Through My Asian Eyes
Published April 18, 2021
It was a sunny afternoon when I heard the news. A 65-year-old Filipino American, Vilma Kari, was attacked near Times Square while on her way to church. My father showed me the footage; I watched in horror as I saw her being shoved to the sidewalk by a man twice her size. She was kicked repeatedly, stomped on, and screamed at, “you don’t belong here!” To make matters worse, the video caught on a surveillance camera inside a building, shows one out of three men that were inside, watching the scene unfold, not moving a muscle to help but to shut the door. I didn’t know what to feel. This hit too close to home. It was a mixture of shock, anger, and fear that consumed me. That was when I realized, my family’s safety is no longer guaranteed every time we step out the door.
Just in the past year, there were only 3,800 reported cases of Asian hate crimes. According to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism, Anti-Asian hate crimes in the 16 major cities of the U.S comparison to 2019-2020 has increased by 149%. Too many Asian Americans are dead.
Ever since anti-Asian attacks have become more prevalent, there was not a day where I haven’t worried about my parents’ safety. They both work every day while I and my brother are mostly at home. I mostly worry about my mother. She is a nurse in lower Manhattan, works an evening shift, takes the train, and comes home at around 11:00 pm. “I wasn’t thinking much about the attacks until Vilma Kari. I always thought, what are the odds? But now, it’s scary. You can never truly know.” My mom commented. I have never once thought, out of the more than twelve years she has been working, I would often lay awake at night just to hear that relieving sound of the door opening, signaling her return. We may live in a safe neighborhood but anything can happen, right? I just hope and pray that God forbids that time where my mother was to be at the wrong place and at the wrong time, that whoever they are, they see her blue scrubs and have it in their hearts to spare her. As of now, my father picks her up after her shift just for safety and peace of mind.
Asian elders are more likely to be a target. They are defenseless, usually out to take their relaxing walks, run errands or even work, truly not expecting someone younger and bigger than them to shove them on the sidewalks, punch them, or even take their lives. I grew up with a Filipino custom to treat elders with the utmost respect. And seeing the attacks targeted on them, I feel gutted and sorry for the fear they now live in and the uncertainty of their safety. Every time I’m outside and see an elder walking alone, my heartaches. I think of my own grandparents as they too might be someone’s loving parent, grandparent, friend, or even neighbor. I usually send them a small nod of respect and acknowledgment. In this way, they know that strangers like me are aware of their presence and should not feel alone. Even if it’s the slightest moment, a passing second, they know that people care.
If there is something I ask for, it is kindness, compassion, and empathy for each other. In the end, we are all human. We share the same planet, breathe the same air. In the words of Vice President Kamala Harris, “racism is real in America, and it always has been”. Everyone can be affected. It is prevalent and will not just disappear overnight. At this point, we have to set our differences aside and work together to make sure everyone is safe. Look out for one another, speak up for each other in the face of injustice, listen to their stories, and care.
I hate the feeling of being uncertain of my surroundings. It is awful knowing that there are people that could hate me just simply being Asian. But we Asians have our stories deeply rooted in American history, we have been here since the 1500s and we are not going anywhere.