Vietnamese in US rattled by rising hate crimes against Asians

Attacks on Asian-Americans in the U.S. for 'causing' the Covid-19 pandemic are worrying the Vietnamese community there.

Walking their dog after dinner has always been a favorite daily activity of Tho Pham and his wife, a Vietnamese couple who live with their 39-year-old son in Garden Grove City, California.

But not in the last few months as the wave of anti-Asian violence and harassment has terrified him.

"I do not dare go out without my children because I am afraid someone will knock me to the ground or stab me to death just because I am Asian," he laments, adding that the hate crimes have disrupted his daily life.

Many other Vietnamese share his apprehension, especially older people.

USA, Vietnamese, violence, Covid-19, Asian

Wally Ng, a member of the Guardian Angels, patrols with other members in Chinatown in New York City, New York, U.S., May 16, 2020. Photo by Reuters.

Violence and hatred directed at Asian Americans, which also includes mugging, have surged across California since the beginning of the Covis-19 pandemic as Asians are blamed for its origin in Wuhan, China.

Videos of an Asian woman being punched in the face on a subway platform and a Thai man being pushed to the ground in San Francisco have sparked fears, and the Vietnamese community is traumatized.

Hoai Nguyen, a housewife in San Jose, home to the largest Vietnamese population in America, says: "It is annoying and scary when you go out and have to keep looking behind your back to see if you are being followed by someone suspicious."

She has been called "coronavirus" several times while walking and shopping, but she had not expected the discrimination and hatred to turn violent and even murderous.

Last month the Vietnamese community in San Jose was shocked after a 64-year-old woman was robbed in front of Dai Thanh Supermarket during the Lunar New Year holidays.

Nguyen says with a sigh: "I cannot do that (go out) on my own because they may kill me. How weak I am and how cold-hearted those people are."

Since older people are targeted, no one is comfortable letting their parents or grandparents go out alone though the first month of the lunar new year is typically filled with activities like meeting relatives and going to pagodas.

This year most had a subdued New Year also because of the pandemic.

Hong Nguyen, who is always accompanied by her children on the streets in Oakland these days, says: "It should be a time for celebration, we should meet our families and friends instead of being targeted or attacked."


The potential threats have brought the Vietnamese diaspora together.

On Facebook groups, they post videos of Asians being assaulted or robbed to warn others about the growing threat in places like California and New York, home to many Vietnamese-Americans.

"Please help if you see anyone being verbally or physically attacked," one person wrote in a group for people living in West Hills, California.

Some people give a helping hand to elders in their Vietnamese and Asian communities. In Oakland, for instance, there have been community initiatives including patrols by volunteers who escort seniors around the city.

"From our Chinese, Thai and Vietnamese elders to our youth, our Asian-American communities are traumatized, afraid and outraged during a time when we are also experiencing disproportionate impacts of the pandemic," according to a joint agreement by Asian-American organizations in the Bay Area said, calling for non-police safety measures like volunteer neighborhood patrols.

Hong Nguyen's sons and daughter, who are in their 20s, have joined many other Asians to protect elders in public places.

"Someone threw rocks at my sister's house twice last week, and so five of us stand in front of her house in the evenings to see if those thugs come around again," Hong Nguyen says, adding solidarity is their recourse now.

USA, Vietnamese, violence, Covid-19, Asian

A 91-year-old Asian man is shoved to the ground from behind by a suspect in Chinatown in Oakland, California, January 31, 2021. Photo courtesy of Reutters.

Some people have taken a further step, gun ownership.

"I decided to buy a handgun this spring after seeing a series of mugging of Asians," Nguyen Duc Phuc, 45, says. Owning a gun gives him and his wife peace of mind amid the senseless violence, he says.

"When I was in line waiting to buy the gun, two white guys called me 'chin*' and made fun of me because I wore a mask."

The New York Times quoted David Liu, owner of Arcadia Firearm and Safety in the predominantly Asian city of Arcadia in California, as saying there is an uptick in Asian-Americans buying firearms though admittedly interest has been skyrocketing among "basically everybody."

In a survey by the National Shooting Sports Foundation last year gun retailers estimated there was a nearly 43 percent increase in sales to Asian customers in the first half of 2020, the Times added.

But people like Pham, Phuc and Nguyen know that violence is never the correct response to violence.

