On The Anti-Asian Situation In New York City
“Kumusta ang anti-Asian situation diyan?”
This was the message of our lady friend from Manila sent last week. She wanted to meet up with my wife Delia and me after she visited her daughter here in NYC. The message did not take us by surprise. It is typical.
A couple of months ago a friend from Naga called. He was planning to visit his son and grandson in California.
“Mag hilingan kita sa New York. I may visit you after I see my grandson in LA.” After an awkward pause: “Pero ano daw, safe diyan mag lakaw-lakaw?”
With very few exceptions, most of our friends and relatives who are visiting or planning to visit never fail to ask me about the “anti-Asian” status in NYC.
The general anxiety is not without good reason. Each time I reflect on the anti-Asian violence in NY and in other parts of the US, I cannot help thinking of the Vincent Chin incident of the early 1980s.
Vincent Chin was a young Asian-American who was beaten to death by two white American auto workers.
Forty years ago, the media, some politicians, business leaders, and laid off auto workers blamed the collapse of the US auto industry to Japan.
This created a tense climate in the US. Japan, they claimed, was responsible for the recession by invading America with Japanese-made fuel-efficient cars.
Vincent Chin was celebrating his bachelor’s party in a club in Detroit when he got into an altercation with another club patron. Chin ended up being beaten to death with a baseball bat by two people. A witness to the incident heard one of the assailants yell, “It’s because of you mother….’s that we’re out of work!”
Chin was not even Japanese. He was an American of Chinese ancestry. Neither of his killers were out of work. What’s worse, neither of his murderers spent time in jail.
As a result of this incident, the Vincent Chin Institute was established. The idea was to educate and create a new generation of activists to fight Asian racial injustice.
Today we are facing a similar scenario. Whether you agree or not, I think, the media and other influencers have created another military, health, and economic enemy of the people, namely, China.
That’s why I’m not surprised by the thousands of anti-Asian violence, not to mention the unreported ones. The victims are not only Chinese-Americans but also Filipinos and other Asian-Americans -- any Asian-looking person in fact.
There is another reason for the anti-Asian feelings going around: Envy. Asians in America are known for being the racial group with the highest growing success in education and income.
So how do I assuage my visitors’ fears with some concrete assurance of hope? I prayed for some solution, something to convince my visitors that it was not that bad here in NYC.
The answer to my prayers came in the most unlikely of places and in the person I least expected: NYC Mayor Eric Adams, a liberal democrat.
During a Breakfast Conference last month, I was pleasantly shocked by what he said:
“When we took prayers out of schools, guns came into schools.”
It was totally unexpected, especially from a liberal democrat. He continued:
“Don’t tell me about no separation of church and state. State is the body. Church is the heart. You take out the heart out of the body, the body dies.”
I may have some misgivings with some of the mayor’s policies but this time he’s spot on.
“I can’t separate my belief because I’m an elected official. When I walk, I walk with God. When I talk, I talk with God. When I put policies in place, I put them in with a God-like approach to them. That’s who I am.”
Mayor Adams is my man.
Later, I learned that this mayor had already been taking the anti-Asian violence in NYC seriously by coordinating with Asian communities.
As a result, the NYPD came out with the latest statistics for February 2023 compared to last year’s. The overall crime in NYC has declined by 5.6%. And the number of hate crimes has come down by 69%.
Although there may still be some isolated cases of hate crimes in a city of around 9 million, New York City is getting back to where it was famous for, as one of the safest cities in the US.
“Is it safe for Asians in New York?” our lady friend from Manila again.
“When you get here, why don’t we take you to Times Square.” The tone of my voice delights her.
“Let us take a lakaw-lakaw at the Capital of the World.”