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Attack on Seattle's Wing Luke Museum was abhorrent, but 'not a surprise'
By Emil Moffatt,
It’s impossible to talk about Seattle’s Chinatown-International District without mentioning Ron Chew. The journalist and community organizer has been a community leader in the neighborhood for decades. He’s best known as the former director of the Wing Luke Asian Museum, helping grow it from a cornerstone neighborhood entity into a nationally-recognized one-of-its-kind jewel that attracts patrons from around the world.
Chew also served as executive director of the International Community Health Services before retiring.
Chew remains a mentor to many people across the city, including for the Wing Luke Asian Museum. We wanted to sit down with him in the C-ID, as the neighborhood reels from the hate crime at the museum earlier this month.
Click "listen" above to hear the full interview and read highlights below.
On his reaction to the vandalism at the museum, which has been classified as a hate crime.
It wasn't a surprise to me, situations involving threats, violence, you know, anti-Asian sentiment, have been part of this neighborhood for certainly, as long as I can remember. I was angry: I was concerned about the staff at the museum.
On the police response time, which reportedly took 45 minutes.
There's a lot of work that needs to happen on that front. During the pandemic we saw here in Chinatown-International District, and throughout Seattle, kind of this troubling rise of anti-Asian incidents. I know some of the businesses down here were targeted; elderly seniors who lived in neighborhoods and immigrants were robbed and attacked, and often called certain names. So there's an undercurrent of something that's pretty ugly.
An irony that I thought about: the perpetrator of the hate crime was somebody who, you know, was lingering in the alley. And what he did was he destroyed a bunch of windows. There's an exhibit that was in the alley about Donnie Chin, a medic in the neighborhood who, unfortunately was killed in the crossfire between two rival gangs back in 2015. Donnie Chin was somebody who dealt with a lot of the folks, much like the perpetrator. I found it ironic that Donnie was not here, somebody we consider the guardian of the neighborhood, because he probably would have talked the guy out of doing what he did. We've lost that sense of feeling that, you know, we have protection. And so that's troubling. I think we need to find ways to rebound from that sense of malaise that this neighborhood is really feeling.
On the investments that should be made in the neighborhood.
A lot of the buildings were built over a century ago. And, you know, they're inadequate. Resources to sustain them...social service agencies, they struggle to bring the resources to the table to support the immigrant and refugee families and elderly that live down here. In Little Saigon, from community based organizations that want to create a community center, new housing, new small businesses, so those enterprises need to be supported as well. Better lighting, more clean up, more police presence, dealing with getting folks off the street who need housing.
On how to combat anti-Asian American violence.
I think resources can be provided toward improving what we teach in the schools, teaching tolerance, teaching also that, you know, a lot of the building of this city was done through Asian laborers. I think a lot of people don't realize we have a long, long presence here.
On what is giving him hope.
I'm now a senior. I mentor younger folks who are part of another generation. They're moving down here to live; there's a friend who's starting an Asian American bookstore down the street. He's Khmer American. A lot of younger folks want to rebirth this neighborhood and haven't given up on it. I'm hopeful. I think that there's a lot of work ahead, but there are folks who are interested in and willing to put in the labor to make it happen.