On February 26 senior officials of the U.S. Justice Department claimed that the recent surge in violence and hate incidents against Asian-Americans is unacceptable, and promised to investigate those cases and other hate crimes.

These "horrific attacks on Asian-Americans across the country" have "no place in our society," Deputy Attorney General John Carlin said while speaking about domestic terrorism, adding that the Justice Department is "committed to putting a stop to it."

Agents and prosecutors at the department would "look at recent footage from New York and California to see those horrific attacks directed at Asian Americans, to realize how dire the threats are," he said.

But in the meantime, Pham knows he needs his children with him if he wants to venture outside home.

"I just want to feel safe and not fear for my life when going out without disturbing my children."

News Related


Nom, nom, Vietnam - Episode 86: Sausage salad

Sausage salad is a popular snack among HCM City locals, especially young people. It is made by mixing different types of sausages and vegetables together, including a Central Highland sausage called tré, which… Read more »

Da Nang ready to welcome international travelers with vaccine passports

Local authorities have also chosen a variety of tourist destinations within Da Nang that can run suitable tours. Photo: Bao Da Nang Nguyen Xuan Binh, deputy director of the central city’s Department of… Read more »

Game publisher slaps global ban on League of Legend champ

Zeros made headlines recently after he was banned from all League of Legends (LoL) competitions in Vietnam by Vietnam Championship Series (VCS) for stating he hoped the Covid-19 pandemic in Vietnam would grow… Read more »

An impressive Quy Nhon on international newspapers

Photo: Trung Pham/ Vnexpress CNBC has recently named Vietnam’s Central region in the list of top 7 safe tourist destinations post-Covid-19 epidemic. Apart from Da Nang, Nha Trang, Hoi An, etc, the region… Read more »

Two unique yet mouthwatering dishes in Saigon Special Force cafe

Photo: VN Express Quẩy (crispy fried dough stick) dipping in coffee, a familiar breakfast dish of many Saigonese decades ago, now appears in Do Phu, a coffee shop located at the end of… Read more »

Fire hazard stalks Vietnam’s tube houses

In just one week recently, there was a fire each in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh which claimed 10 lives. The one in Saigon’s Thu Duc City on March 30 killed six members… Read more »

Vietnamese students adjust to pandemic times in the US

“I came to the U.S. in August last year, right when the Covid-19 outbreak in both America and Vietnam was quite severe. “Besides studying via Zoom, I also interned in the palliative care… Read more »

Saigon girl creates dance challenge to support autistic brother

The 11th grader in Ho Chi Minh City introduces her brother in a YouTube video thus: “His name is Ryan, and he was diagnosed with autism as a child. He never calls me… Read more »

Old at heart Vietnamese youth plan early retirement in nursing homes

“I’m doing fine. Tell everyone that I will be staying here for a while,” Dinh Ngoc Han said as she wrapped a call with her husband at home before continuing to chat with… Read more »

Laid low by pandemic, tourism workers down but not out

Le Trung Truc, a resident of the ancient town of Hoi An, begins his day by walking from home to his boat docked on the banks of the Hoai River. He sits in… Read more »

‘Vietnamese strength’ turns student into an international teacher

“Teacher Tien, may Toshi ask you a question?” The question was asked in Vietnamese during a break in his zoom class. Toshy, a project manager in the U.S., is one of 145 students… Read more »

With fiery resolve, Phu Yen woman rises from the ashes

Ngan, 34, woke up early and went to a local market in Saigon to buy some offerings to place on the altar, preparing for her store’s opening. Her sons were excited and happy… Read more »

Putting parents in old people’s homes still troubling for Vietnamese

For the last year or so Phuong Thu, 37, has not been at ease since she does not know how to take care of her mother, a 70-year-old retired doctor with no interest… Read more »

Bombarded Saigonese yearn to consign the din to the bin

Nguyen Thi Huong was rudely woken up at around midnight by ear-splitting sounds. The din emanated from a nearby pub in Saigon’s Binh Tan District on a Friday. She tried to rest again… Read more »

Tasers, guns, protests: Vietnamese diaspora responds to American anti-Asian violence

Hang Nguyen, a Vietnamese student at the University of California, Davis, never leaves her apartment without a pepper spray given by her relatives a couple of weeks ago. The 29-year-old graduate student also… Read more »

