An elderly Asian woman in San Francisco defended herself after she was attacked by a white man on Wednesday, according to KPIX 5, amid a nationwide spike in attacks on Asian immigrants and Asian Americans.  

Video of the incident’s aftermath shocked those who saw it on social media, and while many news outlets trumpeted it as a story of empowerment after the victim defended herself, her family said it was a harrowing, terrifying experience.

Xiao Zhen Xie, a 76-year-old woman, was standing at a crosswalk between Market St. and Charles J. Brenham Place on Wednesday morning when a 39-year-old white man ran up to her and punched her in the face. Police have arrested him and charged him with aggravated assault but refused to release his name. 

After being punched by the man, Xie picked up a stick and defended herself, hitting the assailant multiple times before the police arrived and arrested him. Video from the incident shows that he was injured so badly that they had to take him away on a stretcher. 

As they wheel him away, she yells, “You bum, why did you hit me?” 

“This bum, he hit me. He hit me, this bum,“ she said to others in the area. 

The story was initially reported by outlets as a positive instance of Asian Americans fighting back until Xie and her family spoke out to KPIX 5 and explained how traumatic the experience was for the 75-year-old who has lived in the city for 26 years. 

“As you can see she is extremely terrified. She’s terrified to even step out,” Xie’s grandson John Chen told KPIX 5.

“Very traumatized, very scared and this eye is still bleeding. The right eye still cannot see anything and still bleeding and we have something to absorb the bleeding,” her daughter Dong-Mei Li translated for her and said.

Li added that her mother was unable to eat and emotionally scarred by the attack. 

“I am amazed by her bravery. She was the one that defended herself from this unprovoked attack. But she is now suffering two serious black eyes and one that is bleeding unstoppably,” Chen wrote on a GoFundMe page created to help cover her medical bills.

“Her wrist has also swelled up. She has been severely affected mentally, physically and emotionally. She also stated that she is afraid to step out of her home from now on. This traumatic event has left her with PTSD,” he added.

Chen noted that she is a cancer survivor and has had diabetes for more than 10 years. The fundraiser has brought in more than $129,000 so far.

“We want to thank everyone that is donating and that has shown my family massive support through this very traumatic event. My heart is with all the other elderly Asians that has also been seriously injured or killed in this wave of attacks towards the Asian community,” Chen added. 

The man who attacked Xie is also being investigated as a suspect in an attack on another 83-year-old Asian man nearby right before, according to USA Today. 

USA Today reported that the two attacks were proceeded by yet another attack on an elderly Asian man that took place inside a laundromat last month. KPIX 5 reported on multiple assaults this year targeting people of Asian descent, including one attack that led to the death of a 94-year-old in February and another where a 75-year-old was killed just last week. 

On Monday, a Georgia man killed eight people, six of whom were Asian, in three separate shootings at massage parlors in the Atlanta area, as Blavity previously reported

NBC News said there was a 150% increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans in 2020, and many leaders within the community attribute the wave of attacks to the relentless attempts by Republicans and conservative outlets tying the coronavirus pandemic to Asians in the country. 

Since COVID-19 emerged last March, former President Donald Trump has repeatedly referred to it as the “China Virus” or the “Kung Flu.” In an interview on Fox News on Monday that took place right before the Atlanta shootings, Trump said “China Virus” again, according to Newsweek. 

The insensitive terms, considered slurs by Asian Americans, have filtered down through conservative media and Republican lawmakers, many of whom now exclusively call COVID-19 the “China Virus,” despite repeated complaints that it was stoking hatred.

BuzzFeed News reported on Tuesday that the sheriff in charge of investigating the shootings in Atlanta, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Capt. Jay Baker had previously printed shirts with the words “Covid 19 IMPORTED VIRUS FROM CHY-NA” in the style of the Corona beer label. 

“We are horrified and continue to be concerned for the safety of our community members across the country as violence toward Asian Americans has escalated. We cannot ignore the fact that anti-Asian hate and violence disproportionately impacts women. More than 68 percent of reported incidents of anti-Asian harassment and violence have been from women,” Sung Yeon Choimorrow, executive director of The National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said in a statement on Twitter. 

“Even before the pandemic and the racist scapegoating that came in its wake, AAPI women routinely experienced racialized misogyny. Now, our community, particularly women, elders, and workers with low-wage jobs, are bearing the brunt of continued vilification,” she added. 

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