Violence in the Bayview -- and solutions

Violence against my neighbor is violence against me. Pure and simple

By Chris Jackson

OPINION The outpouring of emotion surrounding the tragic death of Tian Sheng Yu — the elderly Chinese man who was savagely beaten to death by two African Americans — resonates with me. My family has been in the Bayview for more than 40 years, and I know firsthand the pain caused by street violence.

I, too, have witnessed what seems to be going on now: the polarizing of people who use race as a shorthand to determine who is dangerous and who is not. It's a sad realization to see these sorts of divisions creep into the public discourse in San Francisco in 2010.

Let's be clear. The Asian American community has every right to feel outrage over being targeted for violent attacks. As a black elected official, I am the first to stand with them in solidarity — violence against my neighbor is violence against me. Pure and simple.

But there is more to this story, as is often the case. For as it turns out, in San Francisco, African Americans are also prime targets of violent crime, and at a disturbing rate. My neighborhood is a good example of what's going on. In District 10, which includes the southeastern part of the city, 36 percent of our residents are Asian American, and 28 percent are African-American. But if you take a look at the last 136 reported aggravated assaults, African Americans were targeted 89 times — that's more than 68 percent of the total aggravated assaults.

Pitting one racial group against another is cowardly and wholly misguided. Recent reports of community meetings where inflammatory language is used to divide us by race do nothing to solve the underlying problems. The truth is, we are all suffering and need to work together to find solutions to make our community safer.

Sup. Ross Mirkarimi's legislation to mandate foot patrols is a good start. We need a real community policing model that emphasizes on-the-ground, respectful contact between the police and community members.

But our main focus should be on preventive measures. We need to expand drop-in center hours from one afternoon a week to five days a week beginning this summer. Crime happens every day, not just once a week.

Our youth should be put to work on neighborhood beautification projects. If young people are busy working to beautify their neighborhood, they will take more pride and personal responsibility for what happens in it.

We need to get back to the basics as well, and address the poor lighting that exists in areas of high crime. As a city, this is a cosmetic fix that can reap big rewards.

These are simple solutions, and the problems unleashed by Tian Sheng Yu's death run far deeper. But every journey starts with a first step. Let's just make sure that first step takes us forward, to a place of shared concern so we can all contribute to making our community safer.

Chris Jackson is an elected member of the Community College Board and lives in the Bayview-Hunters Point neighborhood.



Mr. Jackson,
I agree with everything you wrote in the 2nd half of your article: expanding drop-in center hours, raising kids' pride in their communities, installing better lighting. I'm with you on that.

However, I disagree with what you wrote about race in the 1st half of your article. I am well aware that African-Americans are victimized. However, most violence against African-Americans is committed by fellow African-Americans. Now, I'm not saying this black-on-black crime is any more acceptable than black-on-Asian crime. But, interracial violence opens up a whole new can of worms. The Asian American community has every right to turn this into a race issue, because it is. We Asians don't have issues with blacks. We Asians have problems, however, with thugs. And when I say "thugs", I mean the little boys who beat people up for no reason.

So it is not Asians vs. blacks. It is Asians and blacks vs. the thugs. And the thing is, thugs aren't born bad people. They're raised that way.

Posted by George on May. 26, 2010 @ 8:58 pm


I don't understand what you disagree with Chris about? From my point of view, if there is violence against anyone--Asian or Black--it's very bad. Isn't that what he's saying in the article?

How could you disagree with that? Please explain.

Posted by tgarcia on May. 27, 2010 @ 6:18 am

Mr. Jackson wrote that blacks are victimized as well. Sure, I agree with that. But he omitted the crucial fact that most violence against blacks is actually committed by fellow blacks. There's a general feeling out there that black-on-black violence is the black community's own problem. While the Asian community feels sympathy for these victims, Asians must look out for Asians first and foremost. And that is why I cannot completely agree with Mr. Jackson's rhetoric. For black victims, it is an internal problem. For Asian victims, it is an external problem.

Posted by George on May. 27, 2010 @ 9:00 pm

Dear Editor:

I read with sadness the opinion of Chris Jackson regarding the death of Tian Sheng Yu. First my condolences to Tian Sheng Yu's family for their loss and to our communities as our community is left with a new challenge to address.

As a life long resident of Bayview Hunters Point, I have observed the community grow in diversity and am now concerned about the potential harm caused by a long term distance between the African American and Asian American community. First and foremost justice must be served. Everyone has the right to be safe and secure and free from assault. I expect the police and the district attorney to do their job. Secondly, I also expect the broader community to do its job and open lines of communication.

For the most part the Asian American community and the African American community while living side by side have continued to live in separate worlds due to language and cultural barriers. While the Asian American community has grown exponentially in Bayview, communication and cultural integration has not kept up with the pace.

Historically, African Americans have also kept to themselves. There may have been some isolated instances of seemingly racially charged disputes, but there have also been some wonderful friendships between neighbors in Bayview. The recent brutal incident is uncharacteristic of our community across ethnic divides. In fact such incidents increase the potential for future racial problems which no community should endure.

We have learned that isolation has not worked out, not for ourselves and not for the broader community. As diverse as Bayview is, ethnic isolation has evolved unchecked.

The time has come to open a dialogue between not only the Asian American and African American cultures, but also between the many diverse communities that live here. To create a greater sense of harmony, establish mutual respect, I hope that we can work together to improve community relations and to better understand our diverse community.

Al Norman

Posted by Al Norman on Jun. 02, 2010 @ 11:25 am

Clarification on subject title-

Posted by Al Norman on Jun. 02, 2010 @ 11:34 am