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Asian American university students fear for elders after spate of racist attacks, urge others to speak out: 'It's up to us as a community'

Elyssa Cherney, Chicago Tribune on

Published in Parenting News

CHICAGO – Angelle Cortes, a Filipino American college student living away from home, monitors the Ring video doorbell at her parents’ house in Bridgeview to make sure they’re safe.

“I just still have that fear in the back of my head that someone at the grocery store is going to be super racist to them, or just randomly that my dad’s outside in the yard and will get punched in the face for no reason,” said Cortes, 21.

YooJin Son, 23, would rather run household errands than let her mother go out during the wave of anti-Asian attacks. Son, who was born in South Korea, worries her mom might “turn the other cheek, stay silent and not report” a hate crime if it happened.

And Vivian La, 19, frets about her grandparents, who reside near Chicago’s Chinatown neighborhood.

“You see videos like every day on social media about elders getting harassed in the streets or physically assaulted, and it’s heartbreaking,” La said.

Young Asian Americans across Illinois are consumed by concerns for their older, more vulnerable relatives. They say they’ve lived with this anxiety for years, but anti-Asian violence is only now gaining mainstream attention.

 

The recent shootings that killed eight people, including six women of Asian descent, at Atlanta spas, and a rash of attacks against elderly Asians in cities such as New York and San Francisco, have catapulted the issue to national consciousness. And new data shows that hate crimes targeting Asians surged by 145% in the country’s largest cities between 2019 and 2020.

Asian American college and graduate students interviewed by the Tribune also described generational differences that shield the larger problem: Their parents or grandparents are less likely to report racial discrimination.

The older generations, many of whom are immigrants, might not alert police about hate crimes due to language barriers, internalized shame or pressure to be perceived as successful, a concept known as the “model minority myth,” the students said.

Jessie Chen, a first-year medical student at Loyola University Chicago, said this culture of silence masks the severity of anti-Asian prejudice.

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