Stop it with the anti-Asian hate

Lindy Li says hatred towards she and her family started up like flicking on a light switch after the pandemic hit

Asian Americans
Image: Marcela McGreal

Not one day after the slaughter of eight people in Atlanta, Ga., Jessica Li was followed from a Center City bank to Northeast Philly to drop off a donation for another victim of an Asian hate crime – only within minutes to become one herself. 

Two men smashed her car window and robbed the elderly Li of cash, her driver’s license, credit cards, and nearly everything they found valuable in her car. She was left traumatized. Today, her daughter, Lindy Li, tells her story.

Lindy Li is a local political commentator, former candidate in Pennsylvania’s 7th Congressional district and a resident of Rittenhouse Square. She’s also an avid runner. She said that because her mother, Jessica, has a cultural language barrier, she does most of the talking for her.

“It just feels like we are under siege,” Li said.

“First, we’re getting killed. Then, we’re getting robbed. And we’re getting yelled at. I was called a Chinese bitch the day before [this happened]. It is just one thing on top of another. My mental health has taken such a beating and I know it’s not just me. ”

After robbing Jessica Li, the men took off and purchased two, large-screen TVs from a store in the northeast. Police have opened an investigation and are still searching for the suspects.

I know…we need a reason for this madness – but it’s not us! I’m an American!

– Lindy Li

Li says she believes many Americans are turning to Asians to blame for the coronavirus pandemic, thus fueling a cycle of violence. 

“I know…we need a reason for this madness – but it’s not us! I’m an American!” She told me during a recent interview.

“This is my country! I’ve been here forever. I know no other country. English is my language. What else do you want from me? It’s not my fault that this happened. I’m not in charge of the Chinese government. I don’t have a direct line – I don’t want a direct line – they killed my great-grandfather. [People] don’t know that I have nothing to do with China, yet they blame the entire virus on us. I understand the need to blame someone, but it is so dehumanizing that it is happening.”

It is an atrocity that people of Asian descent are being treated like this. For Li’s family, life was normal until a year ago. The harassment only began when COVID entered our world.  

Last week, Asian Americans United and a number of other advocacy groups held a vigil at the plaza at 10th and Vine streets to memorialize those who died in Atlanta. More than 100 people attended, and Americans have gathered in rallies across the country in the past week to honor the victims of this senseless act and condemn violence against Asian Americans.

“Racism and violence come from all segments of our society. The same is true for anti–Black violence and hate. There is not only, as [some] say, a matter of white supremacy,” said City Councilman David Oh.

“There are real, false and imagined reasons why this violence and hate surfaces, periodically. Underlying this aggression are commonly held prejudices, scapegoating and misinformation that are promoted by those in government, universities, religious institutions, work places, services providers and many others. Unfortunately, avoiding the frank discussion of anti-Asian discriminations prevents the ability to actually address this hate in a productive manner.”

You would think the message needs no reinforcement, but all wrongful acts in the spirit of racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, ageism, anti-Semitism, disability discrimination, or any other religious discrimination of any kind (including Christianity!) is not OK. How is the purported motivation for these killings by nutcases like Robert Aaron Long even believed?

Avoiding the frank discussion of anti-Asian discriminations prevents the ability to actually address this hate in a productive manner.

– David Oh

Since the start of the pandemic, there have been a reported 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian violence, according to the group Stop AAPI Hate.

But there is a greater question we need to ask. We need to examine criminalized sex work and question why it is illegal in the first place. Long said he killed his victims because he was a sex addict and the massage spas were a “temptation he wanted to eliminate.” He targeted the women because he perceived what they were doing was evil and it is ludicrous to suggest his intentions weren’t racially motivated.

Whether or not the women who died in the Atlanta massacre were providing sexual services to Long or anyone else that day is irrelevant. The stigma against sex workers in Asian (and moreover – all) communities needs to stop. 

This leads me to my final point. To everybody who is protesting outside of Planned Parenthood and anti-vaxxers outside clinics: I think we can finally all agree on something: “MY BODY, MY CHOICE” is always the right message. 

  • PW Editor Jenny DeHuff

    Jenny DeHuff has been a part of the Philadelphia media landscape for the last 15 years on just about every level of journalism. She started out at The Bulletin, a conservative voice for Philadelphia, then moved through the region as she honed her career as the City Hall reporter at the Daily News, and later as an editor at Philly Voice. As Philadelphia Weekly's editor-in-chief, DeHuff brings a viewpoint that constantly begs the question of a progressive-leaning Philadelphia. Say hello at jdehuff@philadelphiaweekly.com.

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