Black-on-Asian Violence Raises Troubling Questions

San Jose Mercury News, May 3, 2010

The year 2010, not yet half over, has brought forth numerous sadistic black-on-Asian attacks. One question now stares everyone in the face: What role did racism play in these incidents?

From San Francisco to New York, the recent attacks have been cowardly and horrific. A few weeks ago, two black teenagers punched 59-year-old Tian Sheng Yu in the mouth in downtown Oakland, before and after they assaulted his son. The father fell on his head and passed away a few days later.

In January, black teenagers kicked and beat 83-year-old Huan Chen after he got off a Muni bus in San Francisco. He, too, died from his injuries.

Between late March and early April, five black teenagers assailed five older Asian women, including one who was 71, on separate occasions in or near a public-housing project on the Lower East Side of New York.

In these and other similar attacks, the perpetrators’ motives have varied. Some, like those who attacked the late Huan Chen, wanted his money before they ran off laughing. Others, like the teenagers who struck in Manhattan and in Oakland, did so for no apparent reason than the beating itself.

Had white teenagers inflicted similar horrific violence on Asian residents across America in a series of incidents over a short four-month period, the country — or at least the cities where the crimes took place — would have rushed to engage in some serious soul searching about white attitudes toward Asians.

Instead, local officials and the local media have bent over backward to deny or ignore the issue of race.

San Francisco Supervisor Sophie Maxwell was eager to label the attackers as just thugs who targeted the “weak and vulnerable.” Oakland City Council member Jean Quan was similarly quick to discount the role of race, explaining that Chinese residents of Oakland make themselves “easier targets” for criminals through their frequent failure to report crimes committed against them.

New York’s local media sources, including WCBS and NBC New York, failed even to report the race of the teenagers who targeted and terrorized elderly Asian women, though the assailants’ race was there for the world to see, on surveillance video.

Inconveniently, when violence is involved, willful blindness is not tolerance. Even if no racial intent could be proven in court for some of the recent crimes, the spate of cross-country black-on-Asian attacks did not occur in a vacuum. Rather, many African-Americans in crowded and unsafe urban centers often view every Asian — Chinese, Vietnamese, Filipino or Korean — as a “Chinaman” who is unworthy of basic human decency or respect.

In one city after another, black teenagers and adults frequently hurl racial slurs at the “Chinamen” among them, at the grocery store, on the bus, on the subway and in the streets. If the “Chinamen” are lucky, no violence will ensue.

Maybe certain black teenagers learned to hate Asians in an environment where their hatred went unchallenged and unquestioned. This does not mean that African-Americans in general hold some innate animosity toward Asians, nor does the recent violence detract from the kindness and friendship that blacks in this country regularly offer to immigrants of all stripes.

Yet the grotesqueness of the latest interracial violence should inspire some serious soul searching. Urban environments that breed and condone racial hatred do not promote peaceful streets and secure neighborhoods. For those who wish to prevent similar attacks in the future, maybe they should start by denouncing racism, whatever its source.


  1. Ying, I saw your article in the “Murk” and can imagine how proud our old HS teachers must be of you… or not, considering that they’re all a bunch of “d*mn hippies” 😉

    This growing trend of violence towards Asians is disturbing, but not nearly as disturbing as the general ambivalence shown by our local authorities. Have you heard SFPD chief Gascon’s recent comments about it? He goes as far to say that race is NOT a factor in these attacks! And it also reads like he is laying blame on the Chinese community — the VICTIMS — as well. Read the rest of his statement, it’s a complete farce.

    The funny thing is that it doesn’t have to be this way between our two cultures. I don’t know if you remember, but my two best friends in HS were Black. They never once tried to categorize or stereotype me, nor I to them. As such close friends, why would such poisonous thoughts ever cross our minds? However, they were constantly terrorized by their Black peers, possibly because they were perceived as meek and “not Black enough,” or because they hung out with a dorky Chinese kid. The pervasive, underlying Black culture obliterates any form of potential progress we as individuals try to make.

    Thanks for sticking up for all of us and taking the heat from the doubters. Our scaredy-cat PC society is so afraid to make any criticism of Black and Latino communities that we Asians are pretty much left to fend for ourselves. Although I think we’ve done well for ourselves as a whole, people like you give us a voice telling the rest of America that we are a force to be reckoned with and refuse to be marginalized any longer.

