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Anti-Asian racism still haunts San Francisco community

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(SAN FRANCISCO) — Russell Jeung’s family was forcibly removed from their homes in Monterey, California, in the late 1800s.

“When the townspeople wanted the Chinese out, the landlord evicted them. When the Chinese wouldn’t leave, a fire burned down the entire village,” Jeung, co-founder of the Stop AAPI Hate group, told ABC News.

“My great grandparents … saw their entire life’s work burned down,” he said.

They found a new home in San Francisco’s Chinatown, “as the only place of safety against that racism,” Jeung said. But during the COVID-19 pandemic, that safe haven became a target of anti-Asian racism.

San Francisco officials received 60 reports of hate crimes against AAPI people in the city during 2021, a more than 500% increase compared to the nine incidents reported in 2020.

Between March 2020 and March 31, 2022, Jeung’s group Stop AAPI Hate recorded nearly 11,500 reports of hate incidents against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) persons across the U.S.

This is markedly higher than the number of reported hate crimes during the same period of time, which advocates say are undercounted.

“We have high numbers of elders reporting, even though elders tend to under report,” Jeung said. “Our Asian elders, they often don’t speak English. They don’t have online technology. So the high rate of elders reporting just shows that it is a problem facing them.”

Currently, Anti-Asian hate incidents are reportedly down across the country, but the trauma and reality of this hate remains, especially for Susanna Yee, whose 88-year-old grandmother was brutally attacked while exercising one morning in a local park in January 2019.

“Although I have come to a place of forgiveness, there’s still pain and feelings of grief that wells up occasionally,” Yee, the granddaughter of Yik Oi Huang, said in an interview with ABC News. Her grandmother died a year after the attack.

“I saw this incident with my grandmother as an opportunity to reach out and to connect with people who don’t look like me or us and to understand each other so that this incident and other incidents don’t happen again,” Yee said.

The man charged with attacking Huang, 21-year-old Keonte Gathron, has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial.

Yee says she is still grieving and has leaned on others in the Asian American community throughout this healing process.

She has embraced Tai Chi, as her grandmother did: “To be in community with a group of Chinese elders is just so nourishing and full of love.”

“What happened to my grandmother has impacted the way I move in the world,” Yee said.

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