As anti-Asian violence escalated in the past month, demonstrations like this one in Los Angeles in March raised awareness and called for a stop to the hate. | Photo: Ringo Chiu/AFP/Getty Images

Asian Americans in NELA talk about anti-Asian hate crimes

2021 April Editions Featured

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By Indie Lau and Anthony Solis Sierra

As communities across the United States continue to grapple with anti-Asian hate crimes, Asian Americans in Northeast Los Angeles have been alarmed — but not surprised — by the vitriol and violence.

“I knew it would escalate to Asian Americans getting hurt,” said Mia Livas Porter, a Filipino American who is active in local and state Democratic politics and is running for NELA’s District 51 seat in the State Assembly. By “it,” Porter was referring to former President Trump’s blaming of the Chinese for the pandemic. “For me, it was like living in a pressure cooker where you’re just waiting for that thing to pop and explode,” she said.

Cyndi Otteson, a Korean American resident of Eagle Rock also feared the worst. “I think that we all were bracing for a tragedy or a moment like this,” said Otteson, a former vice president of the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council (ERNC) and former candidate for city council from NELA’s Council District 14. “I’m deeply saddened and just disappointed because we knew that this was coming.”

Leanna Lin Fong, a Chinese American who is the owner of Leanna Lin’s Wonderland in Eagle Rock, also expressed sadness as she comes to grips with the recent hate crimes against the Asian American community. “Honestly, I’ve been so overwhelmed with everything that’s been going on, I don’t even know if I’ve fully been able to process it,” Fong said.

Demonstrator photographed by

Fear for one’s personal safety has increased along with the number of hate incidents. Porter said she started taking Krav Maga classes to ease her worries. Otteson reported anxiety in public. “I don’t feel safe walking by myself, and mostly have a full mask on and a hat, and people can’t tell what race I am,” she said.

Senior citizens of Asian descent feel especially vulnerable because several attacks have targeted the elderly, including a recent attack on a Metro bus in Eagle Rock reported to the Eastsider.

Nora Tomase, a senior citizen of Filipino descent in NELA, said her life has not been significantly impacted by the rise in anti-Asian hate, but there is a widespread realization that “what happened to them could happen to us.”

Margaret Irwin, the director of the Elder committee for the ERNC, has recommended that senior citizens carry whistles with them when they are out so that they can summon help if needed.

Jan Lin, a professor of sociology at Occidental College whose family emigrated to the U.S. from Taiwan when he was a boy, pointed out that anti-Chinese rhetoric is broadly anti-Asian, because “perpetrators of racism” do not distinguish between ethnicities and nationalities. In effect, Trump’s comments about the “China virus” and the “Kung flu” made targets of all Asians.

To make things even more complicated, hate directed at Asian Americans intersects with hate of women, a dynamic that was especially pronounced in the mass shooting in Atlanta on March 16 in which six of the eight people killed were women of Asian descent. “There’s misogyny and racism as well as economic instability when we’re talking about the status of women or the tokenization of Asian women,” said Otteson.

Similarly, anti-Asian violence and anti-Blackness are interconnected, with both being facets of white supremacy, said Otteson.

Elected officials have spoken out against the anti-Asian attacks. In NELA’s Council District 1, City Councilmember Gil Cedillo condemned the attacks as racist and launched an effort to provide better protection, educational resources and policies to end the current violence — and prevent it in the future.

Correction: This article was changed use “Filipino American,” as is called for by AP Style and proper usage, rather than “Philippine American.” The original, improper usage was an editing error. 

Indie Lau and Anthony Solis Sierra, juniors at Occidental College, are participants in the NELA Neighborhood Reporting Partnership, a collaboration of the Boulevard Sentinel and The Occidental campus newspaper.

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