  2. Ying:

    I had read your article, and Eric’s comment. They are written in much better American-English than I can command.

    I, too, were victim of black crimminals in SF bay. I also saw black girl (~13 years old) insulting white man on 13 bus in SF and attacking other white girl on street. First I thought blacks were all like that; but after I moved to Oklahoma, then to Ohio, I found black people in these states were totally different, they were nice people just like us.

    Then, why black people in NY and SFbay are so mean and aggressive? Don’t we have enough jail space for them?

    1. The fact you ran into a few blacks who are closer to the Huxtables than Tupac Shakur doesn’t change the overall dynamic of race – black predators and asian victims. Don’t let a few housebroken Uncle Toms you encountered obscure the truth: blacks, with their high testosterone and low IQs, are a threat to the safety and well-being of civilized Asians wherever the races meet.

  3. Ying,

    I read several of your blog entries, and I have to admit that I have not had the same experiences with African Americans and Latinos.

    Though I sympathize with your harsh experiences in the inner-city, perhaps the tone that you are using in your blogs may be counter-productive to initiating fruitful dialogues on racial relations in America. I understand that you are trying to bring to light the violent, racist attacks against Asians. However, I believe you are neglecting the structural forces that have perpetuated these attacks in the first place.

    Have you had the chance to read Claire Kim’s book, Bitter Fruit? I highly recommend it. Kim does a superb analysis on the conflicts between Korean Americans and African Americans.


  4. Esther,

    What “structural forces that have perpetuated these attacks” do you mean? I can see only one: black culture.

  5. Ying, while I understand and share your concern for the what “appears” to be a trend in crimes against Asian-Americans, I feel that you are simply race-baiting in a Neo-Darwinist way rather than striking the root cause, i.e. systemic caste privilege. Vilko, what exactly is “black culture”? Perhaps you should consider reflecting on how the Caucasian culture of white supremacy may factor into these crimes. “Notions of biological superiority and inferiority have been replaced with a new set of ideas that amount to claims of cultural superiority and inferiority. According to this perspective, differences in social class position among ethnic groups in America are a product of cultural attributes that are endemic to the groups themselves. In a sense, nineteenth century Social Darwinism has been replaced with a ‘New Darwinism’ that has simply substituted culture for genes.” Esther, thank you for raising some great and valid points. “The situation with the black hair care industry is a condition that exists internationally. My first reaction is anger and it’s not directed at the Koreans, although it does seem that they’re doing some things to lock out African-American hair products entrepreneurs. I’m angry because once again, I hear someone laughing as they count the money they made from us wanting to “look good”. This “looking good” thing doesn’t stop with hair, but extends to clothes, cars, jewelry and whatever else that loses value as soon as one walks out the door with it. At the end of the day, many of us only have memories of looking good in whatever we’re wearing or driving while those who accommodated those needs extract wealth directly out of the African-American community. The Koreans are merely the latest installment of the various groups who’ve done this.” “Social privilege is not exclusive to white people in America. Asian Americans, if we are going to stand in solidarity with our African American brothers and sisters, we must not only acknowledge our forms of privilege, but leverage the influence that comes with that privilege in order to serve as allies to Black communities as well as other marginalized groups…There is privilege in how Asian Americans came to the United States, which does not include a history of slavery.”

  6. I’m African American.
    I have read your experiences and am sure you were the victim of unnecessary violence.
    I hesitate to say sense less, because it does make sense to me.
    You identify a symptom of a much larger problem. In fact there is black on black violence, black on white violence, and black on Asian violence. The african american experience is unique and difficult to convey to outsiders.
    Striped of cultural identity, denied ‘human’ status, and treated as work animals fo centuries. The prevailing opinion of blacks has been one of inferiority. Raise any child in those conditions and the results are predictable, violence, self esteme issues, mental/physical health issues and confinement to provery. many wonder why these Conditions remain, as if african americans prefer them, when in truth everyone has been brainwashed, not just blacks.
    A much more interesting book would be a study on the dehumanizing affect of slavery and cultural racism and how it has played out on African American relationships with Asians.

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