Potri Ranka Manis stood at Diversity Plaza in Jackson Heights on Tuesday evening surrounded by community members. Dressed in scrubs and a pair of sunglasses hiding a bruise, the Filipina registered nurse recounted her tragic story of an encounter with a hateful couple.
Manis has been doing her part to help stop the spread of COVID-19 through small action, such as distributing face masks on the subway system. While doing so on Aug. 10, as she rode home on the E train at 42 Street and 8th Avenue in Manhattan, she was assaulted after offering a face covering to an unmasked couple with a child.
“The person that I gave the mask to, took the mask from me, threw it away and said, ‘Mind your own business, Chink! Go back to your dirty country.’ That is so sad, pathetic, and a very bad sign on what is going on in our society,” Manis said.
Manis was visibly hurt, not just physically but emotionally, that an act of kindness transformed into an act of hatred. Yet she is no stranger to combatting anti-Asian violence; she has previously spoken at rallies denouncing such vile actions.
“I stand here not for myself, but for those who’ve been assaulted,” Manis explained. “Anti-Asian sentiment has become a parallel virus to COVID-19. It is the virus that divides us people of color. We cannot allow this to continue. The attack that I had undergone in the subway is more than just a personal attack. It’s actually an attack on public health.”
With the support of the National Alliance for Filipino Concerns (NAFCON), who aided in organizing the speak out, along with neighbors and concerned citizens who arrived to encourage Manis to recount the biased abuse, the frontline worker hopes her story can highlight the unfortunate truth about anti-Asian violence in New York.
She also hopes it will inspire other victims who have yet to come forward with their experiences to do so.
“Nearly a third of the nurses who’ve died of coronavirus in the U.S. are Filipino, even though Filipino nurses make up just 4% of the nursing population nationwide. They are the essential worker at the frontline of the battle against the pandemic, who face the immediate brunt of COVID-19 and are at risk of encountering anti-Asian violence,” said May Madarang from the NAFCON.
Still those listening are demanding further actions be taken to prevent attacks like these from occurring as media coverage wanes.
Outraged, longtime friend and New York State Nurses Association Director of Cultural Affairs Minerva Solla fumed over the incident, and called for vulnerable AAPI community protections. Solla described Manis’ dedication to showcasing her culture through events such as the Red Carpet for Social Justice, and her efforts to empower others to stand up for their rights.
“We can’t believe this,” Solla said in audible shock and anger. “This sister gives everything she has whenever she is with people. I say to whoever touched Potri, you treat people as you want to be treated. You put your hands on somebody because you don’t like that person’s look, the color or the orientation? We are all upset, we have to do more. That person hates, and they need help because human beings don’t go attacking other human beings just for the f***ing hell of it.”
Assembly Member Jessica González-Rojas embraced Manis and called for greater community education and programs in hopes of ending the seemingly endless onslaught of biased anti-Asian hate crimes.
“I want to share my sincere sadness and anger. There is no place for hate in Queens. There is no place for hate in New York City. There is no place for hate in New York State. Nobody deserves this treatment, but it is particularly egregious when someone, a nurse, who is a frontline worker, who is handing out masks is attacked for what she looks like and who she is,” González-Rojas said.
Also attending the event were representatives from Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, New York City Council Member Daniel Dromm, and the Mayor’s office, who all helped distribute face masks, hand sanitizer, and gloves to those in attendance in Manis’ honor.