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Local Asian American and Pacific Islander leaders speak out against hate crimes

Asian Americans speak out against racist crimes
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Hate crimes targeting the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities have surged during the COVID-19 pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate is a coalition which tracks reports of violence and harrassment against Asian American and Pacific Islander communities. From March of 2020 to February of 2021, the groups has received 3,795 reports of anti-Asian hate incidents. 

Experts say the number is likley much higher, with incidents likely going unreported. 

Ace Marasigan, founder of the Grand Rapids Asian Pacific Foundation, spoke out against these crimes on Wednesday, noting the most recent attack on Asian Americans which left eight dead, six of which were Asian women, in a shooting at Atlanta-area spas. However, the motive for the act is uncertain.

"I am in shock. I’ve seen the violence increasing, but hearing the news of what has happened in Atlanta, that takes it to the next level. How do I explain this to my little boy? How would a father explain it to his son that the world around him is filled with hate?" he asked.

Marasigan said community members in West Michigan have confided in him about agresssion they've experienced during the pandemic as well. He said it's difficult to see reports rising, but is encouraging community members and allies to speak up.

"It’s important that we are sharing, expressing our hurts, and it also empowers people to share what’s happened to them," Marasigan said.

Hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 cities rose by 150 percent in 2020, a recent report from the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino revealed. These incidents range from violent attacks and verbal abuse to the vandalization of Asian-owned businesses.

Advocates are attributing the spate of violence partly to xenophobic rhetoric that connects the COVID-19 pandemic with Asian Americans, which includes former President Donald Trump's habit of blaming the virus on China.

But anti-Asian racism isn't new. Centuries of anti-Asian racism in the United States have led to this moment.

"Obviously this is not the first we’re hearing about things like this due to COVID. Asian communities in general have been targeted in the past. Historically, just look at the Japanese encampment in WWII and just look at early stages in American history,” Marasigan said, "...Now is the time for everyone to say we denounce such action and it doesn’t belong in this place."