S.F. District Attorney holds summit to address anti-AAPI violence

San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin hosted a virtual summit on May 14 highlighting the rash of violence and racism against the Asian American Pacific Islander community and discussing solutions to it.

The summit featured two panels of community activists within the San Francisco’s AAPI community and a discussion between Boudin and California Supreme Court associate justice Goodwin Liu.

“I am outraged at the rise of hate and violence against our AAPI community members, and convened this summit to ensure that we are working together alongside community leaders to prevent and respond to the surge in violence,” Boudin said. “I feel inspired by the thoughtful conversations we’ve had over the course of the day and look forward to continuing to work alongside AAPI leaders and criminal justice experts to improve our tools in making San Francisco safe for all.”

A specific topic within the panels was the barrage of viral videos featuring Asian American elders —- some in their 80s or 90s —- being assaulted in public, and the chilling effect the attacks have on their community.

Panelist Anni Chung, president and CEO of Self Help for the Elderly, discussed the seniors she works with who are afraid of going outside for fear of being attacked, noting one woman she knows who was punched in the face on the bus for no good reason.

“If you have any elderly parent or grandparent or neighbor, please … call them up and talk to them and make sure our seniors feel that somebody you know is thinking about them and also caring for them,” Chung said.

Chung added that her organization’s senior escort program, which accompanies the elderly as they go outside for necessary tasks like groceries, banking, or simply going for a walk, has received 80 requests from residents.

Liu spoke about his own experience as the son of Taiwanese immigrants, growing up in Sacramento as an “other” where he was given racist nicknames, mocked for his food and mistaken for wait staff. Liu’s heritage also faced denigration from a state senator who, when he was nominated for a federal judgeship over a decade ago, said that Liu wanted to make the United States more like communist China.

“I’m protected by my fancy title and the job I have, but think about the victims who we’ve seen of the violence of the last several months, and indeed, over the past decades and century,” Liu said. “Elderly, limited English-speaking, socioeconomically vulnerable members of our community, who just bear the brunt more heavily of this set of problems.”

“What precedes the violence, what underlies it, is really a set of social norms. And if it’s normal to stigmatize, to otherize, or to dehumanize other people based on their race, then we shouldn’t be surprised, even if we are horrified, by some of the very tragic consequences that follow from that,” he added.

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