Hanoi watering holes attract huge crowds on reopening day

After remaining closed for nearly two months following the latest Covid-19 outbreak, bars, karaoke parlors and dance clubs in the capital were allowed to open on Tuesday. All businesses in the country are… Read more »

Tasers, guns, protests: Vietnamese diaspora respond to American anti-Asian violence

Hang Nguyen, a Vietnamese student at the University of California, Davis, never leaves her apartment without a pepper spray given by her relatives a couple of weeks ago. The 29-year-old graduate student also… Read more »

Da Nang's Golden Bridge named a new world wonder

“Vietnam’s Golden Bridge, opened in 2018, is designed as though a giant’s hands (made of fiberglass and mesh wire) are gently supporting the 490 feet path (150 m) for pedestrians, which overlooks the… Read more »

Hanoian rolls out hoverboard pho delivery

A pho restaurant on Tran Te Xuong Street, Hanoi’s Ba Dinh District has drawn public attention since its owner, Nguyen Thanh The, 43, employed a hoverboard to deliver bowls of pho to neighborhood… Read more »

​Vietnamese-American actress gets lifetime achievement award at US film festival

The 84-year-old received the Snow Leopard Lifetime Achievement Award, the festival’s highest accolade, at an event in Los Angeles on Tuesday. The AWFF wrote in a Facebook post that the actress “is being… Read more »

​Parents rattled as baleful videos stalk young minds

On March 10 members of an online forum for parents were shaken after Tho Nguyen, who has a hugely popular YouTube channel, uploaded two clips about Kuman thong, a Thai occult doll with… Read more »

Saigonese spends 30 years ripping jeans

At 3 p.m. each day, Vien, traveling from Saigon’s Binh Tan District to Ho Xuan Huong Street in District 3, opens his ripped jeans “shop”. The “shop” comprises a plastic stool on which… Read more »

Separation pangs torment children left behind by migrant parents in rural Vietnam

Six-year-old Nguyen Thanh Tien in the central Ha Tinh Province had a fever after returning from school last week, but it was not until the next day that his grandmother found out the… Read more »

To quit or not: a Covid-19 dilemma for Vietnamese workers

When his roommates turn the lights off to go to bed at 10 p.m., Hoang Minh is just starting his eight-hour shift at work. Sitting with a laptop on his bunk bed, the… Read more »

Vietnamese in U.S. rattled by rising hate crimes against Asians

Walking their dog after dinner has always been a favorite daily activity of Tho Pham and his wife, a Vietnamese couple who live with their 39-year-old son in Garden Grove City, California. But… Read more »

Amid political instability, Vietnamese in Myanmar keen to return home

The country has been churning since the army seized power and detained government leader Aung San Suu Kyi and much of her party leadership on February 1. Hundreds of thousands of people have… Read more »

Hai Duong residents overjoyed as social distancing ends

A few hours before the lifting of the province-wide social distancing, local officials work at Covid-19 checkpoints in Chi Linh Town’s Sao Do Square. Social distancing and lockdowns ended on Wednesday. Those crossing… Read more »

Hanoi’s Covid-19 fight leaves street food vendors in the lurch

Nguyen Thi Nhung, 39, decided to stay back in Hanoi instead of returning to her hometown for the Lunar New Year holidays (Tet) because she hoped to open her tea stall soon after… Read more »

Young Vietnamese on the verge of becoming 'lost generation' amid pandemic

Nguyen Thanh Tung, 22, graduated from university in June 2020, and was thrilled to enter a new stage in life. But reality turned out to be harsher than he thought as he spent… Read more »

Burnout, depression stalk Vietnamese mothers coping with pandemic stress

Le Thi Phuong, an hourly wage worker at a textile firm in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, starts her 90-minute lunch break at noon by rushing home to feed her children, whose school and… Read more »

Burnout stalk Vietnamese mothers coping with pandemic stress

Le Thi Phuong, an hourly wage worker at a textile firm in Hanoi’s Long Bien District, starts her 90-minute lunch break at noon by rushing home to feed her children, whose school and… Read more »

Vietnamese Texans suffer with no power or water

On Thursday, Trinh Nguyen, 31, woke up to another day without power and water in Houston, Texas. In close to subzero temperatures, the Vietnamese woman and her four-member family used a fireplace to… Read more »

