May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month but many Americans of Asian and Pacific Islander descent may not feel as though they are being celebrated. Over the last year, there has been an increase in racism and xenophobia towards the Asian American community.
Vilma Kari, a 65-year-old woman of Filipino descent, was attacked on March 29 in front of luxury apartments managed by the Brodsky Organization in New York. As she was walking down the sidewalk, she was confronted by Brandon Elliot, 38, who kicked her mid-section, followed by multiple kicks while she was on the ground. This incident lasted for about 30 seconds and left Kari with a fractured pelvis and multiple contusions.
The unprovoked attack was recorded on video from inside the Brodsky Organization’s building. The surveillance footage caught the reaction by multiple employees as – instead of assisting the injured woman after the attacker left – they proceeded to close the building’s doors. As a result, the doormen of the building have been fired for not following required emergency and safety protocols. Remaining building staff is participating in additional training "regarding proper emergency response protocols as well as anti-bias awareness and upstander-bystander interventions," according to a statement by the Brodsky Organization.
Elliot was arrested on March 31 and was charged with two counts of second-degree assault as a hate crime and one count of first-degree attempted assault as a hate crime. At the time of the attack, he was serving a lifetime parole sentence after the murder of his mother in 2002. Elliot will remain in custody and is facing 25 years in prison for his actions.
Attacks like this have increased since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic. According to a report released in March by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University San Bernardino, the number of anti-Asian hate crimes reported in the 16 largest cities in the U.S. increased by 149% last year. The report went on to explain the increase began last spring “amidst the rise in COVID cases and negative stereotyping of Asians relating to the pandemic.”
According to this report, Dallas has seen almost double the number of hate crimes in 2020 compared to 2019. Lee Eui-Seok, a South Korean professional Overwatch player on the Dallas Fuel team, recently spoke during a Twitch stream about his and his team’s personal experiences with racism in Dallas. In a translation by Jade Kim, manager of the Florida Mayhem Overwatch team, Lee describes being deliberately coughed on and verbally harassed by strangers when in public. He later reflected on his time living in Los Angeles in 2018, commenting that life seemed to be much more peaceful three years ago. “If I have my jersey on, I think they realize we’re part of some kind of team, so they don’t bother us as much. But if I have my everyday clothes on, they’ll run up to us, harass us, and then run away.”
Envy Gaming, an esports and gaming company headquartered in Dallas, is looking to act after learning of Lee’s experiences. Mike Rufail, Envy Gaming founder and Chief Gaming Officer, stated in a tweet, “I am deeply saddened by the situations some of our @DallasFuel players have been put in while walking the streets here in Dallas, TX. This is a great city in a proud state. This isn't something we should be proud of at all and should all pitch in to change it.”
If you are the victim of a hate crime, MAS Law urges you to report it immediately to your local police. You can review laws and policies, learn state-specific information, and find other resources on the United States Department of Justice Hate Crimes page located here.