PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Jenny Kim has lived in Portland since 1968, she said she has always felt safe in the community. But recently, she said she’s felt uneasy as an Asian American woman.
“Right now when I go out I make sure I don’t carry a purse and I make sure that I can defend myself,” Kim said. “Don’t cause trouble … And just be real nice and say hello.”
Kim isn’t alone in this sentiment, as hate crimes against Asian Americans have jumped since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The tension has been simmering since former President Donald Trump helped fuel the hatred on Twitter when he referred to COVID-19 as “the Chinese virus.”
“Not enough people want to raise their hand to help because a lot of people are scared,” Kim said.
Kim along with dozens of others from the Asian American community and the Oregon Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association gathered in downtown Portland’s Old Town Chinatown on Saturday. They condemned the recent violence against Asian Americans, including a rampage by one man last week in Atlanta that killed eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent.
It’s not just Oregonians of Asian descent calling for an end to the violence, the local league of the United Latin American Citizens Council joined in saying that the justice system is rife with “hate and bias.”
“Until these illnesses are addressed nationally, we remain committed to raising our collective voices in opposition to the threat of the rise of these white nationalist-extremist terrorists,” the league said in a group statement.
In Oregon, the Department of Justice received 22 reports of anti-Asian bias crimes in February, up from 10 in January.
In Portland, one man is accused of punching an Asian American on December 15, 2020. Daniel Hutchens is accused of punching the victim for being Asian. Hutchens, 38, faces 2 counts of 2nd-degree bias crime and one count of harassment.
Earlier this month, an Asian American Willamette University student was attacked while walking to Safeway in downtown Salem. She was at the corner of Capitol Street and Chemeketa Street when two men allegedly pushed her down and kicked her while making disparaging, racist comments.
The Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office said there are two active bias crime cases involving Asian victims since late last year.
Crushing damaging stereotypes
Many feel that stereotypes have played a damaging role in encouraging anti-Asian violence and hate.
The so-called “model minority” myth is one that plagues many Asian Americans, as they are seen as high-achieving and assimilated into American society, absolving white systems in taking any real accountability toward inequalities they may have created, according to the American Psychological Association
Asian American women are also seen as more submissive or sexually exotic, according to APA.
The Disorient Asian American Film Festival of Oregon kicked off this weekend and is designed to crush some of those stereotypes.
“Learning about Asian Americans through a film festival or classes can help people understand that these stereotypes are not accurate and Asian Americans are very diverse and not interchangeable and have a wide range of experiences,” said Gordon Nagayama Hall, one of the film festival’s board members.
The festival highlights the Asian American experience in new ways, Nagayama Hall said. It features some Oregon filmmakers as well.
Nagayama Hall said the festvial not only is a way to support Asian American fillmmakers and actors, but provides fresh perspectives, showing that individuals are unique in thier experience and that the Asian American community does not exist in a monolith.
“There’s some LGBTQ Films,” he said. There’s a fascinating film about a transgender woman that was in a relationship with an Asian American woman and a very riveting story. So, just many longer films, shorter films, – romances, comedy films even sort of a gangster type film to illistrute the diversity of the Asian American experience.”