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Recent African Americans attacks on Asian Americans, what are your thoughts?

In the last few months, there were a number of brutal attacks on Asian Americans by African Americans.  64-year-old Rongshi Chen, while on his way to a convenient store in San Francisco, was kicked by a group of young African Americans and had his collarbone broken. San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer, Nanette Asimov, went on to report:

He’s not alone. At least four high-profile attacks involving blacks and Asians have occurred since January in San Francisco and Oakland, including the beating death of Tian Sheng Yu, 59, last month. Two 18-year-old men have been charged with murder.

Asimov’s article, “Black attacks on Asians: racism or opportunity?” is informative of this general situation in the San Francisco Bay Area, and I recommend a read.

New American Media has a fascinating article from a young Black men convicted of robbing a Chinese American student at Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood in the San Francisco Bay Area. He argues why he was not motivated by race, “Inside Black-Asian Violence — It’s Not About Race.” Its a short read, and I have quoted the entire article here. I think it is worthwhile noting why he specifically went after Chinese and Mexicans.

Inside Black-Asian Violence — It’s Not About Race
YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia , Commentary, Amanze Emenike , Posted: Apr 21, 2010

Editor’s Note: Recent attacks on Asian Americans by Black teenagers in San Francisco have led some to speculate that ethnic tensions in the city are on the rise. But one young black man who was taught by his peers to rob Asians and Latinos in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood says it’s not really about race. Amanze Emenike, 22, is a content producer for YO! Youth Outlook Multimedia.

It’s gotten crazy in Hunters Point once again. A 57-year-old woman was attacked last month on a Muni T-line platform by a group of boys between the ages of 14 and 16. In January, an 83-year-old Chinese man was attacked on the same Third Street corridor. He died two months later in what is being investigated as a homicide.

In certain hoods, crime is almost a routine part of life. Crime is like death; it’s inevitable.

When I was introduced to the crime scene, I was put on to rob Asians and Latinos on Third Street. We specifically preyed on Asians and Mexicans, and wouldn’t do anything to African Americans.

If young people try to rob an old black person in Hunters Point, they usually don’t know who they are messing with and they can fall into beef with the victim’s family or community. Robbing African Americans, it’s more likely that the family will come back and harm the robber. So young people go after Chinese and Mexicans.

This stems from us being too comfortable in our neighborhood and thinking that because we are at home, we can’t get caught. It also has something to do with not having what others have and holding some type of deep grudge against them for it. Different people get involved in crime for different reasons. A young boy may have an alright life where he needs for nothing but still just wants to do it because he wants more stuff, or just thinks it’s cool. This is the reason I did what I did.

Others just don’t have it and never did, from nice clothes to electronics and just an alright life. The ones who are from the broken homes where they had no chance from the womb are the ones who do it for everyday necessities. Like money to survive and all.

Five years ago, I was convicted of robbing a Chinese student in Hunters Point. I was charged with a hate crime. I was a little embarrassed because I had Chinese friends I was locked up with and they made it look like I was after Chinese people. I was glad when the charge was dropped because a hate crime shines a whole different light on you.

The reason Asian kids are getting robbed is because there is an assumption that young Chinese kids on Third Street are filthy rich and have an i-Pod or laptop on them. To a young, broke black male, the appeal of nabbing a few hundred dollars from some Asian kid’s pocket is even greater during this recession. The young homies in Hunters Point need money for shoes and clothes.

There are a lot of Chinese neighbors who are a big part of the community in Hunters Point. They are accepted as Hunters Point residents and treated just fine. A couple of the Chinese food restaurants are just as black as us. Not all Chinese people are targeted, and not all Latinos are targeted.

He is essentially saying singling out Chinese and Mexican victims likely results in no consequences, whereas “robbing African Americans, it’s more likely that the family will come back and harm the robber.”

One of the readers of that article went on to comment:

Les Tso on May 03, 2010 at 08:45:04 said:
It may not be a hate crime, but it is DEFINITELY about race. When you single out a certain ethnicity or certain racial group as your victims, that IS about race. For many years in the East Bay, we’ve had elderly muggings and beatings in Chinatown and near Lake Merritt BART, Asian homeowners have been targeted in China Hill by the lake, and Asian students robbed at UC Berkeley, all primarily by young Black thugs. None of those equate to Hunters Point, Bayview, or areas where “infringement” took place, so no excuses about resentment please. Just a matter of preying on a particular group, a particular racial group.

