by Tom Nguyen
Following the election of Donald Trump, it didn’t take long for reports of blatant racism and hate crimes to start coming in from around the country. These incidents immediately took me back to my youth, as a Vietnamese refugee growing up in Orange County, historically the most conservative county in a blue state. Racism and prejudice were common and often blatant but becoming less of a worry as I entered college.
Then in 1996, my high school sweetheart’s cousin was viciously murdered by a white supremacist, a hate crime that drew widespread coverage and outrage. Looking back, the murder was an aberration at a time when white skinhead gangs once prevalent in OC were losing their foothold and hate crimes in OC by 2000 would drop to a 10 year low. Racism became less of a concern for me as white flight from many OC cities and growing Latino and Asian populations were changing OC into a more diverse place.
After moving to Long Beach, then Boyle Heights, I never looked back. Until this week. The last almost 10 years of covering LA’s diverse communities and cultural arts scene gave me hope and optimism that we had moved forward, past an era where I or anyone of a minority group would have to worry about violent extremists and hateful bigots.
The election of Donald Trump has quickly shattered that sense of progress, normalcy and security. His xenophobic, racist, homophobic, misogynist rhetoric has opened the floodgates on unabashed targeting of anyone he and his supporters deem foreign, or an outsider, or a perceived threat to the preeminence of straight white males. This is what Muslim communities have been contending with in a post-9/11 nation, with an increase in hate crimes specifically against Muslims or anyone mistaken as Muslim in just these recent years.
Living in a globally diverse Southern California region doesn’t make us any less immune to this type of deplorable and frightening behavior. Here are incidents I’ve gathered this week, mostly on social media. Most heartbreaking to me are young children being targeted by their fellow classmates and in one case, even a teacher. It is triggering to me on so many levels, back to memories of arriving in this country in the 70s as a 5-year-old child. Like any child, I had no concept of race and why certain kids taunted and bullied me and just remembering the innocence lost because of acts like these…it’s utterly heartbreaking and unacceptable!
I think it’s crucially important that we raise awareness whenever these are reported as a reminder for us be vigilant and watch out for one another. If you have heard of other incidents, please let us know. If you have been victimized, please report it to your local law enforcement as well as to the Southern Poverty Law Center which monitors hate crimes and hate groups. And lastly, if you witness acts of hate, please don’t be a bystander and intervene if it is safe to do so. Watch this video in response to a similar increase in hate crimes following Brexit in UK:
South Los Angeles:
Some comments to the post say this was a resident drying a blanket, who didn’t know the significance of the flag, however seeing Confederate flags proudly displayed in SoCal is not unprecedented. I got a report of a Confederate flag flying in front of a Pasadena residence right after the election and I saw one myself proudly flying in Thousand Oaks last summer. While you have the right to fly any flag, heck even a Nazi flag, no matter what your intention or argument, these flags are symbols of racism and white supremacy and to me and lots of folks, flying them is a form of intimidation.
Ada Gonzalez graciously spoke to me about what happened:
Tom: How are you and Jude feeling and have you contacted the school about what happened?
Ada: Right now we are okay. I am overwhelmed by the response of my post! I wasn’t expecting it to reach such a huge audience. The past few days I, like many people have felt a lot of worry and anxiety, but Jude luckily is still very innocent and doesn’t fully understand whats going on or why the “build a wall” chant was such a big deal to us. Initially, I didn’t know if this was worthy of contacting the school for. I am a very shy person who likes to avoid confrontation, but the more I thought about it, I knew it was my duty to speak up. So I did contact the school and they seemed sympathetic, but Im not sure if any thing was done about the situation on their end, and plan to follow up next week.
Tom: If you could say something to the parents of these children, what would you tell them?
Ada: Thank you good question. I think first, I would ask if they were even aware of what their children did at school. Did they know how this election and things they might of said at home made an imprint on the ones we underestimate, our children. I would would probably say that regardless of what their views on to please teach your children about tolerance, acceptance, love.
Tom: Thank you! Yes that’s so important! When I read what happened to your son, it took me back to when I arrived in this country at age 5…as a child, we don’t know what race is and we just parrot what we hear and see…it’s heartbreaking to me when innocence is lost because of incidents like this.
Ada: Yes, I totally agree. Its very sad to see children involved in all of this, but i am so happy and touched to see so much support and solidarity. On a positive note my son received a letter from a classmate on Thursday, it was a hand made card with the words, “I love you” written inside.
I spoke to Flavia, a personal friend, about what happened and she says, “My mind can’t wrap itself around all this hatred. It is just insane. I don’t think America can heal from this wound. A whole group of people just appeared as they are behind closed doors and revealed themselves. What a time we live in.”
Unknown SoCal location:
*This was posted by an Instagram user located in Southern California who subsequently made their profile private so the original post is no longer publicly viewable.