Filipino postal worker killed 18 years ago remembered
Eighteen years ago, Filipino postal worker Joseph Ileto was halfway through his route when he became a victim of a hate-motivated attack by a white supremacist. The attacker had just opened fire at a Jewish community center outside of Los Angeles where five people were severely wounded.
Ileto, who was 39 at the time, was killed.
According to the most recent 2015 Hate Crimes Report released last fall by the Los Angeles Human Relations Commission, hate crimes have increased 24 percent, after having seen a seven-year downward trend. Included in the increases were hate incidents towards Asian Americans, which tripled and prompted the launching for the first-ever tracker on the community.
Around the time of Trump’s presidential inauguration, nonprofit organization Asian Americans Advancing Justice launched Stand Against Hatred, a site dedicated to tracking anti-Asian hate attacks.
According to Jessica Jinn, communications manager at Advancing Justice – LA, over 180 responses have been submitted, with new ones being added almost daily.
“As we watched all the reporting [on hate crimes], we felt that the Asian community was being left out,” said Advancing Justice – LA’s VP of Programs and Communications Karin Wang on the starting of Stand Against Hatred.
Among the many stories is that of Dyne Suh, an Asian American UCLA student who had her Airbnb reservation canceled. A screenshot message from the Airbnb host which went public read, “One word says it all. Asian.”
The documentation of anti-Asian hate crimes isn’t new and is something AAJC has been watching for sometime going as far back to the 1980s. “There was a surge in anti-Asian hate attacks in the 1980s and 1990s, a lot of which were tied to other global phenomenon and news events,” said Wang.
In the 1980s, a lot of backlash was targeted on the Japanese community as a response to the Japanese auto industry. In the 1990s, hate activities were especially on the rise in places like Los Angeles, which included the killing of Ileto.
According to Wang, most of these attacks were, and continue to be tied to what is happening on the global front. The same seems to be the case now during the current global and political climate where a lot of tension has been building up with Asia and Muslim countries, specifically with China and most recently, North Korea.
“We saw in the data that there was a spike in anti-Muslim and anti-Chinese attacks specifically in 2015 and 2016,” shared Wang. She added that many of the attacks towards Muslims, which many Asians identify as, were linked to the recent Paris and San Bernardino attacks.
While there are no links specifically explaining attacks towards Chinese, Wang said the organization believes that many have to do with anti-China rhetoric and comments that have been brought up during the recent presidential campaign and through Trump’s inauguration.
“A lot of submissions that also been about being told to go back to China even if they weren’t Chinese,” said Jinn.
Throughout Trump’s presidential campaign and after his election, China has many times been labeled as an economic threat, explained Wang. In a 2015 interview with Good Morning America, Trump labeled China as an economic enemy, saying, “Because it’s [China] and economic enemy, because they have taken advantage of us like nobody in history. They have; it’s the greatest theft in the history of the world what they’ve done to the United States. They’ve taken our jobs.”
Again in a campaign rally in May 2016, Trump made comments on trade policies and said, “We can’t continue to allow China to rape our country and that’s what they’re doing. It’s the greatest theft in the history of the world.”
Still, anti-Asian hate incidents struggle to be publicized with many going unreported which perpetuates the idea that Asians are not subject to attacks, said Wang. “Many, especially older generations, don’t want to draw attention,” explained Wang. This was the case for Ileto’s family, who continues to be vocal about the issue, even though they were initially scared.
Currently, Advancing Justice – LA is working on making reporting easier for those of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community. They’ve also come out with a California specific brochure on identifying and reporting hate incidents in the Los Angeles County, and are available in Tagalog, Korean, Chinese, and English. On the front of each one reads, “An attack against one, is an attack against all.”
While hate crimes have been on the rise, the group remains optimistic. “Los Angeles for example, is very ethnically and religiously diverse,” said Wang.
This diversity, she hopes, will be a benefit in the future. Still, the need for awareness on Asian American hate crimes remains the organization’s key focus.
“If we don’t track it [the crimes], we’re not sure anyone else will pay attention to it,” added Jinn. (Rae Ann Varona / AJPRess)