Asimov posed this question in the title of her Chronicle article: “Black attacks on Asians: racism or opportunity?” Intellectually, I can accept this argument that the robbers go after victims which yields the least consequences. In that sense, it is not about race and it is about opportunity. I can further imagine, if we replace the Chinese and Mexican victims with some certain other races in the same situation, I’d believe those robbers would rob them just the same.

BUT, as reader “Les Tso” at said, the young Black male “singled out certain ethnicity or certain racial group as his victims, that IS about race.”

I can then imagine if the victims were instead European Americans, the attacks will probably not have occurred.  Also, think back a few hundred years ago, would European Americans succeed in slaving other European Americans as they did against African Americans?  Probably not.

So, these events are actually motivated by both racism and opportunism.  They really go hand in hand.

In a response to brutal attacks at a school in Philadelphia of Asian students by mostly African American students, New York University history professor, Jonathan Zimmerman was appalled by the lack of concern from American society as a whole. He recently wrote an Op-Ed in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, “Our double standard on race: African-Americans attack Asians and the nation yawns,” he writes:

If you live in or near Philadelphia, you know about the brutal December attacks on Asian students at a local high school. Seven kids were hospitalized with injuries sustained mostly at the hands of African-American students, who beat Asians in classrooms, hallways, the cafeteria and the streets outside the school.

But the incident has barely registered outside of southeastern Pennsylvania, generating a few wire stories and little else. To understand why, try a thought experiment: Imagine the victims were black and the attackers white, or the other way around.

The whole nation — indeed, the whole world — would know about it. The president would go on TV to denounce the episode and demand a speedy remedy. Members of Congress would eagerly join in, competing with each other to condemn the racism in our midst. And hordes of reporters would descend on the school to seek the inside scoop.

But hey, it was Asian kids getting beaten. And the attackers were black, remember, and we don’t expect a lot from them.

There’s plenty of racism to go around here, and not just at the school where the melee took place. It’s all around us, and in the double standard that we use to judge events like this one.

(Excellent article and I recommend a complete read.)

Not just the media – if the perpetrators believe that law enforcement would hunt them down vigorously, would they have committed the crimes in the first place?  Does that also say law enforcement in American society is racist because the robbers sense a difference in reprisal based on race?

Where do we go from here?

For one, I agree with Zimmerman – American society still has a long ways to go in addressing the general race problem – despite all the progress that has made in recent past. Indeed, there’s plenty of racism to go around in the U.S. as demonstrated by the double standard used to judge these type of events.

American society must demand more law enforcement in troubled areas.

It is rather sad and unfortunate these African Americans do not seem to have learned the difficult past that is part of their heritage in America. Their crimes against society are certainly furthering prejudice against African Americans which their prior generations have fought so hard against.

African American and Asian American community leaders must come together to find solutions.  One of the key struggles for African Americans in the U.S. is still de facto segregation today.  Some poor Asian Americans and Mexicans are only the few of the racial groups living with the impoverished Blacks in inner city neighborhoods.  If these events continue to occur, the victims will move away, resulting in further segregation.

  1. George Monser
    May 17th, 2010 at 17:56 | #1


    I can personally add that white people also feel threatened in places that have a lot of poor young males. And I have read that in some blighted areas, blacks are also victims, simply because there are many of them available to beat up and rob. So everyone has reason to fear. The only solution I can think of is the recent Zero Tolerance campaign by New York City’s police. They busted people for even trivial violations like jaywalking, without regard to race or ethnicity, to create respect for (or fear of) the law in areas where crime had become the norm.

    An effective Zero Tolerance policy requires dedicated public officials, and extra money to put more cops on foot, bicycle and horseback, where everyone can see them. So, I think that the people of all races who fear crime must unite and work at the local level to change their city…especially now that the recession has pinched almost all public budgets, including the money for crime protection. When there is less money, you have to fight extra hard for it.

