Asian Women Stand Together to Speak Out Against Violence

Earlier this year when Ji-Won Park was attacked beaten and strangled, (May 27, 2002) women from my organization, Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter hit the streets to leaflet and talk to women in Stanley Park. Many members of the media asked me if the attack was racist. I didn’t think the attack on Ji-Won was racist at the time, I only knew that it was sexist and that women regardless of race could identify with Ji-Won, a woman who was adventurous, athletic and independent. A woman who was living out her life to the fullest. 

I was reluctant to call the attack on her racist, but it became clearer that there was a racist effect on Asian women and over the last 6 months I have changed my mind. There have been at least four more violent attacks on Asian women in public places, and it was revealed that men target Asian women, ESL students for harassment in libraries, coffee shops and student hangouts. Most recently an Asian woman driver was beaten by 4 men who tried to stuff her in a car trunk and now we have the kidnaping and murder of Amanda Wei Zhao, another young, independent and brave Asian woman. 

Regardless of race all women can relate to these attacks, we all live with the fear or threat of rape. These series of attacks force Asian women to feel the threat even more keenly. There is a common thread in all of these attacks. They are all Asian women. This is not random. Asian women are being targeted. This is further confirmed when Sandeep Sangha’s sister worries in public that someone might mistake her missing sister for Asian. We know her terrible worry for her sister is that she might be a victim of racist sexual violence. 

The police deny that there is a racist component to these sexist attacks. We women know differently. We are alert to the potential whitewash that the Burnaby RCMP will be doing of their very poor response to Amanda’s disappearance. We say to the Burnaby RCMP, now is not the time to deny wrong-doing or mistakes made in policing. Now is the time to admit to the errors and look for ways to correct. This correction must address the cavalier dismissal of the first report of Amanda’s disappearance. 

Asian women are a strong and growing force. Asian women are increasingly prominent and we will continue to take a place in public and in private life. We will jog in our parks, we will walk in the evening, we will study in our libraries and go to school, we will drink coffee in restaurants, we will drive our cars by ourselves, we will take public positions of power and responsibility and we will organize to fight back when we are under attack. 

Let this serve as a warning to men who are thinking of harassing, groping, threatening or hitting an Asian woman and let this serve as an invitation and encouragement to Asian women that we are rightfully taking our place and that we will continue to demand the respect, opportunities and safety that all women are entitled to have.