In response to the staggering rise in anti-Asian hate crimes across the United States, the Flushing Business Improvement District announced the launch of a new campaign titled “Respect, Unity, Courage” in Flushing on Thursday, March 18.
The campaign was introduced two days after eight people, including six Asian American women, were shot and killed by a 21-year-old white gunman in Atlanta, Georgia. It calls on all Americans to stand in solidarity with the Asian American community, have the courage to denounce the wave of anti-Asian violence and show mutual respect.
Flushing BID members were joined by Councilman Peter Koo, local business owners and community-based organizations outside the Queens Public Library on Main Street, demanding an end to the senseless racially motivated violence that has skyrocketed since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Stop AAPI Hate reports that it has received almost 3,800 reports of hate incidents from March 19, 2020, to February 28, 2021, and an analysis by the Center for the Study of Hate Extremism shows that anti-Asian hate crimes surged by 149 percent in major cities across the United States, while overall hate crimes dropped by 7 percent. New York City alone saw an increase of reported attacks on the Asian American community, which went from three in 2019 to 28 in 2020, an increase of 833 percent.
Flushing BID co-chair Tina Lee recalled the time when she was told to “go back to her country.”
“I was dumbfounded. What do you mean? This is my country,” Lee said.
She encouraged her community to take action and report any form of bias and violence so they won’t go unpunished. She also called on Americans to act when they witness racism.
“For those who are bystanders of a hate crime, be it against an Asian or anyone else, don’t be silent. Because by being silent, it creates even greater harm and trauma to the victim. If you want to help, there are many ways. But today, we say, please respect everyone and let’s come together in unity,” Lee said.
Koo said that the Atlanta shooting victims were killed for no reason and that the perpetrator committed the crime because of hate. He also addressed the negative stigma surrounding massage parlors and emphasized that most of them are safe and provide health services.
“Most people, they have bad connotations about massage parlors, when actually, most of them are clean and act professionally. A lot of times, people have a bad connotation that all massage parlors about sex. It is not true,” Koo said.
MinWen Yang, who represented state Senator Toby Stavisky’s office, expressed how hurtful and demotivating the attacks are for the Asian American community. She shared that she also was told to “go back to China” last summer.
“I have been in the country for 20 years. That’s the first time that happened to me,” Yang said and continued, ” I think it’s hard to argue, all the thousands of incidents are all accidents. Asian Americans refuse to be viewed as outsiders. We contributed to this country, to the society in every aspect, as other people do. We are not outsiders. We are part of this community.”
Bianca NG with Flushing BID and president of the Flushing Central Lions Club pointed out that many of the victims are elderly and said it was heartbreaking since they are the most vulnerable members of society.
“Finally, now they wait for the first vaccine to roll out and think that it is safe to go outside. And now, they have to worry about going outside because they’re going to be attacked. So, this is unacceptable,” NG said.
Mary McAndrew of Community Board 7 also wants to see an end to the senseless attacks on the Asian community and reminded everyone what the Statue of Liberty stands for.
“I truly think this is a shame to target a group of people when our lady in the harbor opened its arms to these people to come in to make a living. To start a new life, to have freedom,” McAndrew said.
Flushing resident Kei Downey worries about the safety of her two children and elderly parents and fears they might get attacked. She called on Americans to work together instead of attacking each other since the coronavirus doesn’t discriminate and poses a danger to all, regardless of skin color.
“I truly believe, only if we work together, we have a better chance for everyone. Not just for Black, white, whatever color we are. So, I hope people just be nicer to everyone and protect each other and we will be better off that way,” Downey said.