AUSTIN (KXAN) — When a man shot and killed eight people in an anti-Asian attack in Georgia last year, Chris Gomez was shaken up.
“The first thing I thought of was my older Asian mother,” he said. “She could be susceptible to hate crime.”
The murders were the most shocking example of a disturbing trend amid the COVID-19 pandemic – a spike in hate crimes against the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community in the U.S.
Fortunately, Gomez’ mother has not been a victim. Instead, she’s playing a part in a project raising awareness of hate crime.
You can find her face on the can of a new beer, Eastern Philosophy, created by Austin Beerworks and Kaiju Cut and Sew, an Austin business owned by Gomez.
Proceeds from sales of the drink and Eastern Philosophy merchandise will be donated to Stop AAPI Hate.
“A lot of times, people don’t know of this particular organization, that it exists,” Gomez said. “So it’s a way for us to let people know that this organization exists, that there’s resources available, so that people can potentially use them to report an incident.”
Between March 2020 and September 2021, Stop AAPI Hate recorded more than 10,000 hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country.
Gomez said those shocking numbers inspired him to work with Austin Beerworks on Eastern Philosophy.
“I grew up having xenophobia be part of my life, a lot of racial slurs,” he said.
“I know several people that have death threats to their business just because they are Asian,” he added.
Kaiju Cut and Sew sells custom bags and clothing, but when the pandemic started Gomez pivoted to making face masks. He said their popularity enabled the business to donate $30,000 to different charities in the last two years.
When Gomez approached Will Golden, co-founder and director of brewing operations at Austin Beerworks, asking if they wanted to team up, Golden was quick to say yes.
The result is Eastern Philosophy, a strong lager that’s inspired by beers served in tropical places like the Philippines.
“The idea behind it is they make this strong lager, the ice starts to melt, it dilutes it down into a regular strength beer but also keeps it cold, because beer warms up very quickly in the tropics,” Golden said.
The drink is infused with jasmine dragon pearl tea to give it more of an Asian flair.
Golden said he’s excited about how it turned out – and inspired by the cause that the beer is supporting.
“It’s about letting people know that when these incidents happen to them, there’s a safe platform and resources for them to go to,” he said. “Hopefully it makes people feel a little bit safer in their communities.”
Gomez’ mom is one of two Asian women depicted on the colorful can. The other is the grandmother of Alana Louise, the artist behind the design.
Eastern Philosophy will be released at a launch party at Austin Beerworks on Sunday. The event, which is also a Chinese New Year celebration, will include Asian food, performance from the Texas Dragon Dance Team and live music.
If you’re the victim of a hate crime in Austin
The Greater Austin Asian Chamber of Commerce has been tracking the rise in racial profiling and violent incidents due to COVID-19.
It says there are steps people can take if they are a victim of a hate crime.
- Firstly, people should call 911 if they are in danger, the GAACC says.
- If there are people nearby, approach one person and ask for help – people are more likely to respond individually.
- You can also video the incident if it is safe to do so, as that can help with a potential police investigation or with a social media awareness post.
The GAACC also says people should not use the words China or Chinese virus to refer to COVID-19 as it contributes to a false narrative of blame for the virus.
Additionally, the organization is calling on the community to support Asian-owned businesses in Austin.