Last Thursday evening, a man destroyed several windows of the Wing Luke Museum in the historic Chinatown International District (CID) of Seattle, Washington. At the time of the attack, several members of the Japanese American community, including Seattle JACL chapter co-president Stan Shikuma were attending a meeting at the museum for our partner organization Tsuru for Solidarity. Attendees rushed outside to find the perpetrator outside sledgehammer still in hand spewing anti-Chinese and anti-Asian rhetoric.
This attack is deeply saddening and symptomatic of the anti-Asian hate that is still ongoing nationwide. More troubling was the inadequate response from the Seattle Police Department. Stan Shikuma was quoted by the Seattle Times on the attack and in the Seattle JACL chapter’s statement on the incident that the police refused to respond initially despite calls from multiple witnesses. It took nearly an hour for police to arrive, and the responses some callers received from emergency dispatchers seemed to imply indifference or annoyance.
This also comes on the heels of further criticism surrounding the Seattle Police Department. Earlier this year, an Indian student was struck and killed by a police vehicle while crossing the street. One of the responding officers to the accident is overheard on bodycam footage stating the student, Jaahnavi Kandula, had little value. Our community is hearing that message loud and clear, that we are of little value.
We expect the attack on the Wing Luke Museum to be given the priority that a high profile crime such as this deserves and is prosecuted for the clear intent that it had to intimidate and directly attack the Asian American community. We also call upon the Seattle Police and 911 response to recognize the impact their disregard for our community has not only in eroding our faith in the ability and willingness of law enforcement to adequately serve and protect us, but the role it may play in perpetuating the devaluation of our community that can lead to further prejudice and anti-Asian hate incidents.
The safest communities are those that have the most resources, not the most police presence. The Wing Luke Museum is one such community resource that is vital to providing education and community engagement to combat anti-Asian hate. We look forward to the restoration of the museum so that it might continue its mission of serving the Seattle community in teaching about Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander experiences to advance racial and social equity.