UC Berkeley alumni launch GoFundMe page for Asian American self-defense

Photo of pepper spray device
Knivesdeal/Creative Commons
UC Berkeley alumni launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to provide Asian Americans, especially the elderly, with a cheap and reliable tool of self-defense: pepper spray. This follows recent acts of anti-Asian violence.

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In the wake of an increase in nationwide anti-Asian attacks, UC Berkeley alumni launched a GoFundMe fundraiser to provide Asian Americans, especially the elderly, with pepper spray for self-defense. 

Campaign organizers Tsz Chun Chung, Bruce Lou and Tzulun Mai aim to raise $1,000 to purchase pepper sprays, according to the GoFundMe page. They plan to hand 1,000 pepper sprays out for free in San Francisco’s Chinatown, as well as in other Bay Area Asian communities.

We want to equip them with a cheap, reliable, and non-lethal self-defense weapon that will give them a chance to fend off would-be attackers,” the GoFundMe description reads. 

Michael Chang, lecturer in UC Berkeley’s department of ethnic studies, said the current state of anti-Asian violence comes from a larger historical cycle of stereotypes and the exclusion of Asian Americans. The recent anti-Asian violence also stems from historically prevailing issues, such as the perpetual foreigner and model minority stereotypes, which further alienate Asian Americans. 

According to Chang, this rhetoric has been exacerbated through politicized language around the COVID-19 pandemic as well as through a preexisting gap in education around diversity, equity and inclusivity.

“I think (the GoFundMe) is a very strong, symbolic gesture,” Chang said. “It has to be coupled and grounded within this broader root cause issue of opening up a space for conversation.” 

Harvey Dong, a UC Berkeley lecturer within the department of Asian American and Asian diaspora studies, also reiterated the root cause of the attacks as embedded in the political statements tying Asian Americans to the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While he recognized the importance of raising awareness for this issue, Dong noted that pepper spray may not be the best solution due to its lack of usability for elderly individuals and the posed risk of hurting themselves or innocent bystanders. 

Both Dong and Karen Korematsu, founder and executive director of the Fred T. Korematsu Institute of San Francisco, emphasized the anti-Asian violence as being part of a larger social and medical issue pertaining to mental health, especially as the violence relates to aggressors and their motives. 

Korematsu noted the importance of educating the general public on anti-Asian rhetoric while simultaneously fighting it. 

“People are afraid of what they don’t know,” Korematsu said. “70% of misinformation across this country is retweeted … We need to question these types of statements, especially (those of) hate and bias.”

According to Korematsu, the Fred T. Korematsu Institute primarily focuses on promoting K-12 education initiatives. Through encouraging the establishment of ethnic studies as a curriculum for schools nationwide, Korematsu said she and her team aim to celebrate individual differences and foster a greater sense of unity.

Korematsu also stressed the importance of working together across communities to create change against targeted violence toward any and all racial groups.

“We can’t just make this a moment. We have to keep up the momentum and make this a movement that is on everybody’s radar,” Korematsu said. “We’re all in this together, and an attack on Asian Americans is an attack on all of us.”

Contact Imani Salazar-Nahle at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @imanisn_DC.