The Rise in Asian/ Pacific Islander American Hate Crimes

Angelo Quinto.

It is likely you have not heard this name, but you should have.

Quinto, a 30-year-old Navy veteran, died on December 23, 2020. His family recently filed a wrongful death claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, with the city of Antioch, California alleging that his death resulted from an Antioch police officer kneeling on his neck for nearly 5 minutes. Sound familiar? Yet, unlike George Floyd, Angelo Quinto is not yet a household name.

In the lawsuit, the family indicates that they called the police to their home because Quinto was exhibiting signs of mental distress. In the months before his death, he had been displaying signs of anxiety, depression, and paranoia. The family says that before police arrived, Quinto had begun to calm down and was being held down by his mother. When the police took him from his mother’s arms, Quinto allegedly pleaded, “please don’t kill me.”

The family has released a video of the aftermath in which officers are seen trying to revive a lifeless and restrained Quinto. Blood can be seen on his face and on the ground where he lies. His mother, relatively calmly, tries to ask the officers what has happened as they question her as to whether he has taken anything. The Antioch Police Department does not use body-worn cameras though the Mayor, who was elected last year after campaigning on police reform, has recently renewed calls for their implementation.

So why is it that this story has not received the level of attention that George Floyd’s did? As a Filipino-American, I do believe that part of the answer lies in our culture and identity. Anytime you speak about a group of people, it is hard not to paint with a broad brush. That caveat aside, I believe it is fair to say that generally, we embrace the model minority stereotype. As a community, we are often not as vocal as other ethnic groups, preferring to be seen as a well-assimilated immigrant population.

Contrast the George Floyd case: where members of the African American community began immediately filming the incident and yelling at the police officer killing George Floyd to stop. Angela Quinto, on the other hand, does not begin filming until her son is bloodied and non-responsive. She remains polite and deferential to the police officers who have just killed her son.

Much of the Filipino American psyche can be traced back to the extreme race-motivated violence that the Filipino immigrant population experienced in the late 1920s and 30s. It has been my experience that we are far more likely than other minority groups to call upon and generally trust law enforcement. Answers may also lie in the colonial mentality, a form of internalized oppression, of our people that leads to a desire to be viewed as westernized and not “other.” We are taught from a young age to love our oppressors, to not challenge authority, to fit in, and try to be “normal Americans.” We are used to be taken advantage of because it is has been our history.

While other ethnic groups celebrate and advocate for wide recognition of their civil rights heroes (Martin Luther King Day, Cesar Chavez Day), most people do not even know the name Larry Itliong who, like Chavez, organized and fought for the rights of agricultural workers in California. Itliong sat with Chavez on the founding board of the California Rural Legal Assistance and was every bit as instrumental as Chavez in the struggle to improve conditions among farmworkers, yet today he is nowhere near as well-known.

We must not let our desire to be viewed as the model minority quiet our voices any longer. Crimes against Asian Americans, which spiked due to the onset of Coronavirus, are underreported because we fail to speak up.

We can no longer play the part of the model minority. We must organize, we must advocate. We must be active participants in the renewed civil rights movement and ensure that our voices are part of the conversation. We must look to our African American and Hispanic American brothers and sisters as an example of resistance to emulate, rather than pretend that the issues we face as a minority population are somehow different.

The recent surge in violence against elderly Asian-Americans has led to promising signs that today’s Asian American communities are becoming more willing to speak about the unique challenges we face. Filipino-Americans must ensure we are a part of this conversation and stop accepting or seeking to remain invisible.

People must know Angelo Quinto’s name.

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