Police are conducting a city-wide hunt in New York City for a man who has reportedly assaulted four Asian American women in separate attacks. The man, whose likeness has been captured in surveillance footage, is described as Black and in his mid-20’s or early 30’s and wearing t-shirt and jeans, and who can be seen carrying an unidentified blunt weapon in a white plastic bag.
Terrifyingly, the man appears to be wandering Manhattan on some sort of bizarre rampage seeking out East Asian American female victims.
The signs that the unknown assailant may be deliberately targeting Asian American women are evident in the circumstances of the assaults. The first attack (which occurred last Wednesday afternoon) and fourth attack (which occurred Monday) both happened within three blocks of each other, in New York City’s Chinatown neighbourhood. The second attack (which also occurred last Wednesday afternoon mere hours after the first) took place in the area around Manhattan’s Koreatown. In three out of the four recent attacks, the assailant appears to have been frequenting predominantly Asian American ethnic enclaves.
In the first of the four attacks, the assailant tried to strike up a conversation with his victim, who was sitting on a bench; he reportedly asked her, “Who is the president of the United States?” When she ignored him, the man left for a moment before returning with his blunt weapon hidden in a white plastic bag and hitting the woman in the face. The second attack may have similarly been predicated by an attempt at a conversation: in that attack, the victim was wearing headphones and could not tell if anyone had been talking to her before she was assaulted.
In the third attack, the man approached his victim and reportedly said, “All Asian girls don’t talk to me.” He further expressed frustration that Asian American women wouldn’t give him their phone numbers, indicating that his interest in Asian American women is likely of a romantic or sexual nature. He then struck his victim, again with the weapon in the plastic bag.
In the fourth attack, the man approached a local Chinatown laundry and showed the women working inside a message on his smartphone through the glass storefront; it contained a rape threat written in Chinese. After being told to leave, the man returned twenty minutes later and entered the store. When he was again escorted out, the man assaulted one of the women with the plastic-wrapped blunt object.
I’m almost afraid to know what that plastic-wrapped weapon is.
Here again, we have an assailant who seems to be targeting Asian American women because he sees us as vulnerable. Perhaps he, too, perceives us through the lens of racialized anti-Asian misogyny (or, “Model Minority Misogyny“), which portrays Asian American women as sexually available and which justifies rage and violence when we assert our own agency in refutation of those stereotypes. Treating Asian American women like we are socially and sexually available for unsolicited flirtation is racist and misogynist. Subjecting us to physical violence because we refuse to acquiesce to this undesired treatment is an extension of that racist misogyny.
It goes without saying that Asian American women should have the right to occupy public spaces like sidewalks and park benches, without having to worry about staying safe from abusive street harassment that turns physically violent.
Police are treating these attacks as hate crimes and bias-related assaults. Businesses in Chinatown are already placing surveillance footage photos on their storefronts warning Asian American women to be wary of the individual pictured above.
Someone seriously needs to find this violent, misogynistic, (Asiaphile?) asshole. Anyone with any information is urged to call CrimeStoppers at 800-577-TIPS.
Meanwhile, my Asian American sisters living in New York City and the surrounding area: please stay safe and vigilant.