Another horrific hate crime against an Asian American senior citizen occurred this week in midtown Manhattan as the victim was walking in broad daylight on her way to church. Watching the brutal physical and verbal assault makes your spine tingle with rage. But the true shock from the CCTV footage comes when the building’s doorman, who witnessed the entire attack, simply shuts the door and leaves the injured woman bleeding on the pavement outside.
It confirms the constant seed of fear in the pit of the stomach of Asian Americans. Being abandoned. Though diabolical, an attacker makes sense. Not being helped by your fellow members of the community does not. We all can expect to be victims of malice. But we don’t think the ‘good people’ will turn their backs on us.
When does it make sense? When you realize that you were never part of the community. Were you just living under a false sense of security the whole time? They really don’t care about you even if they give you an occasional smile. You turn around and look at the world as if you’re suddenly defenseless in a lion’s den. In that moment, the life gets sucked out of you through a wind tunnel from your stomach.
It’s the horror felt when an incest victim is told to forget and never talk about the ‘incident’ again by the person they went to for protection and support. It’s the shock of seeing none of your work colleagues brave enough to stick up for you when you went to HR about workplace abuse even though they said they would. It’s the pain of being alone in your life-arresting moment because there’s no one who can relate or wants to go there with you.
Ever wondered why in Shakespeare plays or fairy tales being ‘banished’ was such a severe punishment? As a child, I thought banishment meant freedom. I’d always imagined frolicking through the forest eating berries and finally chancing upon the teddy bear’s picnic after being ‘banished’.
In that moment, the life gets sucked out of you through a wind tunnel from your stomach.
However, banishment was literally a death sentence in those days when the individual completely depended on the community for their survival. You couldn’t survive by yourself too long out in the elements. And you could hardly just take the metro over to the next town and join another community the next day. So not only was there the terror of going to jail in those days to keep you in line, banishment was probably worse because there was no food and no roof.
That terror of being ostracized and left for dead outside by your community is still in our DNA no matter how much Uber, 7-11 and Netflix can anesthetize solo-living. This fear was on clear display this week when an old Asian American lady was left for dead to fend for herself after being brutally attacked on the sidewalk in one of the most expensive metropolises on planet earth. In front of a building where a 2 bedroom apartment rents for $4,000 a month.