
"Our sanity and safety is being threatened here and there's no mass response," Yuen said. "In the meantime, we're living our lives in fear."
Asian American advocates are calling for increased resources to combat violence
Asian American advocates have been fighting for institutional support for various AAPI communities for decades.
While the past couple of years certainly mark an increase in
As Stanley Mark, senior staff lawyer at the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALFEF), detailed, Asians were subject to immigration legislation, including the Immigration Act of 1924, that openly barred them from entering the US and becoming naturalized citizens.
"Because of that legislation and the longstanding legacy of discriminatory against Asian Americans, the narrative that they are forever foreigners persists," Mark told Insider. "There's a precedent for this violence."
Mark recalled the 1982 killing of Vincent Chin, a Chinese-American draftsman, who at 27 years old, was killed by two white men who used racial slurs while beating him and reportedly blamed him for the contraction of the US auto industry.
"The men beat Chin in the '80s because they thought he was Japanese and they blamed him for the downfall of the auto industry," Mark explained. "Now, in 2022, we're seeing how rhetoric about the pandemic [i.e. referring to the coronavirus as 'China virus'] and about economic competition from China is fueling violence."
Asian American advocates like Mark are calling for a multi-pronged approach to address the surge of verbal and physical attacks against AAPI people.
At the top of their agenda is ensuring more funding is available and distributed throughout Asian American organizations that have been at the forefront of the fight against this violence.
Despite advocates placing constant pressure on elected officials and the increasingly gruesome nature of these attacks, they still feel as though their voices are not being heard.
"Year after year, we've been telling elected officials, we need better funding and resources to reflect our diverse community," Wayne Ho, president and CEO of Chinese-American Planning Council, Inc., said. "It takes unfortunate instances of violence to see any sort of substantive resources and change."
"I've yet to be reached out to by anyone from City Hall," Yoo added. "Thoughts and prayers, where has that gotten us? In order for there to be solutions put into place, we have to be at the table."
Advocates are also calling for funding to be allocated towards providing mental health and housing resources as several of these attacks, including Go and Lee's deaths, were perpetuated by men who reportedly struggled with housing insecurity and mental illness.
"This strikes at the heart of all women. This is a nightmare," Yoo said. "What is happening that's making our communities vulnerable? We need to look at the whole picture."
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