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San Francisco's 'Black on Chinese' Violence Goes Back Decades

New America Media, Commentary, Hubert V. Yee Posted: May 06, 2010

African-American and Asian-American elected and appointed officials have failed to address the growing racial tensions in southeast San Francisco.

Growing up as an Asian American in southeast San Francisco was not easy. Safety was a huge issue for all residents. We heard gunshots at night and sirens wailing past our homes. Our neighbors and family members heard stories about other neighbors and family members becoming victims of crimes by a segment of the African-American community.

When I was 16, I was attacked by eight African Americans while riding Munis 15 Third bus line. I was spit on. We fought. I was beaten unconscious and remained out for a few seconds. I am reminded every day that I was beaten for no apparent reason when I look in the mirror and see my scar.

My mother and father were also victims. I remember waking up hearing my mom and dad screaming. I ran downstairs to see my mom and dad being robbed and assaulted in front of our home by two African Americans.

These criminals target Asian Americans because we are seen as weak, unorganized, foreign, and as walking ATM machines. We are racialized in many of these instances of violence.

Our pain has not been felt or heard by so-called elected representatives, black and Asian alike. Sophie Maxwell, who represents District 10 on the Board of Supervisors, has said little. Others, like Human Rights Commissioner Yvonne Lee, have provided a false historical narrative of the violence. At a recent commission meeting, Lee said these incidents have only occurred in the past several years.

As a resident of the neighborhood for more than 25 years, I disagree.

Supervisor David Chiu said on TV that these instances were not racially motivated. I disagree. The violence is racial. Asian Americans are seen as easy victims.

In order to heal, these racialized assumptions and misperceptions about Asian Americans need to be acknowledged. We need community development projects that involve multiracial interaction to dispel such racist stereotypes. In 2005, I created a youth program, APIYLDP, that explored the African-American experience and the Asian-American experience in District 10 with a group of multiracial youth and multiple nonprofits. Asian-American youth learned about the African-American experience through community immersion, fieldwork and research. Research conducted by youth documented racial misunderstandings between Asian-American and African-American youth. Results showed that the youth participating in this project better understood the commonalities and the struggles the two communities shared.

Efforts to continue the dialogue between Asian-American and African-American youth are hopeful solutions to the growing despair facing many Asian Americans in the Bay View and Visitation Valley. We must focus on developing our community through multiracial coalitions and continually hold accountable not only District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell, but also those who claim to be our voice: Asian-American elected and appointed officials.

All San Francisco residents, including those in District 10, should feel safe riding a bus, walking to school and being in their homes.

Hubert V. Yee has been a resident of San Francisco's District 10 for more than 25 years. As a community activist with a Master of Arts in Asian American Studies, he has worked on multiple projects to develop healthier community relations.

Related Articles:

Black on Chinese Killings Rare, Crime Stats Show

Black on Asian Violence is About Vulnerability, Not Race

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