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Letter to the Editor: I Am Not a Virus

Jennifer Kue Jennifer Kue Letter to the Editor: I Am Not a VirusPhoto by Jason Leung on Unsplash
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He yelled at me with such rage, I could feel the hatred drip from every word he hurled at my daughter and me. 

“I will shoot your dog if it ever shits on my yard again!”

“I will kill your dog!”

“Yeah, you better walk on the other side of the street if you ever walk by my house again! I’ll come out and strangle your dog!”

All I heard was “shoot,” “kill,” and “strangle!” As an Asian woman, I felt threatened to my very core. 

This hateful attack by a White neighbor is clearly more than just about a dog pooping on his lawn, which he falsely accused my dog of doing. I will not call it an exchange because he was doing all of the yelling. How could someone be so upset over dog poop on their lawn? This is something that could be easily remedied with a plastic bag. No, this man was upset about something other than dog poop, something bigger than poop. This man hated that I looked different, hated that this slant-eyed, brown person was taking up space in his White world. He exerted his White superiority by saying those words to me because he knew he could and get away with it. He knew that an Asian woman and her 13-year-old daughter probably would not say anything back; that they would just quietly walk away too scared to do anything to him.

Some readers might think that this is not a racist attack or hate speech, but that is exactly what it was. His anti-Asian, hate-filled rant was disguised in hate for my dog. I know racism when I see it. I have experienced racism all of my life. I have been treated as “lesser than,” “other,” “a second-class citizen,” and unworthy of success and accomplishments. I have been told to “go back to my country” more than I can count. 

I was not prepared to respond to this man’s threats; rather I was shocked by his vitriol. All I could think about was the safety of my daughter and dog. The police officer who spoke with him reported that he denied ever saying those words to me. The White family looking at the house for sale next door who witnessed the entire assault also said that they did not hear the man say any of those words. Why the denial from the family? I can only guess that they did not want to get involved. Perhaps they already bought the house and did not want to start on the wrong foot with their new neighbor. I do not know what was going through their minds when they decided to not stand up for me and my daughter and for what is right.

Senseless violent attacks and harassment against Asian Americans across this nation have spiked in recent months. According to the advocacy group stopaapihate.org, there have been nearly 4,000 recorded hate incidents against Asian Americans since the beginning of the pandemic with more than half of those attacks against Asian women. The rise in anti-Asian hate incidents was enhanced by Donald Trump’s racist rhetoric in which he unrelentingly referred to the coronavirus as the “China virus.” 

One deadly attack that struck home was that of 84-year old Vicha Ratanapakdee who was shoved to the ground on his morning walk in Oakland, CA. He died two days later. Mr. Ratanapakdee’s attacker’s attorney is claiming that his client was dealing with “anger issues.” 

Similarly, the police officer relayed to me that the neighbor was having a “bad day” and took out his anger on me and my daughter. However, he still denies saying that he would shoot, kill, and strangle my dog and that his witness (his daughter) may have mistaken me for someone else. The latter half of that statement is hard to believe, as I am the only Asian woman who lives on the same street as him. A few days later, the police officer came back to my house and suggested that I not file charges because the man may get agitated because he will have to go to court and this may cause him to continue to harass my family and me. 

Should that excuse make me feel better? It is not my responsibility to manage his anger. It is not my responsibility to make him feel better. It is not my fault if he feels inconvenienced in any way. 

I did file a report against this neighbor and tried to take my case to the City Attorney in which I received no assistance. The City Attorney would not press charges because this was a ‘he said, she said’ incident. I do not doubt that if it was a Black or brown man making those same threats to a White woman, the response would be quite different.

The recent murder of eight individuals in Georgia, six of the victims were Asian women, is shocking and frightening. The Asian community has been crying out for help over the past year only to have those cries be ignored. The signs leading up to this shooting were everywhere. These women died a senseless death. I do not know these women personally, but I know Asian women like them. Women who work their fingers to the bone to earn money to support their families. Women who work multiple jobs to save enough money to send their kids to school, to send money back home to family, and if there is anything left over, to buy a piece of the American dream. I know these women. They are mothers, sisters, aunties, and friends. 

The Biden Administration’s recent denouncement of anti-Asian attacks is a positive sign that this administration will not tolerate racism. However, anti-Asian policies and attitudes are entrenched into the fabric of America. It is difficult to imagine that anti-Asian sentiments will end with this administration. Americans must stop using Asian Americans as a scapegoat because we are not a virus. I am not a virus; racism is the virus that runs rampant in the U.S. and it has to end here and now. 

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