Commentary: San Francisco’s ‘Black on Chinese’ violence goes back decades

Hubert Yee

By Hubert V. Yee

African American and Asian American elected and appointed officials have failed to address the grow­ing racial tensions in southeast San Francisco.

Growing up as an Asian American in southeast San Francisco was not easy. Safety was a huge issue for all residents. We heard gunshots at night and sirens wailing past our homes. Our neighbors and family members heard stories about other neighbors and family members be­coming victims of crimes by a segment of the African American community.

When I was 16, I was attacked by eight African Americans while riding MUNI’s 15 Third bus line. I was spit on. We fought. I was beaten and remained unconscious for a few seconds. I am reminded every day that I was beaten for no apparent reason when I look in the mirror and see my scar.

My mother and father were also vic­tims. I remember waking up to my mom and dad screaming. I ran downstairs and saw my mom and dad being robbed and assaulted in front of our home by two Af­rican Americans.

These criminals target Asian Ameri­cans because we are seen as weak, unor­ganized, foreign, and as “walking ATM machines.” We are racialized and in many of these instances, it involves violence.

Our pain has not been felt or heard by so-called elected representatives, Blacks and Asians alike. Sophie Maxwell, who represents District 10 on the board of su­pervisors, has said very little. Others, like Human Rights Commissioner Yvonne Lee, have provided a false historical nar­rative of the violence. At a recent com­mission meeting, Lee stated that these incidents have only occurred in the “past several years.”

As a resident of the neighborhood for more than 25 years, I disagree.

Supervisor David Chiu said on televi­sion that these instances were not racially motivated. I disagree. Asian Americans are seen as easy victims.

In order to heal, these “racialized” as­sumptions and misperceptions about Asian Americans need to be acknowledged. We need community development projects that involve multiracial interaction to dis­pel such racist stereotypes. In 2005, I cre­ated a youth program, APIYLDP, which explored the African American and the Asian American experience in District 10 with a group of multiracial youth and mul­tiple nonprofits.

Asian American youth learned about the African American experience through community immersion, fieldwork, and research. Research conducted by youth documented racial misunderstandings be­tween Asian American and African Amer­ican youth.

Results showed that the youth partici­pating in this project better understood the commonalities and the struggles that the two communities shared.

Efforts to continue the dialogue between Asian American and African American youth are hopeful solutions to the grow­ing despair facing many Asian Americans in the Bay View and Visitation Valley. We must focus on developing our community through multiracial coalitions.

We must not only hold the District 10 Supervisor Sophie Maxwell accountable, but those who claim to be our voice: the Asian American elected and appointed of­ficials.

All San Francisco residents, including those in District 10, should feel safe riding a bus, walking to school, and being in their homes. ♦

Hubert V. Yee has been a resident of San Francisco’s District 10 for more than 25 years. As a community activist with a Master of Arts in Asian American Stud­ies, he has worked on multiple projects to develop healthier community relations.

Yee can be reached at

5 Responses to “Commentary: San Francisco’s ‘Black on Chinese’ violence goes back decades”

  1. I too grew up in southeast S.F., beginning in the Hunter’s Point housing project. One of my best friends as Bayview Elementary was Doris Gee. It has saddened me for some time that there is this problem.

    I think we should plan a Unity Party, with everyone bringing their “native dishes”. The blacks that are and have perpetuated acts of violence are ignorant and uneducated. When I walk down the street, now I’m a middle-class homeowner in SF. the distain I see on the faces of so many Chinese, mostly from those new to our country, only saddens me further.

    Let’s unite, those of us who know better and educate. People tend to hate and hurt what they do not understand.

    Peace & Blessings,
    Diane Wesley Smith

  2. jkdarppr says:

    also…politicians are no differnet than the degenerates of society. politicians/government always hides the truth from the common people.

  3. jkdarppr says:

    niggas are niggas….it’s in their DNA to be deviant and challenging towards any culture/race. what else is new.

  4. harryo says:

    the author writes “Supervisor David Chiu said on televi­sion that these instances were not racially motivated. I disagree. Asian Americans are seen as easy victims.”
    I can’t remember the last time African Americans attempted to attack Samoans or Filipinos who have lived in Southeast San Francisco just as long as African Americans. Lets not forget that for every 2 or 3 Asian Americans attacked, there’s been 50 African Americans killed and many more assulted and robbed. Criminals are criminals who will target anyone they consider an easy mark be they an old Black lady, a Hispanic immigrant or an Asian man. Looking at the broader issue of gang violence would do more to resolve the problem than making broad assumptions that African Americans are specifically targeting Asians; as the song says “it aint necessarily so.”

    • Ivan says:

      @harryo true, criminals are criminals, true, but when was the last time you saw a bunch of asian criminals robbing a black family? i’d bet my salary that the percentage is miniscule to the point of being practically zero…


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