But where were you when Vicha Ratanapakdee was killed?


Photo by Anoushka Mallik

Brookline Community members rallied in front of the high school on March 18 in response to increasing violence against Asian Americans.

To the Brookline High School community,

Some of you may be aware of the rise in anti-Asian hate crimes that has been growing rapidly throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. For others, this week’s shooting in Atlanta may be your first time hearing about it. Back in January, an 84-year-old man named Vicha Ratanapakdee was killed in broad daylight in an unprecedented attack in his San Francisco neighborhood.
In New York City, a man named Noel Quintana was slashed across the face with a box-cutter knife on a subway platform. Last summer, a 89-year-old Chinese woman was set on fire outside of her apartment. This very month, 84-year-old Pak Ho was robbed and killed in Oakland while on his morning walk. These are just four of over 3,000 anti-Asian incidents that have been reported since last March, many of which have been targeted at our elders (AAAJ).
Mainstream media has, for the most part, failed to report this crisis to the greater public. It pains me to think I too would have been naive to what is happening to my own community if not for the various AAPI news outlets I keep up to date with via social media. I feel some kind of cruel irony in how, despite the fact that this year Lunar New Year was celebrated as a Category 1 holiday for the first time here in Brookline, so many Asian-Americans across the country—our own community included—spent one of the most important celebrations of the year in pain and in fear for the future of our people.
That is not to say Brookline is exempt from this situation. If that were the case, I would not be writing this letter. Just because it has not happened here yet, does not mean it could not in the future.
Last month, a Japanese high school teacher was brutally attacked in Seattle. While I had been reading about all kinds of attacks, this was the first article I had read with someone the same nationality as me. This headline hit me harder than I expected it to; it felt personal. As I watched the video footage of the attack, I realized I no longer feel safe.
The Atlanta shootings only amplified that fear. I, like many other Asian American women, know far too well how it feels to be sexualized and objectified for our race. To hear a law enforcement official justify the attacker’s actions by saying he was “having a bad day” ignited emotions within me that I will never be able to put into words.
While the emails sent out by Mr. Meyer and Superintendent Marini were much appreciated, I am still disappointed with the high school’s lack of response to this topic given that it has been over a year since the number of anti-Asian, hate-fueled incidents had begun to rise. While this week’s incident was horrific, it was nowhere near the first. Even something as simple as an acknowledgement of the situation would have been enough. It is not of course the school’s fault for a lack of coverage on the issue, but if we as a school, or the town as a whole, are going to continue to preach about how accepting and diverse our community is, then we must follow through with our actions.
Racism is an ever present force in our society. In order to combat that force, our anti-racism must be ever present as well. There is no doubt that events like Day of Courage are a step in the right direction, but there is much more to be done. While I do not speak for all the AAPI students in our community, I can tell you that I am not the only one who is frustrated with the lack of earlier response from the high school to this pressing issue. Please begin to include Asian-Americans in your anti-racism.

An Asian-American Student
Yuki Hoshi