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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

About 37% of students at U. of I.’s flagship campus identify as Asian, Chih said. Of those approximately 20,000 students, a little under half are international students from Asian countries, and about 11,000 are Asian American students, mainly from Illinois, Chih said.

Though the Asian American Cultural Center is remote during the pandemic, Chih said many students are reaching out feeling angry, scared and tired.

“I try to validate their feelings of fear and anxiety,” he said. “The act of naming what’s happening to Asian Americans as racist is powerful because race in this country is so often categorized as a Black-white issue.”

For Edgar Yap, a second-year medical student at Loyola, the last few weeks have felt emotionally draining. He’s trying to prepare for a crucial exam in June, but his days are also filled with phone calls to check on his parents and meetings with faculty as part of Loyola’s chapter of the Asian Pacific American Medical Student Association, for which he recently was president.

“Like other minority groups, we are also shouldered with the burden to educate others about our experiences while processing what’s happening and grieving,” said Yap, 26, a Filipino American. “But at the same time, we have to put our heads down and continue with the work that we are supposed to do. It’s a lot.”

Yap’s parents live in California’s San Francisco area, not far from a spate of attacks against elderly Asians.

 

On March 17 — a day after the Atlanta shootings — a 75-year-old Chinese woman was punched in the eye and an 83-year-old Vietnamese man was assaulted, allegedly by the same perpetrator, in downtown San Francisco. And in late January, an 84-year-old Thai man was shoved to the ground while walking around his neighborhood, leading to his death.

Around the same time, a string of random attacks rocked Oakland’s Chinatown neighborhood. A suspect was charged with pushing a 91-year-old Asian man.

Yap, whose 82-year-old father enjoys daily walks through the park, said those incidents caused concern because “you never know what could happen.”

Renewed outrage swept New York City Monday after a 65-year-old Filipino immigrant was attacked by a man who kicked her in the stomach, repeatedly stomped on her head after she fell and yelled, “You don’t belong here,” according to reports. Bystanders watched the attack without intervening.

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