Congressional leaders say hate crimes against Asians are up, local woman says speak up

Cheryl Lee has lived in Shoreline almost all of her life.

"It’s a beautiful, beautiful community," Lee said.

 She loves to look out at the water when she takes her daily walk with her 80 year-old mom.

 Unfortunately, one of those walks she will never forget.

"I was walking this road and there is a white car," Lee said.

Lee says the car was going in the opposite direction of them as they were walking along the 17,000  block of 14th Ave NW.  

 "He was driving the other direction and was giving me the middle finger and that look," Lee said.

Lee says they were never in the way of the car and the man was a stranger.

 "The only thing I was doing, my mom and I were walking on this side, many feet away from the street," Lee said.

Lee who is a local attorney and prominent in the Korean American community says she had never experienced something like that. She believes it was unprovoked hate and racially motivated.

 "He wanted me to see, he made sure he made eye contact, yes, I wasn’t shoved or beaten but emotionally I think it’s been incredibly impactful," Lee said.

Lee says she went from shock at that time to now anger. Representative Marilyn Strickland called incidents like that psychological violence during a meeting on Friday held by the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus. 

 "There is a psychological violence of the bigotry, it’s a friend of mine who works in a nursing home who was told by a patient he doesn’t want her touch him, it is someone standing in the line in the grocery store has people step away from them, called names, people being told to go back to where they came from," Strickland said.

 Since the pandemic, CAPAC says there have been more than 3000 reports showing anti-Asian discrimination or a hate crime.

Sometimes the gestures or verbal attacks turn physical.

Recent cases include the murder of an 84 year-old Thai man in San Francisco and a 61 year-old Filipino man who was attacked in New York city. The Filipino man had his face slashed with a knife. 

Strickland says the cases are continuing across the country and the problem needs to be spotlighted.

"I think it’s underreported," Lee said.

Lee says some of that could be attributed to the culture among many Asians.

"To confront it, it just becomes messy and so people just want to let it pass and keep it quiet," Lee said.

Asian-American lawmakers are now asking for DOJ grants so that local and state agencies are better equipped to receive reports and investigate them.

 "More and more people need to speak up and also make people more comfortable to speak up," Lee said.

Ever since the incident, Lee worries about her mom.

"Every time my mother goes out for a walk, I’m worried something might happen," Lee said.

She’s sad she feels this way, showing that an act doesn’t have to be physical to have consequences.

"The memory is still vivid," Lee said.

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