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Asian American woman attacked on NYC subway says she doesn’t think it was a hate crime

While the incident is being investigated as a hate crime, Sue Young, the victim, does not believe the attack was racially motivated, and cautioned against carceral solutions.
A woman waits to board an "F" train in New York City on Aug. 3, 2023.
A woman waits to board an F train in New York City on Thursday. Gary Hershorn / Getty Images

New York City police are searching for an unidentified young woman who was recorded last week physically assaulting an Asian woman and harassing her family, as well as a bystander who videotaped the confrontation. 

A video recorded by Joanna Lin of New York, the bystander, and uploaded to social media over the weekend shows the young woman, along with two other unidentified females, berating another woman and her family on an F train in Manhattan last Thursday, lunging at them and the passengers who tried to defuse the situation. One of the young women pulled the victim by her hair and made an “anti-ethnic remark,” police said in a statement. Although three people appear in the video, police have said they are looking for only one suspect.

The NYPD has said the incident is being investigated as a hate crime. The now-viral video that was posted to X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has prompted anger and fear across the Asian American community. 

The victim, who’s come forward as Sue Young, a 51-year-old tourist from Nevada, said she and her family were seated in a relatively empty car before she heard loud laughter that appeared to be directed at them. 

“When I looked up from my phone, I looked at them. And that’s when they started pointing and laughing even louder at us,” Young told NBC News. “I started laughing, doing exactly what they were doing. And then their demeanor changed and it became angry.”

Young said that the three young women began cursing, at one point saying things like “go back to where you came from.” 

Young added that at another point, one of them came “nose to nose” and got in a “tussle” with her on the subway bench, pulling her hair. 

When bystanders tried to interfere, the group responded angrily, Young said. Lin, who watched the altercation escalate, said she instinctively began recording to ensure that “if anything happened, there would be evidence.” 

“These things happen all the time, and because it’s not reported or no evidence, it becomes hearsay,” Lin said. 

One of the young women is seen in the video trying to block Lin from recording them before returning to her seat. Later in the video, the suspect police are searching for is seen approaching Lin again before allegedly attacking her. 

“I’ve also had self-defense training, so I know to cover parts of my head that are vital. So I just took the blow and immediately after that, I was like, ‘OK, this is awful, it could get even worse,’” Lin said. “So I called the cops right after the first hit.”

Lin said she was struck two more times before rolling on the floor to the side of the subway car and eventually leaving the train. 

Though the NYPD’s Hate Crimes Task Force is investigating the incident, both Young and Lin said they do not believe that the incident was a hate crime. Young said she believes that stereotypes about Asians being less confrontational and more passive likely led the young women, who are Black, to see them as easy targets, but she does not believe that they were initially motivated by racial animus. 

“These are very young girls. Somebody or something or some circumstance has made a big impression on them — whether it’s historical pressure, societal pressure, social pressure,” Young said. “Using law enforcement to curtail this, I’m not sure if that’s going to fix the problem. It just seems like it’s a more underlying issue that we, as a society and as a community, need to hold everybody accountable, not just law enforcement.” 

Young said that her family has been dismayed that the video has sparked anger and resentment toward the individuals and the Black community. And her husband, Ken Young, who was also on the subway with their twin daughters, emphasized that their family isn’t angry and “certainly isn’t trying to even the score against Black people.” 

“The girls need to understand that there’s accountability. There are consequences, but how do we provide productive consequences? Not something that’s just filled with just hate and anger,” Sue Young said.