LAKE FOREST PARK, Wash. — The increasing violence against Asian Americans has changed the course of a Lake Forest Park woman’s life. The violence, she says, isn’t getting the attention it deserves.
The deadly attack on Asian workers at an Atlanta spa in 2021 was a watershed moment for many Asian Americans around the country.
It highlighted the danger they say they face nearly every day.
Now, a woman is working every day to change that.
“So, this is attacks on Asians,” she said, looking through her website. “And I’ve done it by month. There are so many that I have to put them on separate months.”
This is Jolene Jang’s version of doom scrolling.
“So, here are videos and pictures of stabbings and murders,” Jang said. “And all across, Indians, Sikh, Bangladeshi, Korean.”
It is a sad litany of acts of hate against Americans of Asian descent all over the internet.
“So, it’s a huge range of Asian Americans that are attacked,” she said. “And I have this because people don’t believe it.”
It’s not as though Jang has never been captivated by an issue.
In 2000, she led the fight for legislation making upskirt photography illegal in Washington state. But the issue of hate against Asians is personal, necessarily, and has now become the focus of her life.
“I am ethnically Japanese, Chinese, and Swedish,” Jang said. “And I’m culturally Japanese American. And I’m fourth-generation.”
And yet, she says, she and millions of Asians with similar histories, are often still treated as though they just arrived.
“Asian Americans, they feel, ‘should I talk to the police?’” she said. “So, when my dad got a death threat in Seattle. There’s three white guys, ‘I’m going to kill you. Get out of here.’”
Her dad was driving for Uber.
“And he called the police,” she said. “But they’re like, ‘What do you want us to do?’ In Seattle.”
Seattle, she says, is not alone.
“It’s Brier, Shoreline, Lake Forest Park,” she said. “Bothell. Just in our little area, hate is everywhere.”
And then in March of 2021, Atlanta happened.
“After the Atlanta shooting of the Asian spa workers, I decided, ‘Oh, wow! The news is covering Asian American attacks,’’” Jang said. “They’ve been happening anyways. But that news cycle is real quick. So, I thought I better hop on and help out being that I am Asian American.”
She tried to find solace with her white friends, she says, but got nowhere.
“Because my network has not been there for me,” she said, “I created Asian, ‘Empowered Asian,’ which is the Facebook group, a place where Asians could talk to each other. And then ‘Asian Allies.’ It’s primarily white where these are people who want to understand, and so they can learn how to help and not be an oppressor.”
This cause is taking up nearly every second of her life.
“My voice is to try and share what’s happening on these fine streets of these suburbs that we think are so safe,” said Jang. “But safe for who?”
It is a question that will likely haunt her until the answer is safe for all.
Jang will be hosting a Culture Chat on the relationship between Asian and African American communities on Saturday.
You can join the discussion at noon at the Seattle Center during the Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month Celebration.
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