When Looks Kill
Two recent violent crimes involving Asian victims have Asian rights groups wondering whether New York City is following a nationwide pattern of racially motivated attacks.
The September 1 beating murder of Chinese restaurant owner and deliveryman Jin-Sheng Liu was explained by investigators as a botched robbery by a bunch of misguided teens out to get a free meal. And the September 23 stoning of a Korean man in Flushing, who eventually died from his injuries, was reported with no mention of a motive except speculation that the crime was part of a gang initiation.
Asian advocates say crimes involving little or no practical motive, like robbery, suggest one based on racial hatred or the assumption that Asians are easy, passive targets.
A report to be released in Washington, D.C., this Thursday by a national coalition of Asian American advocacy organizations will show that in 1999, anti-Asian violence was on the rise. Kathay Feng of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center in Los Angeles attributes the problem in part to recent trends in politics and media that have ignited long-standing anti-Asian perceptions that could promote violence. She points to partisan panic in recent years over Asian campaign contributions, racist overtones in the Wen Ho Lee case and how it was covered by organizations like The New York Times and mocked on NBC's Tonight Show, and a proliferation of anti-Asian hate and humor Web sites.
Advocates say these relatively new developments underscore decades-old stereotypes that Asians are wealthy, suspect, passive, or foreign. The dehumanizing nature of such characterizations, they say, makes Asians seem like easier targets for attack.
While watchdog groups say it is impossible to comprehensively track hate crimes, since legal authorities sometimes do not formally classify or report them as such, the following partial list of recent national incidents hints at the prevalence of anti-Asian violence. Some received high-profile coverage in the mainstream press, while others, advocates complain, went virtually unnoticed. Some resemble the recent New York incidents in their ambiguity; others are clearly cases of hateful violence.
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