Photo of Wen Hui Ruan

Why Wen Hui Ruan was attacked and why neighbors didn’t help after

May 22, 2014 - New York / Race

Locals are angry that Wen Hui Ruan was brutally assaulted and died from his attack from 20-year old Jamie Pugh. Now after a memorial and some time to reflect, the community is outraged that no one acted sooner to get him help. Ruan laid bloodied for nearly four minutes as strangers walked by his crumpled body before a stranger noticed him, kneeled down and screamed for help. Steve Cannon, founder of Gathering of Tribes cultural organization has been in the East Village for over 20 years, was infuriated at the inaction of his neighbors:

“By the time we got to the ramp he was coughing up blood,” Cannon recalled. He could barely contain his outrage as he recounted how a local woman, child in tow, screamed for assistance outside Cannon’s building, frantically ringing door bells, in vain. No one in his building came to her aid, or helped detectives in their follow-up investigation the next day. “These mother f——- are so crazy they don’t know that s— can happen to them, too.”

Longtime advocate for crime victims, tenants’ rights and leader of the Chinatown Freemasons, Karlin Chan believed the lack of assistance Ruan received reminded him of the Kitty Genovese murder that happened 50 years ago in March. That murder was infamous because 38 bystanders watched as Genovese was stabbed and killed.

“This goes back to the Genovese murder,” Chan said. “This is a classic example. Maybe people didn’t want to get involved or were afraid, but at least you can go down the block and make an anonymous call to 911.”

The lack of assistance reminded Chan of the Genovese Syndrome, also known as the bystander effect.

Asians Pegged As Easy Targets From Early On

Chan believes that the viciousness of the attack pointed to a racial motivation.

I agree that the attack had a racial component to it, but my sense is the ferocity of the attack shouldn’t be singled out as the primary racial factor. I believe Pugh’s decision to go after Ruan, though maybe not entirely conscious, was steeped in Asian stereotypes. Stereotypes that label all Asians as easy targets from early on. Just as Winston Moseley went after Genovese and other women because “they were easier and didn’t fight back”, I believe a similar presumption may have been made prior to Ruan’s death.

Asian children are overwhelmingly bullied more than any other race. We’re not talking just by a small percentage, but by nearly 20% higher than other ethnicities according to 2011 study by the U.S. Justice and Education Department. More than half of Asian-Americans, between the ages of 12-18, reported being bullied in the classroom.

54% of Asian-American teens reported being bullied in the classroom. 31.3% of White teens reported being bullied in the classroom. 38.4% of Black teens reported experiencing bullying 34.3% of Hispanic teens have to contend with this type of harassment in the classroom.

The safe assumption is that bullying begins to slow as bullies get older, presumably mature, and some go off to college. Still, those preconceived notions that made them choose to target Asians  just don’t dissipate into the ether as one turns 22 or walks onto a campus. For those judgments and thoughts that stick, they continue to color our perception and reality; affecting not only our decisions, but influencing other’s too.

If you’d like to make a donation to help support Ruan’s family, go here.

› tags: Alphabet City / Asian / Asian American / bullying / crime / East Village / Karlin Chan / Kitty Genovese / New York City / Racism / Steve Cannon / Wen Hui Ruan /

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