Vietnamese living in US say they are determined life will carry on

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People attend a rally against racism and violence on Asian Americans in Flushing of New York, the United States on March 27, 2021. Politicians in America voted on Wednesday on a plan to advance legislation to strengthen federal efforts to address hate-crimes that are directed at Asian-Americans. Xinhua/VNA Photo

Bảo Hoa, Vân Nguyễn & Paul Kennedy

Vietnamese nationals living in the US say although they are concerned about the increase in the amount of attacks on Asians, they are doing their best to maintain normality.

On Wednesday, politicians in America voted on a plan to advance legislation to strengthen federal efforts to address hate-crimes that are directed at Asian-Americans.

The bill is sponsored by Senator Mazie Hirono, Democrat of Hawaii, and Representative Grace Meng, Democrat of New York.

It would create a new position at the Justice Department to speed up the review of hate crimes that are deemed related to the coronavirus pandemic.

On the same day, President Joe Biden named a liaison from his administration to the Asian-American Pacific Islander community.

Attacks targeting Asians living in the US have increased by almost 150 per cent in the past year, many against women and the elderly.

Non-profit organisation Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate, completed a study last month that revealed there were 3,800 incidents reported over 12 months during the pandemic.

It showed that women reported twice as many complaints as men.

Findings revealed that Chinese are the largest ethnic group (42.2 per cent) that report experiencing hate, followed by Koreans (14.8 per cent), Vietnamese (8.5 per cent), and Filipinos (7.9 per cent).

On March 16, 2021, a series of mass shootings took place at three massage parlours in Atlanta, Georgia. Eight people were killed, six of whom were Asian women, and one other person was wounded.

The suspect, 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, was taken into custody later that day and claims he acted not because of race hate.

Also in March, an 83-year-old man of Vietnamese origin living in San Francisco needed hospital treatment after he was attacked while shopping.

But despite the rise in attacks, Vietnamese nationals told Việt Nam News they are doing their best to keep up their normal routines and not let the increase in attacks affect their daily lives.

Nguyễn Thùy Dương lives close to where one of the spa shootings took place.

She said: “I found out about the news on the internet and on Facebook and Instagram also. At first I felt very sorry to hear the sad news and also felt sorry for the victims and their families. And then I felt worried and concerned a bit.

“It’s near the park where sometimes I visit with my family. It’s quite near where I live in the US, so that’s why I said I’m a bit concerned and worried.”

Bùi Đỗ Thanh Phương is studying in Boston, Massachusetts. She said she has not experienced any forms of racism during her time in the US, although she knows Asian people who have.

“I’ve joined a group on Facebook for international students and they also discussed it,” said Phương.

“They didn’t discuss the shooting but the racism experiences in their lives. So they’ve also faced discrimination in their schools as well.

“I just feel scared when I read about it, but actually I didn’t experience anything.”

Dương also said she believes there are many good people in America, and she has many American friends who have offered support during these troubled times.

She said: “In general I think American people are friendly and nice, and I also have some American friends here, and they’re also very kind and helped me a lot and helped my family a lot when I first came to the US.

“They all say they always stand by Asian people. So I believe them and I hope, greatly hope everything is going to be OK, going to be alright soon.”

Although Phạm Thị Thu Trang lives in New York, she travelled to Georgia after the shootings and said she was surprised to see support and solidarity from a wide variety of nationalities.

She said: “When it happened in Atlanta I had to go to the Union Square in Georgia to see how people see it, and surprisingly not only Asian people were there but all diverse groups of people.

“That means a lot to me about solidarity, because I feel we need to be together because this is a problem of the racism structure. It’s already in the structure. It’s not only one person making it up.”

On Wednesday, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act cleared a motion to proceed with an overwhelming 92 Senators voting in favour, and now will move forward to debate and possible amendments.

Bùi Đỗ Thanh Phương, Boston, Massachusetts

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"I didn’t feel scared or anything like that. I maintain my daily activities. I still go outside. To be honest, where I’m living now in Boston I don’t feel any racism.

"My friends and I also discuss it but we didn’t care much.

"I feel safe now. I don’t need to repair any protection in my house. I used to think I should learn how to use a gun or how to get a license to buy a gun and put it in my house when I heard about the shooting, but after that I feel that everything is just normal.

"I think in their minds they didn’t distinguish. They think that all Asians are Chinese. Sometimes they say I’m Chinese, and I always have to say no I’m not Chinese, I’m Vietnamese. And because of COVID-19 they lose their jobs, they lose their income, so they think all the reasons that cause those things come from the Chinese, the Asians."

Nguyễn Thùy Dương, Atlanta, Georgia

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"Actually it hasn’t affected (my life) much. I still go out to do something needed and go shopping normally. However I avoid going to crowded places and the downtown area of Atlanta and anywhere that I feel not safe.

"Everything is still normal to me. The way people look at me and talk to me has not changed, nothing different at all.

"Where I live in the US I think is quite safe and peaceful. And the people who live around here are very friendly and nice. So I don’t think I should prepare something like a weapon.

"I think there are bad people and good people at the same time everywhere, not only in the US but other places all over the world. And I still believe that the good people are more than bad people out there.

"After the incident happened, I know there are many people, American people, American brands and companies who have spoken up and stood up for Asian people. And they said they want to protect Asian people living in the US. And they also don’t agree for those kind of incidents to happen, attacking Asian people."

Phạm Thị Thu Trang, New York

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"When I read the news and especially in my field - I'm a professional activist and social activist - so I have to be aware of that and I have to understand what happened and why it happened. Because as a professional I have to look at why. First as a human being we have to make sure we are safe then immediately as an activist I have to be on the field to see it before I criticise people’s thinking.

"So most people feel there’s more discrimination, but I feel this is an opportunity for me to show up and stand up. Because if not we’d just stay in our bubble to be safe, or to be scared. And I don’t feel that being safe and scared is enough. We need to speak out and we have to stand up. When I speak out in different forums and communities I found out I was in tears myself because it made everybody to dare for us. But we don’t speak out so nobody really knows what we need.

"Two days ago I decided to take the subway from my office home at 9.30-10pm. Of course I had to make sure I was safe so I made sure I was accompanied by somebody.

"I have to have in my purse… just something like a scissor, to make sure that I’m prepared. I have to have my hair made, and if any attacks happen to me, I have to have the skills.

"I feel a mix between being scared and wanting to defend people. But at the same time I also feel supported a lot." — VNS

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