More than a year after a confrontation with an enraged man on an uptown A train, Esther Lee says it changed her.
“I’m very hyper-aware when I walk down the streets now” Lee said. “When I enter a subway car, my eyes are constantly roaming. I’m very hyper-aware of who the people are sitting next to me."
NY1 caught up with Lee earlier this year, reporting on her frustrations with the NYPD’s handling of what she believes was clearly a hate crime, though investigators didn’t see it that way.
What You Need To Know
- Esther Lee says she is more aware of her surroundings more than a year after a confrontation with an enraged man on an uptown A train
- Advocates also say that efforts to pressure the city and state to direct more resources to combat anti-Asian violence have paid off, with more funding for resources
- Joo Han, of the Asian American Federation, says the funding is helping the organization’s Hope Against Hate campaign, which offers safety trainings, safe zones and victim support services, all of which are still in great demand
Lee said the man, now identified as Michael Aldridge, called her a “carrier," which she interpreted as a racist trope connecting her Asian ethnicity to the spread of COVID-19. After taking her story to the media, police investigated the indicent as a hate crime at a time when a rash of anti-Asian attacks kept New Yorkers on edge.
“There are more incidents like mine, that take place every single day, over incidents of great tragedy, and I think that by speaking out about it and putting a giant spotlight on it, it was improtant for the NYPD to take notice” Lee said.
Earlier this year, Mayor Eric Adams directed staff changes within the NYPD’s Hate Crime Task Force. Advocates also say that efforts to pressure the city and state to direct more resources to combat anti-Asian violence have paid off.
“The city bumped up their investment in AAPI community support initiative to five million [dollars]. They’ve maintained funding on a path forward initiative also addressing hate violence across the city” said Joo Han, deputy director of the Asian American Federation.
The funding will help the organization’s Hope Against Hate campaign, which offers safety trainings, safe zones and victim support services, all of which are still in great demand.
“It is not the hot topic, but trust you me, the incidents are happening weekly," Han said. "We’re still hearing about them [and] our 30-plus groups working on them are hearing of assaults on a weekly basis."
According to the Manhattan District Attorney's office, their hate crimes docket remains at an all-time high. At the end of November, there were 46 open anti-Asian hate crimes cases in the borough under investigation.
That why Lee says she is glad she spoke up, despite the fact that ultimately, Aldridge wasn’t charged with a hate crime. He is currently being prosecuted for menacing and harassment, but talking about it gives Lee an opportunity to spread a simple message.
“We’re all looking for the same thing, which is respect” Lee said.