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The Pandemic of Violence Against East and Southeast Asian Women in the US

From the Current Events Editorial Staff: Chris Fong Chew, Lillian Han, Leila Wickliffe, Jiaying Zhang

On the morning of Sunday, February 13th, 35-year-old Christina Yuna Lee was stabbed to death inside her Lower Manhattan apartment in Chinatown by a man who followed her into the building.

Surveillance video showed Lee being trailed into her building on Chrystie Street by a man later identified by police as Assamad Nash, 25, who catches the door and follows her inside. Neighbors called the police a short period later when they heard screaming from her apartment. When police arrived at the scene, Nash had tried to flee down a fire escape and eventually barricaded himself inside her apartment; Lee was found dead with 40 stab wounds.

Lee was a Rutgers University graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Art History, a Senior Creative Producer at an online platform for digital music called Splice, and worked on many photo and video campaigns. She did not have any connection with Nash prior to the attack.

Nash was taken into custody and found to have a history of misdemeanor arrests dating to 2015 in New Jersey and New York, including assault, burglary, and drug possession. In January, he was charged with criminal mischief and unlawful escape but was released under supervision. Many believe that, given his history of arrests, he should not have been allowed on the streets.

Lee is just one of the most recent people of Asian descent to be killed or injured in random, unprovoked attacks in New York City. However, police have yet to call this killing a hate crime.

This incident happened just weeks after another woman of Asian descent, Michelle Alyssa Go, was killed by a man who pushed her in front of an oncoming subway train in New York City. The suspect was identified as 61-year-old Martial Simon, who was unhoused and charged with second-degree murder. He too has an extensive criminal history and was on parole.

These attacks have left Asian American communities across the country feeling defenseless. Asian American women, in particular, are targeted. Michelle Go’s death was never investigated as a hate crime, but authorities are still investigating whether or not Christina Lee’s murder was racially motivated. But to some Asian American women, what authorities call it doesn’t matter. Stop AAPI Hate, a coalition formed to track and respond to reports of hate, violence, and discrimination against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, reported that national trends show that women make up 62% of all reported hate incidents.

These murders link to a wider narrative of placing blame on East and Southeast Asians for the COVID-19 pandemic, in which scapegoating solely based on appearance has provoked hate crimes as insidious as racial generalizations and as brutal as full-blown escalations into violence. Indeed, the six Asian women that died in the Atlanta spa shootings of March 2021 is a stark example of this—a culmination of months of heightened Sinophobic hysteria in which anti-Asian hate crimes in the U.S. spiked by 150%.

The Atlanta spa shootings, which occurred almost a year ago, brought Asian women in the United States to the forefront. Between racism and hypersexualization, Asian American women are disproportionately attacked, largely due to archaic stereotypes that they are submissive and easier to take ad