On Wednesday, a man violently shoved a 52-year-old Chinese woman on a sidewalk in Flushing, Queens. The victim required at least five stitches after knocking her head on the concrete floor.
A video of the incident, which took place in daylight outside a bakery and showed the attacker throwing an object at the woman before pushing her, was shared online and quickly went viral, the latest in a string of violent incidents that have troubled Asian American communities and prominent public officials.
What made the Flushing attack especially alarming to some Asian Americans is that it took place in a neighborhood that is overwhelmingly Asian.
“I think Asians are easy targets,” said Chris Kwok, a board member of the Asian American Federation, an advocacy group for Asian communities. “I think people feel like they won’t fight back. People feel ‘Oh, the police won’t report. And maybe Asians won’t report.’”
Kwok co-authored a report for the Asian American Bar Association of New York, "A Rising Tide of Hate and Violence Against Asian Americans in New York During COVID-19: Impact, Causes, Solutions, finding 2,500 Asians to be the target of a hate attack related to COVID-19 between March and September 2020 nationwide.
“And this number understates the actual number of anti-Asian hate incidents because most incidents are not reported,” the report reads.
Deputy Inspector Stewart Loo, who heads the NYPD’s Asian Hate Crime Task Force, which formed last August after a spike in hate crimes against Asians, corroborated Kwok’s “soft target” theory.
“One hundred percent that is part of the problem,” said Loo in an interview with Gothamist/WNYC on Friday. “I spoke to people who rob Asian Americans and they'll tell you why they target Asian Americans. It's not because they're Asian. They perceive them to be soft targets. They carry cash. They won't report it. It's less likely that they'll identify them, and they put up the least amount of resistance.”
The NYPD arrested Patrick Mateo, 47, for the Flushing attack, and he was charged with assault and harassment. The incident took place a day after two other Asian American women were attacked in separate subway encounters. Earlier this month, a 61-year-old Filipino man was slashed across the face while riding the L train.
Across the country, Asian American organizations have documented thousands of bias incidents since the beginning of the pandemic last year and are urging law enforcement agencies and government officials to take the problem seriously. In San Francisco, an 84-year-old Thai man died after being knocked to the ground; a 91-year-old Asian American was pushed to the ground in Oakland’s Chinatown, and a Vietnamese grandmother was robbed in San Jose ahead of the Lunar New Year
The NYPD has not yet established a racial motive for the Flushing attack but in a Facebook post the victim’s daughter categorized it as a hate crime.
"This douchebag was yelling out racial slurs, walks into my mom and shoved my mother on Main street and Roosevelt Avenue in Flushing, Queens today,” wrote Maggie Kayla Cheng on Wednesday. “He shoved her with such force that she hit her head on the concrete and passed out on the floor. She received 5-10 stitches on her forehead, spending 4-5 hours in the hospital. Hate crime has no place in our community. How you go up against a 5'3”, 110-115lbs lady?"
This psycho xenophobe probably would have got away with it if his victim's daughter wasn't a friend of a stunning actress who's also a CEO of a dog walking app
My friend’s mom is a 5’3” 50+ Chinese woman and she was attacked by this guy in Flushing, NY yesterday on Main St and Roosevelt between 2-4pm. She left the hospital with 10 stitches in her head.— O M (@oliviamunn) February 17, 2021
We’re gonna find this guy. Queens, Internet, please... do your shit. 🙏🏼@NYPD109Pct pic.twitter.com/hrB3kchxGH