By Jason Cruz
Northwest Asian Weekly
“I feel as if I was abused twice, first by the attacker, and second by the legal system,” said Noriko Nasu, a teacher at Inglemoor High School, after being a victim of a hate crime. Nasu bravely told her story of being assaulted last month at a press conference in which community, local, and state officials including Gov. Jay Inslee addressed the spate of violence toward the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community.
The press conference, held on March 22 at Renton City Hall, highlighted the cause of the increase in violence against Asians and sought out ways they could address the issue. On March 16, eight people were shot and killed in Atlanta, at three different spas.
Six of the victims were Asian women. Although no official reason for the murders has been released, an eyewitness stated that the individual targeted Asians.
“It’s totally unacceptable, it has to end, and I am calling on every Washingtonian to wrap our arms around this threatened community,” said Inslee. “It is a virus of hate and fear that too often is being fanned by some political figures for political purposes and this itself is a virus and we must defeat it.”
Inslee, without directly mentioning former President Donald Trump, inferred that the prior administration blamed China for the COVID-19 pandemic. Inslee and other speakers also pointed out the “enablers,” that allowed Trump and other politicians that made similar racist mentions of Asians causing the virus, are equally to blame for the spike in hate crimes.
In addition to Inslee, state representatives Sharon Tomiko Santos and My-Linh Thai, King County Executive Dow Constantine, and Washington State Commission on Asian and Pacific American Affairs (CAPAA) Executive Director Toshiko Grace Hasegawa spoke at the press conference.
“We, and when I say we, I really mostly mean white people—must embrace the humanity and the value of every person,” implored Constantine, “When hate and violence affects one of us, it affects all of us.”
“As we collectively grieve as a community, united, we name out loud that discrimination, hate, and violence have been culturally, politically, and structurally supported throughout American history and continues today,” said Hasegawa. “The seeds of hate were intentionally sown and watered and we must weave them out.”
State Rep. Thai spoke about ideas for change.
“We must end violence against all communities of color by protecting the rights to housing, supporting low-income families, and shut down the Northwest Detention Center.” She called on the legislature to break down systemic racism in Washington to build a stronger democracy.
“We have not been silent,” pled Rep. Santos. “But nobody is listening to us, and that has to change.” She called on the members of the community to take responsibility and report incidents of hate.
On Feb. 25, Nasu was hit in the head by a sock filled with two rocks while exiting a vehicle in the International District (ID). She suffered a fractured face, four broken teeth, a concussion, and lacerations to her face. Nasu believes that she was the victim of a hate crime. Sean Holdip, 41, has not been charged with a hate crime as prosecutors indicated that he would receive a longer sentence if he was convicted of felony assault. A spokesperson for the King County Prosecutor’s Office noted in an email response for comment, “[W]e plan to prove that the injuries suffered by the victim were excessive in comparison to the level of bodily harm contemplated by the law. If we are successful in that, a judge would have the ability to increase the defendant’s sentence up to a maximum of 10 years.”
Nasu is not alone with the fear of being out in public. Elders in the ID are concerned with being assaulted. There have been numerous stories around the country where elderly Asians are being pushed down or assaulted in broad daylight. Communities in other cities have banded together to escort elders while out.
In Seattle, a community collective instituted a night watch to check on local businesses, help the homeless, and even break up fights in the ID. Tanya Woo, one of the organizers, said, “We feel that all the issues that we are seeing could benefit with more social workers and a lot of the incidents are happening when we are de-escalating fights or feeding the unhoused.”
While some of the speakers mentioned the need for a greater police presence, laws to enhance hate crime punishment and community education, there was no bright line solution for the perceptions of using a race of people as scapegoats for the pandemic. Activist group Stop AAPI Hate logged 3,800 hate crimes since the coronavirus pandemic began. The Trump administration repeatedly used the term, “China virus,” and others used the term, “Kung Flu,” as a way to place blame on Asians to deflect responsibility for addressing the issue.
Nasu’s attack has left a lasting scar with her. In addition to the physical effects she still suffers, she no longer feels safe in the ID, and since her name is now public, she is afraid of being attacked again. Nasu has received an outpouring of support from the public and some have shared similar instances of hate. Yet, this highlights Nasu’s fears. “I’m just horrified to know that so many of us have been experiencing this hate, and yet nothing is being done. The system is not made for us.”
Jason can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.