Tian Sheng Yu hung on in critical condition after being attacked by two 18 year olds who had moments earlier assaulted his son. People all over the Bay Area prayed he would pull through. He didn't. He was taken off life support three days later, and his relatives' sobs could be heard down the hospital's corridors.
Yu's murder has ignited a debate about hate crimes. The two 18 year olds, who have been arrested, are African-American. Many in the Asian-American community think the attack should have been charged as a hate crime. The authorities say there is no evidence of racial hatred.
But I understand why many Asian-Americans think race was a factor. Earlier this year, an elderly Chinese man was kicked and assaulted by black youth on Third Street in San Francisco. He died three weeks later. In March, five African-American teenage boys surrounded a middle-age Asian woman, throwing her onto the Muni platform. She is recovering. In yet another incident, an Asian-American Muni driver was attacked by a group of African-American and Latino youth.
Police haven't said whether they believe one group is responsible for the San Francisco attacks, or whether they think the Oakland men were influenced by the earlier assaults. It's disturbing and horrifying that four times this year, Asians have been physically assaulted by African-American young men. It's an unmistakable pattern. Whether the attacks are based on racial prejudice or the perception that Asians are easy targets, I don't think it matters. The violence can't be tolerated.
Oakland and San Francisco city officials have vehemently denounced the attacks. Residents of all races have attended anti-violence rallies. In the Oakland case and the attack on the Muni driver, African-Americans provided crucial information that helped the police make arrests. Leaders of Asian-American and African-American communities have vowed to work together against the violence.