Yong Sin Kim, an 85-year-old Korean immigrant living in an apartment complex in downtown Los Angeles, says he rarely leaves home these days. When he does, he carries a whistle with him; at least he could call for help if he were to be attacked.
Three floors higher in the same building, Hyang Ran Kim, 74, waits for her daughter to pick her up. She temporarily moves in with her daughter in a quieter suburb. Kim says her daughter is worried about her safety.
Asian Americans have faced discrimination, threats and violence that have escalated over the past year because the coronavirus pandemic originated in Wuhan, China. Some have blamed former President Donald Trump for fanning the flames of intolerance by calling COVID-19 a “Chinese virus” and “kung flu”.
People of Asian descent have been spat out, beaten and asked to return to where they came from. Reports of violence increased, including when a white gunman killed eight people, including six Asian women, in a series of shootings at Atlanta-area spas in mid-March. Four of the women were of Korean descent.
Although police have not declared it a hate crime, clear examples of racism have surfaced, such as surveillance footage showing a New York man kicking an Asian American and stomping on her face while shouting anti-Asian slurs.
In Koreatown in Los Angeles, Denny Kim, a veteran of the US Air Force, said he was beaten in February by two men who shouted insults such as “ching chong” and “china virus”. Police were investigating this hate crime.
Discrimination against Asian groups has a long and ugly history stretching back to the origins of California, from Chinese laborers exploited during the construction of the transcontinental railroad to the large number of Japanese immigrants and their United States-born children being parked. in internment camps during World War II.
For Yong Sin Kim and his wife, who were quarantined in their tiny apartment for days after testing positive for COVID-19, their confinement continues to avert another virus – violence.
“We’re not going out at all. We stay home all day like we’re locked in, ”Kim said. “I can’t even think of going for a walk.”