Have you spent any time puzzling over who, exactly, commits hate crimes against Asians? I have. I mean, in the US we have strong historical reasons for hate between blacks and whites, and between whites and Native Americans, and the mass arrival of Hispanics has turned some communities upside down. So I can at least imagine a sane person lashing out over those conflicts. But who hates Asians?
Tommy Lau, a Chinese-American bus driver in New York City, was walking last month during his lunch break in Brooklyn when he noticed a man harassing an older Asian couple.
Mr. Lau, 63, stepped in front of the man to ask what he was doing. The man, Donovan Lawson, spat at Mr. Lau and punched him in the face, calling him an anti-Chinese slur, prosecutors said. Mr. Lawson, who is Black, was arrested and charged with a hate crime.
It was the 33rd arrest for Mr. Lawson, 26, who is homeless and mentally ill, the authorities said. Four times, officers had been called to assist him because he appeared to be in the grip of a mental breakdown, and he was being monitored for treatment in a mental health program run by the Police Department.
He is not unique. Many of the people charged recently with anti-Asian attacks in New York City have also had a history of mental health episodes, multiple arrests and homelessness, complicating the city’s search for an effective response. . . .
For instance, Mr. Lawson was one of at least seven people arrested after attacks on Asian city residents in the last two weeks of March, ending with a horrifying attack on a Filipino woman, who was kicked repeatedly in broad daylight in Manhattan by a man the police say was homeless and on parole after serving a prison sentence for killing his mother.
Of the seven people arrested, five had prior encounters with the police during which they were considered “emotionally disturbed,” police parlance for someone thought to be in need of psychiatric help. Investigators believed the remaining two also had signs of mental illness.
Just as with mass shootings, anti-Asian violence happens at the intersection of politics with mental illness. There may be a virus of anti-Asian memes in the air, for which Trump is partly to blame, but sane people fight it off. Only the very confused and angry are susceptible.
I think mental illness is our biggest problem, and here is just another case of the chaos our inability to care for the mentally ill brings.