Kelly Shum, owner of the Mad Butcher Meat Company in South Sacramento, remembers the incident clearly: A white man wearing a “Stand With The Flag” shirt came into her shop, made a purchase, and then, upon exiting, threw a dead cat into the parking lot right outside the store.
Shum said she’s seen the man before, as a customer. The sentiment behind his actions that day weren’t new for their shop, she says, but it was a tipping point for her family.
“For the last year, all we’ve gotten is calls about Chinese people butchering cats, dogs and bats,” Shum said. “And when someone drops off a mangled, bloody cat on my doorstep, you’re sending a message to me and the whole Asian community about how you feel about us.”
The incident at Mad Butcher Meat Company represents just one of thousands of reported hate crimes and incidents of hate speech against Asian American and Pacific Islanders since the start of the pandemic.
A group compiling the incidents, Stop AAPI Hate, says the rise in anti-Asian sentiment comes in part from racist rhetoric, spread early on, that Asian Americans were carriers of the coronavirus. It’s also a deep-seated racist trope that Asians are foreigners carrying disease.
Now, Sacramento City Councilmember Mai Vang is introducing a resolution condemning anti-Asian hate in the city.
“We have been together in this pandemic for almost a year, and Asian Americans in the nation and here in Sacramento are increasingly concerned about their safety and well-being,” Vang said at a press event on Tuesday outside Mad Butcher Meat Company.
She said she hopes the resolution can be a commitment to the Asian and Pacific Islander communities that the Council is behind them and working with residents.
Mayor Darrell Steinberg was also at the event and added that though the resolution won’t immediately address the rise in anti-Asian sentiment, he hopes it will be a start.
“Silence is not acceptable. We speak up and we speak out. When a national politician uses slurs and acts in an overtly bigoted manner, it gives license to people to act in ways that result in what Kelly and her family suffered. Words matter,” the mayor said.
Asian Americans have often kept silent about the racism they’ve experienced in the past, according to Vang. But she was glad to see members stepping forward now.
“The belief that Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders are a monolithic group and a model minority perpetuates stereotypes that mask hate incidents, trauma and disparities within our communities,” she said. “These are lived experiences that go unnoticed or unseen, and when they are seen or reported, oftentimes they find themselves retraumatized by the system.”
Shum says the resolution is nice, but she hopes there will be action taken soon. The incident at her butcher shop is currently being investigated as a hate crime, but with no direct action yet, she said. Meanwhile, her family is also fighting off hateful comments on their Facebook page, stirred-up by the incident.
“I don’t want to keep looking over my shoulder for the next thing to happen, there needs to be change, don’t forget about us, don’t forget what happened here,” she said.
She says she’s noticed more Asian American friends and family who are now more reluctant to leave their neighborhoods because of fear of hate crimes.
“We literally stay in the South Sacramento, Stockton Boulevard area because we feel safe there because that’s where our community is,” Shum said.
The Stop AAPI Hate organization has recorded more than 3,000 hate incidents against Asian Americans, with about 40% of those reported taking place in California.
Earlier this year, two elderly Asian Americans were assaulted in the Bay Area in incidents that are being investigated as hate crimes.
State lawmakers have recently allocated about $1 million to go toward Stop AAPI Hate to continue its work. The Stockton Boulevard Business Partnership is currently meeting with Sacramento Police to work on providing greater security to those along the boulevard,
City Council will be voting on Vang’s resolution next week, and it hopes to work with the Asian and Pacific Islander community to create more tangible solutions.
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated the location of Mad Butcher Meat Company. It is in Councilmember Eric Guerra’s district.
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