SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Since the pandemic began, 19-year-old Elizer StaJuana says he was assaulted twice waiting for public transportation in Melbourne, Australia.
“Out of nowhere he started punching my face,” he said.
StaJuana says he also overhears customers at the McDonald’s where he works.
“I just keep hearing things like, ‘I don’t like this guy, because he’s making my coffee, cause he’s Asian, cause due to coronavirus, I might get coronavirus,'” he said.
The incidents happened within a span of four weeks.
“It’s unbelievable, for me it’s like a mental trauma I have to go through myself,” he added.
Around the world, thousands of people have experienced discrimination and hate since the pandemic began. Some of it has gone viral on social media. Others have been reported online to Stop AAPI Hate, a center established with partners including SF State and the advocacy group Chinese for Affirmative Action.
It has collected 1,983 accounts of anti-Asian discrimination and attacks in the US. Nearly 40% come from California. Many more go unreported.
“We think that as shelter-in-place orders are lifted, people start going back to work, when schools resume, which is where we saw some incidents happening on school yards and on public transportation, that this is likely to increase,” said Co-Executive Director of Chinese for Affirmative Action Cynthia Choi.
There are less obvious yet equally damaging examples of bigotry. Christa Yan lives with three white roommates in San Francisco.
“Their mean girl behavior absolutely in my belief has something to do with being the only minority in the house,” she told KPIX 5. “They seem to completely deflect off that. I’ve actually brought it up to them and they say ‘I don’t know what your talking about.'”
Yan says she was ostracized after she told them she was uncomfortable with them traveling to Europe during this time, since the women share common areas. Yan has since decided to shelter-in-place with her parents.
“I was in the bathroom packing a bag and she walked right into the bathroom and came right up behind me, really close to me, and I thought she was going to hit me,” said Yan.
The intimidation and bullying has gotten so bad she plans to put in her 30 days notice next week.
Yan encourages people who witness harassment or hear racist remarks around them to say something and take action.
At the legislative level, Sen. Kamala Harris recently called on the Department of Justice to take concrete steps to address the rise in hate crimes against Asians.