NAACP Hopes to Diffuse Tension Between Asians and Blacks in San Francisco

April 27, 2010

To continue the dialogue that kicked off with Harry's post on possible racial undercurrents in attacks on Bay Area Asian Americans, Hyphen is cross-posting an article by Odette Keeley at New American Media that discusses how Rev. Amos Brown of the San Francisco chapter of NAACP gathered Asian and African American community members to set a course of action to end violence. 

SAN FRANCISCO -- Rev. Amos Brown and leaders of the San Francisco chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) convened a group of community, church and civil rights leaders from San Francisco’s Asian Pacific Islander and African-American communities to discuss and create a response to the recent string of violent incidents in the Bay Area involving members of the two communities.


Among those who attended the April 23 meeting at the 3rd Baptist Church were members of the city’s Human Rights Commission, leaders from Chinese for Affirmative Action, African-American Chamber of Commerce, and National Federation of Filipino-American Associations. New America Media interviewed the participants for a few minutes, before they went behind closed doors to speak away from the media.

Rev. Amos Brown told the group that the NAACP denounces these violent acts, saying “when young African Americans prey on vulnerable Asians, that’s a no – no”. He stressed the historic advocacy role of the NAACP in the outrage over these incidents saying, “when marginalized people like blacks, gays or Asians are wronged, somebody has to speak up on their behalf.” Brown says he called for this “no-nonsense, non-political meeting so that we can deal with the crisis to make sure it’s not just an issue of transition in our city, which means people move in and out, but instead it becomes an opportunity for transformation for all our peoples.”

In January, 83-year old Huan Chen was kicked and beaten as he left the Muni stop at Third and Oakdale in Bayview-Hunters Point in San Francisco. He died about three months later.

Then in March, five teenagers surrounded a 57-year old woman at the same Muni stop. Surveillance camera video from the second incident shows one of her assailants grabbing the victim by the neck and throwing her from the platform. A few days later, a group of teenagers assaulted a Muni rider on Third and Williams streets.

Police say the alleged assailants in these cases in Bayview-Hunters Point were all African Americans while their victims were all Asians. But they also told news reporters that they don’t believe these attacks were racially motivated.

In Oakland, two 18-year-old African-American men were charged with murder last Thursday in the fatal beating of a 59-year-old Chinese-American who had come to the aid of his son. After the attack on April 16, both father and son were hospitalized and the father died on April 20.

Human Rights Commissioner Linda Richardson told New America Media that the commission held a hearing Thursday in Chinatown and that their executive director also had private meetings with Asian-American leaders with regard to the recent violent acts.

“The commission will concentrate on education about this issue, and in bringing the Asian and African-American communities together to begin a healing process,” Robinson said.

African-American leaders are already working on “our own [black-on-black] violence, but they also don’t want these recent incidents to lead to a general castigation of the entire African-American community as perpetrators of these racial crimes,” she said. “It is only a minority of the population responsible for these acts, and that is unacceptable.”

Jose Pecho, regional chair of the National Federation of Filipino-American Associations (NaFFAA) is one of those Asian community leaders who want to work with the Human Rights Commission and the NAACP to make a plan of action to end the violence. He also said he wants his fellow Filipinos to be more vigilant about their environment and take extra steps to protect themselves and their family members against any potential trouble. Pecho’s family had lived in Bayview-Hunters Point in the 1960’s, and he said growing up, “racism was prevalent even then.”

Now, Pecho said, what’s important is, “we are more aware of our surroundings and trust our gut feeling to get ourselves out of dangerous places.”

Out in the streets of Bayview-Hunters Point, near the Muni stop where Huan Chen was attacked, long-time resident Bernard Robinson says the community “needs jobs for young students...That’s why there’s so much violence and robbery here because they have nothing to do. Parents also don’t look out enough for their kids and guide them.”

Robinson, 62, said he’s witnessed violent acts by African-American men on Asians, and he’s also seen black-on-black violence in his neighborhood. Robinson appealed to his neighbors to “live and work together to end the violence.”

The NAACP is expected to hold a press conference on Monday to release an official press statement condemning these violent acts, with support from the various groups present at Friday's meeting.

Rudy Asercion, executive director of Westbay Pilipino Multi-Service Center, said the NAACP is primarily concerned with diffusing the tension between Asians and African Americans in the city so that there would not be any retaliation from Asian Americans and further violence from either group. Asercion supports the NAACP’s move and the belief of the convening group “that it will take a sustained and cooperative effort among all communities to stop the violence.”

Odette Keeley is host and executive producer of "New America Now, NAM's TV program airing on COMCAST HOMETOWN NETWORK - CHN 104 & COMCAST ON DEMAND. She also hosts "Headlines from New America Media" on "New America Now", NAM's radio show airing on 91.7 FM KALW. Min Lee is a content producer for YO! Youth Outlook.




What I find disturbing is tendency for people to downplay the racism involved, despite the pattern that is emerging: the Muni attacks, the Oakland death, the South Philly High incident and countless others that are not even report on the news. I could not find ANY coverage of the rally at SF's City Hall by the Chinese American community protesting the violence.  500+ people showed up, mostly older Asian Americans, who came out in the rain to meet with the Mayor. No coverage at all by the news channels or AA blogs, including mine because I found out last night. People downplay the anti-Asian sentiment and instead rationalize the violence as crimes of poverty.  Plenty of poor people do not commit crimes and are law abiding citizens.