Anti-Asian racism nonetheless haunts San Francisco group

Stop AAPI Hate has tracked nearly 11,500 hate incidents since March 2020.

Mar 3, 2023 8:16 am ET

4 minutes read

Russell Jeung’s family were forcibly evicted from their homes in Monterey, California in the late 19th century.

“When the townspeople wanted the Chinese out, the landlord drove them away. When the Chinese didn’t leave, a fire burned down the entire village,” Jeung, co-founder of the group Stop AAPI Hate, told ABC News.

“My great-grandparents … saw their entire life’s work burn down,” he said.

They found a new home in San Francisco’s Chinatown, “as the only safe place from this racism,” Jeung said. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, this safe haven has become the target of anti-Asian racism.

San Francisco officials received 60 reports of hate crimes against AAPI individuals in the city in 2021, an increase of more than 500% compared to the nine incidents reported in 2020.

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Between March 2020 and March 31, 2022, Jeung’s group Stop AAPI Hate recorded nearly 11,500 reports of hate incidents against people from Asia, America and the Pacific Islands (AAPI) in the United States

This is significantly higher than the number of reported hate crimes over the same period, which advocates say is too low.

“We have a large number of elders reporting, although elders tend to under-report,” Jeung said. “Our Asian elders often do not speak English. They don’t have online technology. So the high reporting rate from elders just shows that it is a problem for them.”

Currently, incidents of hate against Asians are reported across the country, but the trauma and reality of that hate lingers, particularly for Susanna Yee, whose 88-year-old grandmother was brutally assaulted at a local park one morning in January 2019 while she was exercising.

“Although I have arrived at a place of forgiveness, there is still pain and sadness that occasionally wells up,” Yee, the granddaughter of Yik Oi Huang, said in an interview with ABC News. Her grandmother died a year after the attack.

“I saw this incident with my grandmother as an opportunity to reach out and connect with people who don’t look like me or us and to understand each other so that this and other incidents don’t happen again,” Yee said.

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The man charged with attacking Huang, 21-year-old Keonte Gathron, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Yee says she still grieves and has leaned on others in the Asian American community throughout this healing process.

She has embraced tai chi as her grandmother did: “Being in fellowship with a group of Chinese elders is just so nourishing and full of love.”

“What happened to my grandmother affected how I move in the world,” Yee said.

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