The rise in hate crimes directed at local Asian Americans is cause for alarm. Asian Americans are daily harassed, spat upon, and even viciously assaulted. Our Seattle Police Department reports nine xenophobic attacks since March. While racial prejudice has always been an ugly fact of life, never have we witnessed such a dramatic increase in assaults on Asian Americans locally. All Americans should unite in one voice condemning these despicable acts.
Our personal injury law firm, Herrmann Law Group, has served Asian communities for 70 years. We recently discovered the Chinese Information Service Center (CISC), a nonprofit organization that assists all immigrants, was turned down for funding on its proposal to address hate crimes against Asian Americans. After discussions with Michael Itti, Executive Director of CISC, we decided this would be one of our ways to give back to the communities we serve. We are fully funding the project.
Fear and ignorance spawn racial prejudice. Fear generated by COVID-19 escalates ignorance to hatred and even criminal behavior. Unfortunately, some politicians fan the flames of prejudice with political rhetoric accusing the People’s Republic of China of causing the outbreak of coronavirus in the USA. Their words come across as though all Chinese people are to blame.
Widening the problem is the notion, long-held by some ignorant Americans, to lump Asians together. Thus, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese, and Filipinos— all our Asian Americans—are likewise vulnerable to such attacks. Fear and ignorance cast wide shadows.
Regardless of whether the PRC made mistakes, it is certainly not the fault of our Asian Americans, Chinese, or otherwise. Still, many Asian Americans now live in fear of reprisals. Their fears are not unfounded.
Our history reveals several ugly incidents. In 1885, Tacoma Mayor Jacob Weisbach led a mob of armed white men in forcible expulsion of all Chinese out of Tacoma. Powerless to stop the Tacoma mob, a few white men tried, most notably Rev. W.D. McFarland and Ezra Meeker, who hid some Chinese he later smuggled up to Seattle. This incident was infamously known as the “Tacoma Method,” how to expel Chinese without killing anyone. It spread.
Three months later, Chinese in Seattle would face yet another angry mob of white men seeking their expulsion. This time, several influential white men came to their defense. Federal Judge Roger S. Greene ruled Chinese had a legal right to remain. Territorial Governor Watson Squire called out local militia, later backed up by federal troops sent by President Cleveland. While most Chinese departed on a ship bound for San Francisco, some would remain. Still, it would be decades before Seattle would again enjoy a thriving Chinatown.
In September of 1907, a Bellingham mob forced East Indians to flee to Canada, but they couldn’t outrun racial hatred. Three days later, about 10,000 white members of a so-called “Asiatic Exclusion League” held a parade in Vancouver, B.C. that erupted in violent attacks upon China and Japan Towns.
In World War II, over 100,000 Japanese Americans were stripped of their property rights and forcibly incarcerated in internment camps. That time, it was Chinese citizens who wore badges proclaiming they were not Japanese. 46 years would pass before the U.S. government officially apologized.
Sadly, no, we cannot say it could never happen here. It has—several times. Our Herrmann Law Group calls upon everyone of goodwill to take a stand. Find your own way to help lock down this sickness before it spreads further.
As Martin Luther King wrote, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that.” We are proud to fund CISC’s efforts to cast out dark fear and ignorance with the light of truth and justice.
— Charles J. Herrmann
Attorney at Law
— Herrmann Law Group