I remember when I was a young child, walking the streets of San Francisco with my family. It was cloudy and cold, and I was toddling along with a little red jacket. I remember when a man approached my mom and started yelling- about how she stole his job. I remember how she replied, “I have never worked an American job as long as I’ve lived in America.” I remember us walking away, and trying to get in a cab. I remember the man yelled at us while he drove us. I never really noticed that my mom wasn’t American born or even American at the time; I didn’t understand the concept. I didn’t know that my mom having dark brown skin, thin eyes and a large, rounded, button nose was the reason why we were yelled at. I remember that I didn’t even notice that people were different racially until I was seven years old. But now, I know. I hear when people yell at her on the train. Now, she lies sick in bed with homesickness, guilt and fear. I see my friends and family harassed, their grandparents slain or in pain, and it’s all in vain because those are the ones of us who remain silent in all adversity.
San Francisco has been the face of the xenophobic attacks on our lolas and lolos, nainai and yeyes–our grandparents who have been taught to be strong and silent, and according to Manju Kulkarni of the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, making up around 10 percent of the attacked. However, San Francisco is not the only site of fear and anger: “The more than two dozen recent assaults and robberies in the Bay Area mirror a national rise in hate crimes against older Asian Americans during the pandemic. From last March through the end of 2020, [Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council] has documented nearly 3,000 incidents of anti-Asian hate across 47 states and the District of Columbia,” Eric Westervelt reported on NPR. We are the stealers of jobs, and all of us are collectively a Kong Flu Virus, rhetoric fueled by former President Donald J. Trump. People are taught we are smart, quiet and subservient, and punish us for those traits or for not fitting their perceptions. People are taught that it is acceptable to push us around, for we will stay quiet.
Of the slain, one name stands out as the face of the Fight Against Asian American Discrimination. Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, was murdered after being body slammed. What was he doing? Taking his routine morning walk. I am terrified of my mom going on her walks and never coming home. She’s 103 pounds and five feet tall, with most of her muscles faded away with illness. Instead of our Political leaders defending us- we are left in our own hands, while our famous, like Daniel Dae Kim, are left to pay the price for rewards and information.
Well, I refuse to stay silent. I refuse to perpetuate that stereotype. I refuse to let my family, neighbors, friends and strangers who share my traits be attacked for others’ failed grasp of facts or morality. These attacks aren’t new. They are just being filmed- and hopefully reported more and more so others see our pain and choose to fight with us.
Ruth-Mary Shackelford is a junior at Rio Americano High School.