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Anti-Asian Violence

It’s been a year since the coronavirus pandemic completely upended our lives. But although Covid-19 cases are decreasing, there has been an alarming increase in something else in the news.

Asian Advocacy groups have most recently found almost 3800 reported acts of violence against Asian Americans from March 2020 to February of this year. Most recently, the spa shootings in Atlanta have greatly heightened concerns of anti-Asian sentiment. Although some sources have warned against calling the incidents “hate crimes” and cautioned that social media has been conflating the violence against Asian Americans, they are events that cannot be ignored.

These incidents include such horrible acts as an 89-year old Chinese immigrant grandmother being slapped and set on fire and an Asian man being beaten in an unprovoked attack on a New York City subway.

Although the virus was first identified in Wuhan, China, there was no doubt that former President Trump added fuel to the fire by repeatedly using the offensive terms “Chinese virus” and “Kung flu” to incite racist outrage. If people are uneducated and misinformed due to harmful rhetoric, Asian immigrants and their descendants will continue to be the targets for misplaced anger.

Like many others, a particular murder against an innocent victim continues to linger on my mind. Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old Thai immigrant, was taking his daily morning walk in his San Francisco neighborhood when he was violently shoved to the ground, suffered a brain hemorrhage, and never regained consciousness.

And when I heard of this particular story, I couldn’t help but think of two extremely important people in my life – my very own parents.

It has been painful to watch as innocent people are harmed and attacked based on their appearances and a false perception that a race is responsible for a global health crisis.

My parents are Vietnamese immigrants. What they also happen to be are the proudest U.S. citizens.

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For as long as I can remember, my father always spoke about this country being the greatest one on earth. He and my mother have always been so happy to be Americans that he once wrote about it in a lengthy Thanksgiving post that was full of gratitude on social media.

My mother and father escaped after the Vietnam war, both by dangerous, leaky boats. My mother rode off on a motorcycle in the middle of the night without the chance to say goodbye to her family. My father even stayed in a refugee camp in Indonesia for a year before making it to the United States. But all this outweighed the fear of staying in their own home country and risk being tortured or killed.

Once here, they both applied for U.S. citizenship right away. My mom and dad even legally added American names “Jimmy” (Yes, Jimmy, not James as my dad always good naturedly points out) and “Kelly” to their Vietnamese names. To learn English quickly, my mother watched “Wheel of Fortune” every single evening. My dad tried his best to always speak in English to his co-workers no matter how hard he struggled at it in the beginning just so that he could get better at it. They also learned how to drive immediately and registered to vote as U.S. citizens as soon as they could.

They really lived the American dream. They first started with random jobs such as working at gas stations or fixing malfunctioning electronics. My dad worked on a fishing boat with a friend in Houston for some time. Eventually, they saved enough to open a used car business with a few of my dad’s close friends that became successful for some time. Ultimately, my dad’s health started to fail, and he had to close down the business. Our family ended up struggling financially right before I went off to college and our house was eventually foreclosed.

Despite all that, my mother and father never stopped talking about the opportunities that this country had offered them. They continue to acknowledge how lucky they have been since they first stepped foot on U.S. soil and that their daughter even went on to become a doctor despite the financial hardships.

So, it has been painful to watch as innocent people are harmed and attacked based on their appearances and a false perception that a race is responsible for a global health crisis. Every time a new potentially racially motivated crime is committed, I can’t help but think of my innocent immigrant parents, who will always be proud to live in this country for the rest of their lives. And the truth is that Asian Americans livelihoods were also significantly adversely affected by the coronavirus pandemic.

But there are things that we all can do to help bring awareness and to prevent further heinous crimes against the Asian community. We can support Asian Advocacy groups and reach out to local elected officials and lawmakers to collect data about racist violence and to create support for affected communities. Other ways are to speak up and report hate crimes and to even participate in bystander intervention training. And most of all, we can all reach out to our Asian friends, family, and colleagues just to check in on them and ask how they are doing.


And just like my parents, we are all Americans, and still need to come together now and in the future to take action to prevent all racially motivated violence in our country.

Karen Tran-Harding MD
How the Other Side Thinks