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N.Y. state senator posts racist voicemail he got to draw attention to anti-Asian hate

The lawmaker called it “another day at the office” amid a rise in anti-Asian hate crimes and incidents.
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New York state Sen. John Liu tweeted a video Monday in which he shared a racist voicemail he received, saying he hopes to draw attention to increased anti-Asian hate in New York City and across the country. 

In the video, an apparent constituent can be heard hurling racist anti-Asian slurs at Liu, saying that Liu has lost the person's vote and telling him to “go back to … China.” 

“Another day at the office,” an exasperated Liu says in the video. 

Liu, who is Taiwanese American, said in an interview with NBC Asian America on Tuesday that it wasn’t the first racist message he has received, and thinks it likely won’t be the last. He said he believed it was important to call out the voicemail because it was “particularly heinous.”

“When people call out racism and bigotry, they don’t eliminate all future incidents, but I do believe that not letting these things slide has the effect of reducing the possibility and frequency of bigotry going forward,” he said. 

Sen. John Liu, D-Queens, talks to Senate members at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., in 2019.
Sen. John Liu, D-Queens, talks to Senate members at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y., in 2019.Hans Pennink / AP file

Throughout his decadeslong career in New York politics, Liu, a Democrat, has broken barriers representing the Asian American community. In 2002, he became the first Asian American elected to the New York City Council, and in 2009, he became the first Asian American elected to citywide office when he became comptroller. About a decade later, he and state Sen. Kevin Thomas became the first Asian Americans elected to the New York state Senate. 

“Throughout my years of public service, I’ve faced my share of bigotry,” Liu said. 

The state senator, who represents the 11th district in Queens, received a flood of responses from other prominent New York politicians after posting about the incident on Twitter. Gov. Kathy Hochul called it “hateful, offensive language” that is “unacceptable.”

“I’m so sorry you had to experience this,” Hochul wrote on Twitter. 

“So sorry John that you, your staff, and so many New Yorkers have had to experience such hate,” New York City Comptroller Brad Lander tweeted . “As we committed together at the dragon boat festival this weekend — a beautiful celebration of Chinese culture in NYC — we will work ceaselessly for a city that’s safe for all.”

In December, the New York City Police Department reported that incidents targeting people of Asian descent had at the time risen 361 percent since 2020. New York City has been marred by anti-Asian hate crimes since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, so much so that Assembly member Ron Kim, who also represents Queens, called on Hochul in March to declare a state of emergency on the subject. 

Liu said holding attackers and perpetrators accountable, as well as shoring up social services for the Asian American community and requiring curriculum focused on teaching about the Asian American experience and the history of the community in schools, are just some of the steps he believes could improve the status quo. 

“There’s not one thing that needs to be done, there are a range,” he said.