This article is part of a series called “The Trauma of Racism,” where we highlight the effects racism can have on minority populations.
As anti-Asian hate crimes continue to be on the rise, representatives from OCA Westchester & Hudson Valley weighed in on their own individual experiences with racism and how this rise in hateful incidents could lead to a change in how Asian Americans speak about racism.
The group seeks to advance civil rights for the Asian American community, with over 80 chapters and affiliates including the one in the Hudson Valley.
Members Bill Kaung, Jaclyn Liu and Grace Pan, who each serve on the board of directors, have lived in the Tri-State area for years. They have never seen a public outcry of anti-Asian hate quite like this.
“This time has just come to the point that people have to do something,” said Liu.
“For the first time I see people trying to stand up and speak up.”
Kaung, who has been living in Westchester since 1974, points out how leadership in the previous administration fueled the anti-Asian hate crime wave that has been spreading since the pandemic.
“The country leadership needs to stress unity and the wish to work together, and last couple of years, we weren’t getting that from the last administration,” he said.
Having lived in America for years, each member has experienced racist encounters at different points in their life, but none have witnessed or experienced the type of racial violence that has made headlines recently.
However, a recent incident took place in White Plains, where Kaung lives. The incident is currently being investigated by the Westchester District Attorney’s office.
Last week, in response to that incident and others, Kaung, Liu and Pan joined a protest in Ardsley, NY that was organized by the Asian Student Union at Ardsley High School.
Pan, who lives in Chester, Connecticut, hopes that more media attention is devoted to the protests and the anti-Asian hate movement.
“I see a lot of media coverage, but it’s still not what I expected, because there’s so many protests [out there],” she said.
As a lifetime member of OCA-WHV, Kaung has found a change in the way local activism is organizing efforts to change how Asian Americans are treated in the United States.
“In the past it was very hard to get together and talk together about issues but in some sense we are now talking about working together for a purpose,” he said.
He notes that there is a long way to go in achieving progress for Asian American civil rights, especially in the wake of the tragic shooting of six Asian American women in Atlanta-area businesses. While he respects how hard it is for law enforcement officials to declare a violent attack against someone from a marginalized group as a hate crime, he criticized the initial response from law enforcement to the Atlanta shooting.
“The police she came up with ‘he had a bad day’ [as the motive],” he said. “Come on. He had a bad day? It shows you how insensitive [law enforcement can be] to these incidents.”
Pan notices that the younger generation is being encouraged to speak out about confrontational behavior in a way that her generation was often reticent to because of their culture.
“My generation was taught to study hard and to keep our eyes down,” she said. “I think right now is really the turning point for my kids’ generation. We encourage them to speak out when they encounter those incidents and crimes.”
For more information on OCA-WHV, visit their website: http://oca-whv.org.