|Hate Turns Its Ugly Head to Asians|
By Scott Winokur
January 4, 2000
©2000 San Francisco Examiner
On July 26, Post Street resident Lance T. Goerig called the San Francisco offices of U.S. Civil Rights Commissioner Yvonne Lee and Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-S.F. He threatened to slit both women's throats.
Goerig, 48, had been angered by a published letter to The Examiner from Lee, an Asian American, in which she expressed her concern over "the rise in racial intolerance in the Bay Area."
According to a person familiar with the events of July 26, Goerig's fury boiled over when he found himself talking to women in the offices of both Lee and Pelosi.
"He is a misogynist," said the source, who asked not to be identified. "It's his biggest nightmare to have to pick up the phone and call all these women."
Goerig has been pretty well taken care of by agents of the Federal Protective Service and the U.S. Attorney's office, so it's unlikely he'll be dialing up anyone else in the near future - unless it's to make a collect call under the watchful eyes of a prison guard.
He pleaded guilty Dec. 1 to three counts of threatening public officials. When he's sentenced Feb. 29, he'll be facing not only up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, but unspecified penalties under a "hate crime motivation enhancement" in the federal system because, the government said, Lee was singled out for her ethnicity and both women for their gender.
But if Lance Goerig isn't going to be bothering anyone again soon, there are others who will be. As Commissioner Lee stated, mindless hatred is common today and people of Asian origin are feeling the brunt of it.
Hate crimes against Asian Americans are up about 20 percent in recent years, according to the National Asian Pacific American Legal Consortium. In 1999 alone, three Asian Americans were shot to death by racist gunmen.
Victor Hwang of San Francisco's Asian Law Caucus collects anti-Asian material the way other people collect baseball cards. He sent me a few samples.
One rails against the "hordes of incoming Asians . . . taking over our West." Another curses "all these faces of Communist China on the Streets of S.F."
A third suggests that white people should "count how many live on your block . . . how many own the houses on your block . . . how many . . . don't even speak our language.
"Do something today for us white people . . . Put your boot where it counts."
That writer must have meant jackboot, the kind Hitler's minions wore in the 1930s as they were imposing order on the chaos of Weimar Germany by trampling on the rights and lives of non-Aryans.
It could happen here, too, if the Lance Goerigs of the world get their way. Everything we value about the American political system is as fragile as . . . China.
"Lance Goerig is the tip of the iceberg," Hwang said. "In Fremont, they're having a whole host of problems. There's probably five hate messages a day in Fremont. They're posted and sent out to Asians. They're not threats, they're not crimes, they're people saying there are too many Asians."
According to Cecilia Chang, executive director of Fremont's Citizens for Better Community, the city's Asian American population has doubled, to about 30,000, in the last 10 years.
Chang doesn't believe the situation in Fremont is unusually bad, but the record shows otherwise. Incidents targeting Indian Americans and others of Asian extraction have occurred repeatedly, many of them ugly Internet-assisted outbursts similar to Atlanta Braves' pitcher John Rocker's recent tirade in Sports Illustrated magazine against foreign-born New Yorkers.
Hwang praised the federal authorities for their actions in the Goerig case, but said they're hamstrung by outdated law that makes it tough to nail a dangerous bigot.
"The laws were drafted back in the days of voting-rights campaigns in the South and most revolve around protecting government officials who went down there to enforce the voting rights of African Americans," he said.
As written, the federal hate crime laws apply only when it can be shown that the perpetrator was interfering with the victim's activity as a public official.
"It's not enough to kill a federal employee on the basis of their race," Hwang said.
Early in 1999, the Senate blocked efforts to expand federal hate crime law under the proposed Hates Crimes Prevention Act, which would have dropped the requirement that the victim be engaged in a "federally protected activity." Hwang's Asian Law Caucus and other groups say it's now up to the states to do the job Washington failed to do.
Lance Goerig will be out before long. Since the fires of hatred rarely are extinguished behind bars, you have to wonder if we're addressing the problem he embodies. If you're Asian, you also have to wonder if America, the land of opportunity, isn't also the land of bias and brutality.Quote this article on your site