A Californian artist whose illustration of a slain Thai man is being used to honor his memory said it’s time to speak up against anti-Asian racism.
After Jonathan D. Chang’s portrait of Vicha Ratanapakdee, 84, became a symbol on social media in recent days, the designer said he was among those infuriated by the apparent act of extreme random violence caught on tape a week ago.
“I felt really disgusted, angry and sad when I saw that video,” Chang told Coconuts Bangkok this morning. “As you know Asians really hold our elders to the highest regard. To see someone attack an 84-year-old grandpa like that really shocked me.”
Vicha’s death at the hands of an unprovoked teen attacker in San Francisco, where he had moved to help care for his grandkids, has rallied people frustrated by a surge of violence against Asians since they became scapegoats for the COVID-19 pandemic.
Chang, who was born in Taiwan and came to the United States as a toddler, sketched up Vicha’s portrait and posted it to Instagram on Tuesday with the caption, “My condolences to the family of Vicha Ratanapakdee. I hope justice will be served.”
Vicha, who spelled his name Vichar on social media, died of his injuries on Saturday.
Since Chang posted his sketch, which has been liked by thousands, people have made it their profile photo to call attention to alarming violence against Asians and Asian Americans.
There were more than 1,800 racist incidents against Asian Americans in an eight-week period ending in May of last year, according to the United Nations.
Last month at the end of his first week in office, U.S. President Joseph Biden signed an executive order for government agencies to combat the rise in hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
“Today, I’m directing federal agencies to combat the resurgence of xenophobia, particularly against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, that we’ve seen skyrocket during this pandemic. This is unacceptable and it’s un-American,” Biden said at the White House.
Chang, who lives in Los Angeles and works as a designer and artist, has used his talents for the cause before.
He told Coconuts Bangkok that he previously designed rally posters for #TheyCantBurnUsAll, a campaign that raised awareness last year about anti-Asian hate crimes after an 89-year-old woman in New York was slapped in the face and set on fire.
“Outside of Asian-centric social media circles, the mainstream media never picked up the story,” Chang said. “And many prominent Asian Americans with platforms did not say a single thing about it.”
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Chang, a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, also contributed to black-and-yellow T-shirts designed as part of a campaign called Proud AF to Be Asian.
A crowdfunding campaign to raise money for Vicha’s funeral has received US$35,000.
Messages sent to Vicha’s son-in-law and daughter had not been returned by publication time.
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