Covid-19 anxieties mute post-Tet festivities in Hanoi

Nguyen Thi Anh had a very unusual return to work in Hanoi’s Long Bien District on February 17. Instead of partying with her colleagues and going to Buddhist pagodas on the first working… Read more »

Mekong Delta bridge guards maintain suicide watch

It was around 11 p.m. and there was a motorbike parked on the side of the bridge. Then Hua Nhan Hau saw her. The young woman was crying her heart out, standing outside… Read more »

Covid-19 takes a toll on frontline workers’ personal lives

The two, nurses in the outpatient and intensive care units at the newly set up field hospital in the northern province, Vietnam’s coronavirus epicenter now, have spent the last couple of weeks tending… Read more »

Tet in the times of pandemic: muted celebrations for Vietnamese diaspora in US

Thanh Nguyen, 35, an ethnic Vietnamese man living in Virginia, always returns home to Maryland during Tet (Lunar New Year). But this year the nurse decided to stay back and instead celebrate the… Read more »

At Covid-19 epicenter, field kitchens cook up a storm

The shopping and cooking had begun at 5 a.m. and at 10:30 a.m. last Saturday, Nguyen Thi Huyen and other volunteers from Chi Linh Town had delivered more than 140 boxes of chicken… Read more »

With no escape route, expats enjoy Tet ‘at home’

In the five years that he has lived and worked in Vietnam, Daniel Woollacott has developed a tradition of “escaping” Tet, when shops and services are normally shut down and major cities become… Read more »

Early start to Tet exodus over pandemic fears

At 3 p.m. on February 5, Tran Nguyen Thuy Trang was supposed to be in her office in downtown Saigon. Instead she was at the Mien Dong (Eastern Region) Bus Station in Binh… Read more »

Medical workers recall moment when Hai Duong Province became Covid-19 epicenter

Thuy, head of the department of laboratory, diagnostic imaging at the Hai Duong Center for Disease Control (CDC), says: “I won’t forget the moment I saw so many test samples coming back positive.… Read more »

Quarantined kindergarten kids miss home

Vu Thi Khanh, 25, was lucky that her four-year-old son accepted her explanation without further questions. On the night of February 3, Khanh took a photo of her son drawing with his crayons… Read more »

Medics brave inclement weather to track coronavirus

On the night of January 28, 31-year-old doctor Vu Tri Tue of the endocrinology department of the Vietnam – Sweden Hospital in Quang Ninh Province’s Uong Bi District, walked from house to house… Read more »

Myanmar military takeover: Vietnamese recall events of February 1

Quang Hai, who works all day in a factory in Mandalay, only knew about the coup when he finished his shift in the afternoon on February 1. He said: “Telephone and Internet networks… Read more »

So near, yet so far: Tet separation leaves migrants in tears

In the three years that she has been living in Hanoi, Nguyen Thu Ha, 21, has never imagined not being home for the Lunar New Year celebrations, which is the most important time… Read more »

Families put weddings on hold at Covid-19 hotspots

On the afternoon of January 28, the families of Duc Giang, 27, and his bride Hong Hanh, 25, were busy calling hundreds of guests to tell them the wedding, scheduled at 5 p.m.… Read more »

Vietnamese shaken as Covid-19 returns with a vengeance

Le Anh Tuyet, a student at the Foreign Trade University in Hanoi, packed her stuff on January 28 after hearing about the new Covid-19 outbreak in the northern Hai Duong Province, her hometown.… Read more »

Northern village braises fish in clay pots for Tet treat

With two weeks to go before Tet (Lunar New Year), residents of Vu Dai Village in Ha Nam Province’s Ly Nhan District are making their traditional braised fish. The village has built itself… Read more »

​Hanoi charity’s young volunteers spend nights rescuing homeless children

When Hoang Anh was cruising around flower gardens in Hanoi’s Tay Ho District at around midnight one day, he saw two boys in warm clothes and a middle-aged man sitting around a fire… Read more »

No Tet homecoming for Vietnamese expatriates

More than two weeks before Tet (Lunar New Year) on February 12, Khanh is reconciled to an unusual holiday this year since he knows he cannot make it to Vietnam. “I know we… Read more »

Single mother achieves stardom after braving hostile society

After cycling from the farm to the house at noon, Duong Thi Cuong, 56, rushed to the living room to greet her guests. Cuong of the northern province of Thai Nguyen is the… Read more »