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‘I will not be quiet’: Teens speak out about anti-Asian attacks at L.A. event

People attend a rally in downtown Los Angeles, with City Hall in the background
Jan Liu holds an American flag in Grand Park as she participates in a Youth Against Hate rally in downtown Los Angeles on Saturday. The demonstration was prompted by a spate of recent anti-Asian violence and hate crimes across the country.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Jenna Dupuy said she was shocked when it happened, even amid the outpouring of news about such attacks: a man spewing hateful slurs against Asians and assaulting her, fracturing her shoulder and ankle and dealing her a concussion.

Dupuy, who uses both “she” and “they” pronouns, said that before the attack, the man had harassed them for hours with sexual comments about being Asian — and no one had interrupted his threats and abuse until he physically hurt them.

“This happened because I am an Asian woman,” the 18-year-old Puerto Rican and Korean American told a crowd at Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. The attack at a skate park was rooted in “the xenophobia and racism that comes from the decades of ‘yellow peril’ stereotypes but also because of the fetishization” of Asian women.

“But I am an Asian woman, and I will not be quiet, and I will not be submissive, and I will not be subservient,” Dupuy told the cheering crowd, a black boot visible on their right ankle. “And you are going to listen to me.”

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Scores of people turned out Saturday to spread awareness of such attacks, build solidarity among people of color and bring solace and joy to one another. The “Youth Against Hate” event was organized by youth organizations including the ACLU SoCal’s Youth Liberty Squad and 626 Speak Out, as well as the ACLU of Southern California, Make Noise Today and the USC Pacific Asia Museum. Organizers described it as “a youth-led space of solidarity and healing.”

“It pains me to have to open my phone to see another Asian hate crime every single day,” said Hilary Wong, a 17-year-old who spoke at the event. “I worry every day for my family and all my fellow Asians out there.”

Hilary Wong, 17, of Covina, left, and Jenna Dupuy, 18, of Irvine.
Hilary Wong, left, and Jenna Dupuy were among the speakers at a Youth Against Hate rally in downtown Los Angeles.
(Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Hate crimes against Asian Americans had increased as of earlier this year in Los Angeles, according to a recent report by the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino. Its analysis found an 80% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in L.A. during the first three months of 2021 compared with the same period last year.

Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition focused on discrimination and attacks on Asians amid the COVID-19 pandemic, documented more than 3,700 such incidents that were reported to the group in a little less than a year — likely a fraction of the attacks that occurred, it said. Asian Americans recounted being verbally harassed, shunned, spat on and assaulted.

In the Orange County community of Ladera Ranch, one family was harassed for months by teenagers pounding on their door, throwing rocks and shouting abuse until neighbors set up a nightly watch. In the L.A. neighborhood of Eagle Rock, an attacker beat an elderly woman on the bus. She was Latina, but her assailant reportedly used an anti-Chinese slur.

Organizer Millie Liao, 16.
Organizer Millie Liao, 16, of Rosemead, participates in a Youth Against Hate rally for a solidarity Saturday at Grand Park.
(Francine Orr/Los Angeles Times)

“We are standing up for our elders because we don’t want that to happen in the future,” said Millie Liao, 16, a lead organizer for the event in Grand Park. “We have the responsibility to protect the people that have raised us and created a space in America for us.”

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Many attacks that have drawn public attention have targeted Asian American seniors, but children, teens and young adults have also reported being mistreated and assaulted. Experts have linked the growing abuse and discrimination to stigmatizing terms about the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic in China.

Asian Americans “have been dehumanized and scapegoated throughout this entire pandemic,” said Alina Wong, 16, co-founder of 626 Speak Out. Racist abuse is not new to the Asian community, but when “the leader of the nation pointed his finger at us by using verbiage like ‘China virus,’ ‘kung flu’ or ‘Wuhan virus,’ the targets on our backs only grew larger.”

Millie said discrimination “has been here since we’ve been here,” citing historic examples such as the Chinese Exclusion Act, which initially banned Chinese immigration while barring those already here from becoming citizens, and the wartime imprisonment of Japanese Americans.

During Saturday’s event, Asian American teens also shared everyday instances of mistreatment: kids pulling on the corners of their eyes at school. Racist mockery on television and in movies. Being told to go back where they came from.

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Hilary recounted one instance in which she stood up for herself: “This time I said something. I told him I was born here, in San Gabriel, California.” The crowd erupted in cheers. “I belong here! Just like all of you belong here!”

The teens’ passion and energy amazed Zig Jiang, the president of the Chinese American Equalization Assn.

“Kids — 14 and 17? To come here and stand up, to fight against Asian hate?” he told the crowd, calling for a round of applause.

“This is our future,” he said. “Those are our leaders.”


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