An Asian Woman Was Attacked in Flushing

Ryan Fan girlfriend told me to ask my mom to be careful. She shared a TikTok video about a 52-year-old Asian American woman being violently shoved outside a Queens, New York bakery. That’s a little younger than my mom right now, so it sounded about right that I should be concerned for my mom. After all, I saw news of anti-Asian hate crimes amidst the COVID-19 pandemic across my newsfeed.

And then I checked the news and the sources. According to David Li at NBC News, on Thursday, February 18, a man was arrested after shoving an Asian-American woman in Flushing, Queens. And then it hit home — I’ve been to Flushing, which is a hotbed for the Chinese-American diaspora in America. I grew up only two miles away, and went almost every week to shop for groceries and go to bakeries.

We often joke that it’s the real Chinatown since Manhattan’s Chinatown feels more touristy and bougie, while Flushing is comprised of more working-class Chinese people, Chinese signs, and honestly, it’s really hard to get by without knowing Chinese. It’s the closest place in the U.S. to feeling like China, as a Chinese-American who spent part of his childhood in China.

According to Li, a 47-year-old man named Patrick Mateo was the “suspect in the violent assault of an elderly female on Roosevelt Avenue,” and NYPD arrested him on Thursday. Mateo allegedly was caught on a security camera assaulting the woman in front of a bakery. The attack then escalated, according to Queens prosecutors.

He started to charge at the woman, throw her down, and hit her with a news rack. The woman got knocked unconscious. She had to have 5–10 stitches on her forehead later, and the man would be arrested.

The case gained publicity because actress Olivia Munn, who starred in The Newsroom, knew the daughter of the victim and heard about the case. She posted images about the case from security footage and demanded accountability for the attacker.

While that’s great, it makes me discouraged because anti-Asian discrimination doesn’t get much attention unless a prominent actress posts on social media about it. How many more attacks need to happen for people to pay attention? According to Cady Lang at TIME Magazine, Asian hate crimes have been escalating the last year as people have scapegoated Asian-Americans as being responsible for COVID-19. Grandparents have died after attacks on the elderly across the Asian diaspora. According to journalist Dion Lim, there were at least 20 attacks and robberies in Oakland’s Chinatown in January.

Much of the misattribution has stemmed from President Donald Trump referring to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and “kung flu,” which, to some degree, helped normalize xenophobia against Chinese civilians. But it’s more than just Trump — regularly people have their own personal agency in choosing whether to blame Asians for COVID or not. According to the son of the woman attacked:

“I’m sure this won’t be the only one or the last one. Keep your eyes open, keep your families safe.”

Advocating against anti-Asian racism is not the sexiest issue in this day and age, nor does it garner the most visibility in our national media. To be clear, the police aren’t classifying the crime as a hate crime since it wasn’t clear the crimes are racially motivated.

However, it’s clear these are not people who deserve to be attacked. These are elderly Asian people. They’re innocent civilians. And yes, my girlfriend was right — it could have been my mother. It could have been anyone. And if they’re not safe, no one is.

I wonder why it’s so hard for society to acknowledge anti-Asian racism is a serious thing. I wonder it’s still so invisible — and my mind hypothesized about all the reasons why. Is it because people think Asians have it easy in American society?

I acknowledge Asian privilege is a thing — as a Chinese-American man, I don’t have to worry about being treated unfairly by law enforcement. There’s significant colorism within the Asian community. When people see I’m yellow, they automatically assume I’m smart, intelligent, and good at math, which are unfair, but I acknowledge it could be worse.

But at the same time, Asians are still minorities, and that doesn’t make anti-Asian attacks okay.

“Hate crimes against Asians Americans have become so bad that in just the past week a 91-year-old Asian American was attacked from behind as he walked down the street in Oakland, an 84-year-old Thai American was murdered in San Francisco, a 64-year-old Vietnamese American woman was assaulted in San Jose and a Filipino American man was slashed in the face in Manhattan,” Munn said in an Instagram post.

For all the anti-Asian attacks that go reported, many more go unheard and unreported. I will call my mother and father to be more careful with escalating reports of attacks, and I might have to be more careful myself. My heart and prayers go out to the woman attacked, her family, and her speedy recovery. On a societal and systemic level, I pray and hope anti-Asian racism will stop as more people acknowledge anti-Asian racism is completely unacceptable.

Photo from Satjawat Boontanataweepol on Dreamstime

Originally published on Medium on February 19th, 2021.

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