Dear Church Family,
One of the most wonderful gifts of my life is that I get to have my mother live about a ten-minute drive from our house. Living so nearby in Los Altos enables her to swing by with Korean food or boxes of fruit that she bought at her Korean church's fundraisers for North Korea, which they are constantly having. She helps to take care of our son who has special needs. At 80 years old, she still walks an hour every day, writes letters to Korean cancer patients all over the Bay area, and is an integral part of her church's very active senior community. If I ask her to pray for you, you better watch out, because the Holy Spirit tends to go where she asks Him to go.
It is with tremendous shock and heartache that I have been reading about recent incidents caught on video of elderly Asian Americans, just like my mom, being attacked and even killed around the country but especially in the Bay area. In January, Vicha Ratanapakdee, an 84-year-old man from Thailand, was walking in the Anza Vista neighborhood of San Francisco. Suddenly, for no apparent reason, the police say, a 19-year-old man slammed into Mr. Ratanapakdee, knocking him down. He died two days later in the hospital. In late January, a 91-year-old man was shoved from behind by a stranger while he was walking down a street in Oakland’s Chinatown. A 75-year-old Asian man who was left brain dead from an Oakland assault and robbery earlier last week passed away on Thursday. These people are someone's parents and grandparents!
Of course, it's not just the elderly who have been attacked. Xenophobic online threats aimed at Asian Americans in general (especially fueled by racist language about the "China virus" or "Kung Flu") have increased significantly in the past year. Last week, a 26-year-old Asian American woman in San Jose was physically and sexually assaulted and called ethnic slurs while waiting at Diridon Station for a morning commuter train to her job in Palo Alto. In mid-February, a woman arrested on Castro street in Mountain View was charged with a hate crime for spitting on an Asian man and yelling racist statements.
Several Asian American members of our congregation have also been victims of hate incidents this year, ranging from being yelled at for "being responsible for COVID" to having things thrown at them. I have had many firsthand experiences of this as well. I remember that soon after we moved to the Bay area about 20 years ago, I remember walking in the parking lot of a 24 Hour Fitness in Mountain View when a man in a truck drove by and threw a full soda can at me yelling, "Go back home, chink!" After the soda can exploded just a few feet from me, I remember thinking, "Did this just happen to me in Mountain View? I mean, if you hate Asian people, how do you live here?"
This pattern of events is another blindingly clear reminder that sin and evil are rampant in this horrifically fallen world, even if you live in a multicultural environment. It's also a reminder that we have work to do, church. We need to wipe our brows and roll up our sleeves and get busy diminishing hate, calling out indifference and building bridges of love. For the sake of all of us, we need to be even more committed to following Jesus in His journey of love, forgiveness, and the pursuit of justice.
I'd also like to share some very specific ways that we can seek to be a part of the solution in this moment:
1. Consider attending a training on bystander intervention.
Get prepared to know how to act in service of others in a crisis moment. These (secular but highly recommended) trainings are geared toward the current moment of Asian American harrassment but can be applied to xenophobia, sexual harassment, homophobia or any other hate-based crimes:
2. Learn more about what some Asians or Asian Americans are experiencing.
Here are a few resources which could help:
3. Come to our post-church conversation about the recent attacks about Asian Americans after church on 3/21.
We won't have time to address the whole gamut of things that need to be talked about, but let's at least begin a conversation–together.
Under His Mercy,