By Tommy Hough
As San Diegans, we cherish our diverse, multicultural city and heritage, and we put a premium on safe, welcoming neighborhoods and communities.
But like you, I've grown increasingly concerned, and incensed, at the increase in attacks and violence against our Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) neighbors and community members over the last several weeks.
This monstrous trend has escalated from verbal assaults and the screaming of unprovoked insults, to spitting and coughing on someone, to punching, shoving, and even hitting someone from behind. An elderly man in San Francisco died in January after he was shoved to the pavement, and on Tuesday KGTV ABC 10 reported an elderly Filipino woman was punched in the face while riding the San Diego Trolley.
The attack occurred, apparently, without any provocation. This made me ill to my core. This is someone's grandmother. This violence must stop. It must end NOW.
I condemn any and all hateful rhetoric or violence against our AAPI neighbors, friends, and family members in the strongest terms. Those responsible for the attack on the San Diego Trolley must be held accountable, and hate crime statutes must be applied in prosecuting these reprehensible actions.
Much of this terror directed at our AAPI neighbors, from New York to California, is attributable to our former president, who kicked open the pandora's box of American intolerance, and fueled anti-Asian sentiment over the last year with racist rhetoric in reaction to, and to deflect attention from, his administration's inability to respond to the coronavirus and COVID-19 pandemic.
A report from the Stop AAPI Hate Youth Campaign recorded over 2,800 firsthand incidents of anti-Asian hate in the U.S. from March 19th to Dec. 31st, marking a clear correlation between the current plague of attacks, the pandemic, and the former president's rhetoric throughout 2020. And it's become worse since the New Year, with elderly AAPI citizens specifically targeted.
As we've seen throughout history, hoping a violent trend will stop or "go away" is no solution. This epidemic of violence against some of our most vulnerable, elderly residents is something we cannot ignore. Coupled with the cruelty and debasement of the hateful or violent act, racism in all its forms is a health risk to us all.
Our city must increase investment and partnerships with programs that promote AAPI-owned businesses and AAPI-led community organizations, as it pledged to do with the city council's adoption of Resolution 313068 on June 4th, which denounced xenophobia and anti-Asian racism in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the city and our police must do more so all our neighbors, especially the elderly, are safe in our neighborhoods, on our streets and sidewalks, and in our local businesses and parking lots.
I'm committed to working with neighborhood resources to combat racism and hate. Our county board of supervisors has already declared racism to be a public health crisis, but that can only be the beginning. As terrible as violence is, it is the corrosive result of the long-simmering societal cancers of racism and hate.
Please look after your neighbors, especially your elderly neighbors. Ensure they feel safe, and that they know you or a friend or family member is nearby. Offer a ride if they need one. Be seen, make yourself available, and let your neighbors know you're only a few doors away.
We are a nation of laws, but punishment and justice will not change hearts or cure hate that has had decades to take hold. We must begin with each other, with responsible rhetoric, and the common decency far too many of us deny our neighbors and strangers. I hope you'll join me in this simple, needed task, and I encourage you to visit Stop AAPI Hate for more.
A former San Diego broadcaster and media personality, Tommy Hough is a wilderness and conservation advocate, communications professional, California Democratic Party delegate, and the co-founder and former president of San Diego County Democrats for Environmental Action.