Bill Chiang, Juslyn Manalo and Wayne J. Lee

In March 2020, soon after Bay Area governments ordered pandemic-related lockdowns, a non-Asian woman gave up her spot in line outside the Millbrae Trader Joe’s to cough at then-Millbrae Councilman Wayne Lee, as he walked past. Three months later, an unknown person(s) threw a brick through a window at the home of San Mateo Councilwoman Amourence Lee. Wayne and Amourence are unrelated. In December, the rock that came through the home window of Foster City Vice Mayor Richa Awasthi just missed her husband’s head. Though investigations are continuing and no hate crime has been determined, how many rocks HAVE to be thrown through windows of Asian women before it becomes a misogynistic hate crime?

San Francisco authorities have charged a 19-year-old Daly City man in connection with the January 2021 fatal assault of 84-year-old Vichar Ratanapakdee as the Thai grandfather walked near his home. On March 16, a non-Asian gunman in Atlanta killed eight people, including six Asian women. How many Asian women HAVE to be murdered before it becomes a misogynistic hate crime?

These are neither isolated attacks; nor random. In between, before and after the five described above, there are multiple thousands of incidents nationally: coughing, spitting, punching, slapping, public rants of “Go Back to China!” Asian seniors and women are afraid to step outside. Asian parents are keeping their children home from school. Asian Americans are quietly wondering, “Is this America 2021?” Meanwhile, their friends and family in Asia are cautioning, “This is America 2021!” Looking at the lights and glass of the Shops of Tanforan, it’s easy to forget the images from Manzanar, Tule Lake and Topaz, Utah.

It’s also easy to brush off anti-Asian violence as a New York or San Francisco or Oakland “thing” or somewhere else … not San Mateo County. The Peninsula is not like that; that’s not who we are. But poll officials in any community in any state and the response is identical: Racism is not tolerated in

Most Americans know that blackface, under any circumstances, is unacceptable. Most Americans also know not to stick on a big mustache and don a poncho and large, round hat to celebrate on May 5. Tomahawk chops, feathered-headdress Halloween costumes, the Washington Redskins, Cleveland’s Chief Wahoo — the misappropriation of Native American cultures is finally being seriously addressed.

Yet, anti-Asian tropes continue unabated.

In June 2020, the artist known as Cardi B allegedly used the word “Chinky” to describe almond-shaped eyes. During a February 2021 online class, Grant Union High School (Sacramento) teacher Nicole Burkett was recorded using her fingers to pull at the corners of her eyes.

“If their eyes went up, they’re Chinese,” Burkett allegedly said in the video. “If they’re down, they’re Japanese. If they’re just straight, you don’t know.”

Then there’s Kauai Police Chief Todd Raybuckt, who allegedly used Asian stereotypes repeatedly and once described someone’s hairstyle as “something out of a kung-fu movie.”

These were a Hollywood celebrity, a California state-certified educator and a senior law-enforcement officer in a community where the Asian-Pacific Islander demographic exceeds 45% (2000 US Census)! These were three supposed role models, who got caught doing and saying what they allegedly did or said. How many others have not been called out?

Racism is learned. And the unlearning of anti-Asian racism is long overdue in this country, this state, in this county and city. The unlearning starts with spotlighting the problem, so it can be discussed and addressed, especially with children and youth. This is also an exercise in serious introspection for everyone, Asians and non-Asians alike. Who are we? What are we? What kind of image are we presenting to our children and grandchildren?

The San Mateo County Asian Pacific Islanders Caucus is working with elected officials, law enforcement and community leaders to create a grassroots dialogue to protect all communities of color. The caucus believes the Peninsula — at its core — is NOT that kind of place. However, genuine change can only originate from the hearts and minds and active voice of the people.

Words matter and leadership matters. The anti-Asian violence and the perceived tacit acceptance of such violence must end before the name “Atlanta” is replaced with one or more of the Peninsula’s 21 jurisdictions.

As Martin Luther King Jr., declared in 1967: “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”

Bill Chiang, Juslyn Manalo and Wayne J. Lee are on the Board of Directors of the San Mateo County Asian Pacific Islanders Caucus. Lee is president. The caucus is a group of elected officials and community leaders working for equality and cultural awareness. Visit www.smcapi.org for more information.

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(3) comments

Ray Fowler

Bill, Juslyn and Wayne... thank you for bringing attention to an important topic that needs attention on the local and national levels. The title of your guest perspective... "We must end all anti-Asian violence" says it all. I believe leadership and education are key components that must be harnessed in this effort.

The recent shootings in Atlanta are horrific; they are a human tragedy. The same can be said about Boulder. I believe we must first look at dangerous and violent ideologies that may target anyone and everyone and especially persons of color. Were the shootings in Atlanta intended to target Asian women? We don't know for sure, but we do know that six Asian women were shot dead. I commented on this tragedy a couple of days ago in the DJ by referencing the thoughtful words of Senator Tammy Duckworth (who was born in Bangkok to a Thai Chinese mother). I wrote, "Sen. Duckwork (D-IL) said the shootings look 'racially motivated' but she wants to see 'a deeper investigation into whether or not these shootings and other similar crimes are racially motivated.' Those are wise words by Sen. Duckworth, and that investigation is already underway... "

Coming full circle... what can we do to identify dangerous and violent ideologies then eliminate the threats they may pose before others are needlessly slaughtered? Can such action help end anti-Asian violence? Can it end anti-Black violence or violence against innocent victims regardless of their skin color? I hope so...

Terence Y

Ms. Manalo, Mr. Chiang, and Mr. Lee – you mention a perceived tacit acceptance of violence. Are you implying crimes and violence against Asians are not being prosecuted? You mention a Hollywood celebrity, a CA educator and a senior LEO and their anti-Asian actions. What action has been taken against them? If no action has been taken, why would they, or anybody else, change their anti-Asian behavior? Although your intentions seem honorable, shouldn’t we be focusing on public safety and putting and keeping criminals off the street. Oh wait, we’re defunding the police, citing and releasing alleged criminals, and letting felons out of jail due to COVID. Maybe this is the tacit acceptance of violence you’re referring to?

Dirk van Ulden

Actually, I take offense to the statement by the members of the SMCAPI that there is "tacit acceptance" of crimes against Asian Americans. That is quite a dangerous indictment and you should apologize. The vast majority of us is not accepting any murderous activities, no matter against any ethnic group or race. Would you substitute the name Atlanta with Boulder? Of course those were all Caucasian victims whose voices have been silenced by the current cancel and racism mania.

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