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Bigger Than Her

Abby Zimet

Aftermath of attack. Screenshot

In a rough couple of weeks when six people were mindlessly massacred in Atlanta, 10 people were randomly slaughtered in Boulder, a guy got arrested for going grocery shopping with six firearms and body armor, hate crimes soared against the Asian-American community and a new report found the US has plummeted 11 points to a new low in global ranking of civil liberties - now behind Argentina, Mongolia, Chile, Croatia and all the large Western democracies - what to make of the story of a 75-year-old Chinese woman fighting back against the hate in what would be a feel-good story if it hadn't come amidst and been provoked by so much feel-really-bad stuff. The morning after six Asian women were murdered in Atlanta, Xiao Zhen Xie was waiting to cross the street at a San Francisco traffic light when 39-year-old white thug Steven Jenkins up and punched her in the face. A cancer survivor who's lived here for almost 30 years, Xie instinctively picked up a board lying nearby and whacked Jenkins in the head, reportedly shouting in her Cantonese dialect, "You bum! Why did you hit me?" The encounter, caught on video by a passing local journalist, shows a tearful, bloodied Xie clutching an ice-bag as police and medics swarm Jenkins and get him on a gurney while, many observers noted, evidently ignoring the medical needs of Xie.

In a GoFundMe account set up to cover her medical expenses, Xie's grandson John Chen said she had suffered two serious black eyes; one was badly bleeding and she cannot see out of it. He also said, "She has been severely affected mentally, physically, and emotionally... and she is afraid to step out of her home." He added thanks to all who have donated and "shown my family massive support through this very traumatic event. My heart is with all the other elderly Asians (injured) or killed in this wave of attacks." In a later tearful interview, with her daughter interpreting, Xie said she is "very traumatized, very scared" and unable to eat. This week, Chen offered a hopeful update on "our grandma," who "is now starting to feel optimistic again and is in better spirits...She said we must not submit to racism, and we must fight to the death if necessary." By then, donations had surged past the goal of $50,000 to just shy of $1 million. Chen reported Xie "stated multiple times to donate all the funds generated (back) to the Asian-American community to combat racism. She insists on making this decision, saying this issue is bigger than Her. This is my grandma, grandpa, and our family’s decision." Meanwhile, police have brought aggravated assault charges against Jenkins, who moments before had also attacked Ngoc Pham, an 83-year-old Vietnamese man; a GoFundMe page set up for Pham by a community youth center has raised over $300,000 for his face and neck injuries. Deadpan news reports say police are "trying to determine" if racism is a factor. Maybe they'll figure it out after they get home from their Proud Boys meeting. 

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. 

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