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:
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