On Jan. 31, a 91-year-old Asian American man was brutally assaulted in Oakland, California's Chinatown, part of a string of robberies and random assaults in recent weeks targeting the neighborhoods' Asian Americans, and older Americans in particular. The motive remains unproven, but both Oakland's mayor and the Chinatown community itself believe the attacks to be motivated by race.
An arrest has now been made in that case and in two others. It is a different suspect from the one arrested after a similar attack two weeks ago that killed an 84-year-old grandfather in San Francisco.
The attacks are a continuation of a pattern of escalating violence against Asian Americans that began with Republican efforts to brand the COVID-19 pandemic as the "China Virus," an intentional effort to skirt blame for incompetent pandemic measures by, as usual, stoking xenophobia and racism. It was not enough to merely blame Chinese authorities for allegedly not doing enough to keep the virus from escaping their country's borders; conservative propaganda outlets like Fox News hosted those eager to hypothesize that the virus was an intentional creation, a supposed bioweapon, or otherwise a direct attack meant to undermine the rest of the world and the United States in particular.
Each of these claims were hoaxes, and each were intended to tickle xenophobic reflexes as diversion from specifically Republican failures to Give A Flying Damn as a deadly disease washed over the country largely unburdened by safety measures, common sense, or even past premises that decent governance should at the least not actively kill its own citizenry off while its most ambitious leaders sketch out their next self-aggrandizing books and order the help to put four flags behind their podiums rather than the usual one or two. But they worked, and anti-Asian hate crimes rose dramatically as the nation's ever-present collection of hate-focused human failures latched on to xenophobic claims and sought to mete out incoherent vengeance.
By the end of last March, hate crimes against Asian Americans were already soaring. By May, the attacks would include multiple assaults on commuters and the stabbing of a 2-year-old child, all provoked by xenophobic delusions that the virus was being spread by Asian-looking Americans.
Asian Americans are sounding increasingly fed up as they call for more action to curb the violence. Vice brings us that new part of the story as actors Daniel Dae Kim and Daniel Wu pledged a $25,000 reward for information about the Chinatown attack, appearing on MSNBC with civil rights activist Amanda Nguyen to raise awareness about the attacks. "We are not going to be silent anymore," said Nguyen.
We may learn that the Oakland attacks were explicitly motivated by race; certainly, there would have to be something behind a systemic pattern of shoving elderly human beings down with the certain knowledge that they would be more severely injured than more nimble targets. The video does not suggest robbery was the motive, only violence.
But all of these attacks are are taking place in a society in which dehumanization is again becoming rampant—and again is being egged on as political strategy.