The City of Sunnyvale hosted a forum and solidarity event on April 7 to offer support to the Asian American Pacific Islander (AAPI) community. The event was moderated by Deputy City Manager and Diversity and Inclusion liaison Jaqui Guzman and included opening remarks from Sunnyvale Mayor Larry Klein, State Senator Josh Becker and State Assembly Member Marc Berman.
“All of us have an obligation to stand up for the AAPI communities that we represent, who we live alongside,” said Berman. “Right now, our AAPI community is being targeted and we’re not going to stand for this. We’re going to stand up. We’re going to stand beside you. We’ll stand in front of you. We’ll stand with you.”
Attendees of the Zoom event included people from a variety of age groups and ethnicities. They shared their sentiments about the recent attacks on Asian Americans, saying they felt “enraged,” “numb” and “frustrated,” but also “optimistic,” “empowered” and “supported.”
More than three-quarters of the people in attendance said they were very concerned with the recent attacks on Asian Americans and some even said they did not feel safe walking in their Sunnyvale neighborhoods. More than 50-percent said they had witnessed or experienced racial bias in Sunnyvale.
The event included an opening prayer from Pastor Hardy Kim of the Sunnyvale Presbyterian Church and two poems written by local poet and Chinese-American artist Flo Oy Wong. One of Wong’s works, Pools of Red, was written following the shootings at three spas in Atlanta.
“These sisters in my homeland, United States of America, are massacred in open season in which Asians, especially women, elder women are now attacked. I am 83. Asian American woman. Not safe!” said Wong.
During much of the event, a panel of local and community leaders expressed what they had heard in the community and what they’re doing to combat the hate.
“Anti-Asian hate is not anti Asians, it really is hate against everybody because we know that hate isn’t something that’s inherited, it is learned,” said Santa Clara County Supervisor and former Sunnyvale City Councilmember Otto Lee.
Fremont Union High School District Trustee Rosa Kim shared what she has heard from parents both locally and statewide.
“Most of them are very concerned that these hate incidents would cause their children to develop a negative self-image and lose their sense of pride as Asian Americans,” said Kim.
Many of the panelists agreed that the hate expressed against Asian American women is even worse.
“For Asian women, the marginalization and stereotypes that we see in the media put Asian women at a greater risk. Asian women are objectified, they’re seen as sexual creatures, they’re fetishized and viewed as submissive,” said Mimi Nguyen of the Vietnamese American Roundtable. “This has a really chilling effect because it puts Asian women at a much greater risk of being victims of violence based on these stereotypes.”
Santa Clara County District Attorney Jeff Rosen says the county is committed to “vigorously prosecuting” hate crimes. He says, whether you experience a hate crime or a hate incident, do not be afraid to speak up.
“If you don’t know, is this a hate incident or is it a hate crime, call the police. Let the police investigate it. Even if it’s only a hate incident, which is a horrible thing, let’s have a police officer talk to the perpetrator and say, ‘Okay, let me make sure I understand this. You called them what? You said what? Why did you do that?’” said Rosen. “Even if it doesn’t become a prosecution, that interaction between the officer and the perpetrator helps to reinforce what our values are here, which is empathy and inclusion and diversity.”
Rosen says it’s not just the victims that can report hate crimes, witnesses and bystanders can as well.
Many in the AAPI community say whether or not you witness a hate incident firsthand, there’s still something you can do.
“If you’re with your family or if you’re with your office mates and if you hear somebody make a racist comment, we really can’t let that go anymore,” said Richard Konda of the Asian Law Alliance. “These things start with a small thing…it just needs to stop…I think all of us really need to stand up…All of us need to take that responsibility to really speak up, whether it be to your co-workers, your family members, anybody in a social setting.”