SAN FRANCISCO, Calif. — The loss caused by COVID-19 cuts deeply everywhere you look, but for one community, it’s the hatred during the pandemic that’s brought the most hurt.
"This hits me very close to my heart," said Benny Luo, who founded NextShark.com, a website dedicated to issues facing the Asian American community.
Through his reporting, he’s seen violence and discrimination toward people of Asian descent increase greatly since the pandemic began.
"Next Shark has published probably over 750 stories related to COVID-19," Luo said. "Around half of those reports, which is around like 375, are related to discrimination and racism and harassment of Asian individuals. Around 125 are related to Asian businesses, restaurants, even Buddhist temples being vandalized or burglarized."
San Francisco and surrounding cities have seen a spike in these graphic attacks. The Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce shared a video of a 91-year-old Asian American man being slammed to the ground.
Three days before, an 84-year-old Thai-American was shoved while walking outside. He later died from the injuries.
"Around 30%, I'd say, were attacks on the elderly," Luo said.
The countless horrifying encounters make Luo worry for his own family every day.
"I have a 95-year-old grandmother that currently lives in the same San Francisco Bay Area and specifically in Chinatown. I mean, it's too close to home for me," said Luo.
Especially because caring for their most vulnerable is a staple in many Asian cultures.
"Anybody that is Asian, or East Asian descent, you’ll know how valuable and how much you have respect for the elderly, and so it's a tough situation all around," Luo said.
Luo said these crimes are that much more devastating because many of these incidents aren’t ever reported.
"Especially the older generation — we don't really want to cause trouble and make noise," Luo said. "I can tell you this in many, many times, dozens of times, when we are looking into a story and a lot of people are telling us that we have to report on it. You know, there's videos of it being shared online, but once we kind of get to the source, they don't really want to go public with their story."
But that’s something Luo wants to change. He wants to bring more representation to issues facing the Asian American community center stage, and the time to accomplish that is now.
"The tide is shifting, especially with the new generation. We're definitely a lot more vocal," Luo said. "We just have to continue sharing and sharing these stories, making noise and activating our local leaders, whether it's community leaders, politicians to take action, to really spread the word that this is not OK."
He and his team hope with each story they bring to light, more people will see that this side effect of COVID-19 can be just as damaging as the virus itself.