Unheard Stories: Asian Americans Experiencing Hate

More than 800 participants joined in a March 24 local conversation titled “Unheard Stories: Asian Americans Experiencing Hate.”

Hedy Tripp, a founder of the St. Cloud chapter of National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said: “Our communities are in pain and looking for support. This moment demands that all Minnesotans come together to think critically about the moment we are in and to move us toward a place of healing and justice.”

Bo Thao-Urabe

While hate crimes in general decreased due to the pandemic, they increased for Asian Americans.

Bo-Thao Urabe, Executive and Network Director of the Council for Asian-American Leaders, said that in 2020 Minnesota “ranked 15th among all the states for the highest number of hate incidents against Asian Americans. Across the U.S., we saw a 150 percent increase in reported anti-Asian violence.” Many other incidents were left unreported.

Anti-Asian injustice also includes refugee deportation

Because of verbal harassment and physical attacks, the Asian Minnesotan Alliance for Justice (AMAJ) was formed — a collective of Asian American organizations dedicated to fighting for solidarity and justice in Minnesota.

“Perpetual foreigner” stereotypes and blaming Asian Americans for health crises — such as the “Yellow Peril” claim that Asian American communities are unhygienic and diseased — are not new.

Solutions to combat anti-Asian violence, speakers indicated, include naming it, addressing anti-Blackness, and un-doing white supremacy.

U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar (photo by Amal Flower Kay)

AMAJ’s work focuses on building multi-racial, multi-cultural solidarity around new systems of public safety and investment in communities.

Forum participant U.S. Rep. Ilhan Omar said: “An attack on one community is an attack on all of us. Historically, minority communities have been pitted against each other. The model minority myth that keeps us apart is rooted in white supremacy and it is an idea that continues to divide communities rather than unite. Together we must denounce all forms of white supremacy and bigotry wherever we find it.”

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan (photo by Sarah Whiting)

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan spoke “as an Indigenous woman whose family has been here since time immemorial, before Minnesota was Minnesota. She said state administration was working “to push for the strengthening of our hate crime legislation to close loopholes and ensure that folks experience justice and will be seen, heard, valued, believed, and protected.”

KARE-11 anchor Gia Vang shared the story of her father and son being harassed as they waited for the bus. The white woman involved drove to other bus stops and harassed Asian Americans there. Vang noted that “the emotional trauma lingered in my dad for a long time.”

Dieu Do, a student leader at Hamline University, added: “As gut-wrenching as anti-Asian hate crimes have been, it is appalling how loud the silence was and how non-AAPI [Asian American Pacific Islander] folks were not speaking out and advocating for our justice. How disrespectful it is that eight members of our community were killed and we were met with ‘Happy St. Patrick’s Day’ greetings from white colleagues the next day. We saw more social media posts about celebrations than acknowledgement of our suffering and our grieving. Organizations that are self-proclaimed champions of diversity and inclusion did not include us.”

Jennifer Nguyen Moore, the daughter of Vietnamese refugees, who works at the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, added: “We can’t have any more Black fear. We can’t have any more Asian hate. We need to start raising each minority’s vibration to be on the same level.”

Thao-Urabe concluded by saying: “We are harmed by the same system, but our experiences are not the same. It is important to make sure that we understand that. I encourage our Asian community … to be in solidarity with other communities. When they talk about their pain … it may look different, but we need to make sure that we are not taking away from the struggles of other communities. This is a time when we should be working together to make things better for everybody.”

As an Asian American, I can relate to the feeling of being anxious. As event organizers warned, some of the stories we heard from others were triggering. It has been an exhausting year with all of the reported hate crimes. It is hard being out, not knowing how strangers would react to me. 

After the shooting in Atlanta of Asian Americans, one fellow half-Japanese friend checked in that day. No one else did. A former grad school classmate Facebook messaged me to ask if I was all right. Frankly, I am not. This has been a depressing time dealing with hate on top of everything else that has happened this past year.

Learn more about the Hate Crimes bill (House File HF1691)

Find your representative

Report hate crimes: 1-833-454-0148

Resources list

The Asian Minnesotan Alliance for Justice (AMAJ) collective that co-hosted the event includes: Asian American Organizing Project (AAOP), Asian Media Access (AMA), CAPI-USA, Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL), Filipinx for Immigrant Rights & Racial Justice Minnesota (FIRM), India Association of Minnesota (IAM), Japanese American Citizens League – Twin Cities (JACL), National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum (NAPAWF) – St. Cloud Chapter, Release MN8, Reviving the Islamic Sisterhood for Empowerment (RISE), SEWA-AIFW, The Southeast Asian Diaspora (SEAD) Project, TaikoArts Midwest, Theater Mu, Transforming Generations, Vietnamese Social Services (VSS)