  2. George Monser
    May 17th, 2010 at 18:04 | #2

    @YinYang, @Allen

    My apologies yinyang – I had just read a different article by Allen, and I mistook the authorship of this one. Best regards, George

  3. May 17th, 2010 at 18:10 | #3


    Thx for your comments. I agree, “without regard to race or ethnicity, to create respect for (or fear of) the law in areas where crime had become the norm” is a good prescription as a top down approach.

    I was thinking about your last comment:
    “When there is less money, you have to fight extra hard for it.”

    But, my point in the article is, if a suburb where residents are White, these string of crimes would not be tolerated. It should not be a matter of “priority.” If these Oakland or other poor neighborhoods where the crimes are committed against Whites, I also think there’d be a national uproar.

    Perhaps you are saying, in a Democracy, minorities partly are left to fend for themselves, especially when times are tough?

  4. George Monser
    May 17th, 2010 at 19:50 | #4


    Regarding your point, I think in our particular democracy, the groups with the most votes (and the most money for campaign contributions) have the most influence on public officials. Thus, the officials tend to pay less attention to complaints by minority residents – and that is morally and legally wrong. I don’t disagree with your point. I am just speculating on what we need to do to change things for the better.

    Too often our public officials need to have a fire lit under them to make them really change the way law is enforced, since that would cost them a lot of effort and money. Only a united effort by a city’s people can light the fire. So, I think that concerned Chinese-Americans should seek out and engage people of all races in their city who are fed up with being afraid to walk their streets. If they act together, they can use the good side of our Democracy to make their officials really DO something about it. And there is an old saying that the squeaky wheel gets the grease – so if the concerned citizens are loud and politically active, they can accomplish a lot, even if their numbers are not great. I think this would apply even to a hypothetical city whose residents and officials were all of the same race – we have to fight for change.

  5. May 18th, 2010 at 00:23 | #5


    I understand. Well said.

  6. George Monser
    May 18th, 2010 at 03:49 | #6

    yinyang, I just read an article that you might like to read. It’s a short one, called “Children of the 70’s”, by David Brooks of the New York Times. It describes the evolution of a former crime hot spot in New York. It gives me hope for the people in places like San Francisco.

    The article is at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/05/18/opinion/18brooks.html?hp .


  7. Mass Intelligence
    June 15th, 2011 at 21:43 | #7

    The Real Problem is That Whites Have Used Asian’s In Corporate America & Universities, To Replace African American’s Position In The Pyramid Scheme. we went from White, Black, Hispanic. Native American– To White, Asian, Black, Hispanic, These Angry Youth See Their Parents Being Displaced by People who Don’t speak Fluent English, and have just recently started paying taxes after They Replace These kids Parent’s. They Are angry becuase Asian Don’t Support, or Frequent African American Businesses. They only line up For Government Loans & Freebies, Smile In Mighty Whity’s face and demean Blacks Intelligent’s, Honor, Integrity & Trustworthyness, Asian Take from America Her every resource.. and Mock Blacks behind Our Backs That’s why they are beaten & Robbed not becuase they are easy prey They are deserving more Than Not, They have the race Problem, how many Black Friends do they have in their I phones ?? They call it sticking to your Own.

  8. raventhorn2000
    June 16th, 2011 at 05:54 | #8

    @Mass Intelligence

    I find your characterization of Asians highly stereotypical and offensive.

    I grew up in Florida when I first immigrated to US, and I went to a middle school and a high school in a predominantly poor black neighborhood. I had lots of black friends.

    Even though I left Florida after University, my friends from Florida are on my facebook. (I don’t have an Iphone).

    As a proponent of Diversity in the Workplace when I was a corporate manager, I can tell you I personally spent a great deal of time to recruit and promote Black and Hispanic college graduates, knowing that they tend to be underrepresented in many US corporations.

    “They only line up For Government Loans & Freebies”???!!! “Asian Take from America Her every resource”???!!

    I am offended and mystified, since Asians don’t even get much affirmative actions in US, (Asians are not “underrepresented minorities” in US). So I don’t know what “freebies” you are talking about. I got no preferential treatment for any loans or college entrance or job placement.

    What “every resource” are Asians taking from America??!

    I PAY for my groceries just like everyone else.

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