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Xiao Zhen Xie, the Asian woman who made headlines last week when she fought off her attacker on a San Francisco street corner, is recovering from the incident and now wants to give nearly $1 million in GoFundMe donations to fight racism.
The 75-year-old grandmother was attacked on Market Street, unprovoked, in broad daylight on March 18 by a 39-year-old man—he punched her in the eye and left her bruised and bleeding, but she picked up a stick nearby and fought back. A viral video showed the man bloody and on a stretcher, though San Francisco police later said he was being treated for an unrelated medical condition.
The police announced they’d arrested Steven Jenkins in connection with the attack on Xiao Zhen Xie as well as an attack against 83-year-old Ngoc Pham, a Vietnamese man, earlier the same morning. Jenkins was denied bail last week. His attorney, public defender Eric McBurney, told a court last week that Jenkins was homeless and may be struggling with mental health issues.
After the attack, Xiao Zhen Xie’s family set up a GoFundMe to help cover the cancer survivor’s medical expenses and bills. As of Wednesday morning, the drive had raised more than $935,000.
“When we visited our grandma yesterday and today, her overall mental and physical health has improved,” her grandson John Chen wrote in an update on the GoFundMe page Tuesday. “Her eye is no longer swelled to the point of not being able to open it. She is now starting to feel optimistic again and is in better spirits.”
Chen also announced that his grandmother wanted to give the money away to anti-racism efforts, given the sharp increase in racial harassment of Asian-Americans since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“She said we must not [submit] to racism and we must fight to the death if necessary,” he wrote. “She also stated multiple times to donate all the funds generated in this GoFundMe back to the Asian American community to combat racism. She insists on making this decision, saying this issue is bigger than her.”
There have been nearly 3,800 “hate incidents” of anti-Asian harassment or assault reported since March 2020, according to the group Stop AAPI Hate. The increase in racial abuse against Asian Americans has coincided with rhetoric blaming China for the COVID-19 pandemic; a study released last week said that following former President Donald Trump calling COVID-19 “the Chinese virus” in a tweet last year, use of the hashtag sharply increased along with the general use of anti-Asian hashtags.
Observers widely believe anti-Asian hate was an element of the murder spree in the Atlanta area last week where eight people were shot and killed in spa businesses six of those who died were women of Asian descent. Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old from Woodstock, Georgia, was arrested for the murders, and police have said that he admitted being the shooter.
More than 31,000 people had donated to the GoFundMe as of Wednesday morning. Chen did not say what organizations would receive the money, but said it was the decision of his grandmother and their family.
“We hope everyone can understand our decision,” he wrote.