Asian Americans in St. Louis Condemn Atlanta Shootings, Ask Community To Report Hate

Chad Davis
St. Louis Public Radio
Asian American community leaders, elected officials, advocates and allies gathered Friday at St. Louis City Hall to condemn the rise of anti-Asian hate speech and hate crimes.

Asian American elected officials, community leaders and residents met at St. Louis City Hall on Friday to condemn the rise in hate crimes and hate speech against Asian Americans.

The call comes days after authorities charged a white man with killing eight people, six of them Asian American women, at Atlanta-area spas.

St. Louis Alderman Bret Narayan, D-24th Ward, plans to introduce a resolution condemning the increase in violence and racist language against Asian Americans.

“We are unfortunately gathered here today in sorrow and pain, rage and shock at the mass shooting that happened this week,” said Caroline Fan, president and founder of the Missouri Asian American Youth Foundation. “For some of us, this is what we have feared ever since the beginning of the pandemic, and the use of racist and xenophobic, hateful speech to describe COVID-19.”

At the morning press conference, speakers shared accounts of racism they and others have experienced. Many said they've been the targets of increased hostility and racist language over the past year.

Asian American teenagers have said that they and their family members have often been subjected to racist comments, said Min Liu, community outreach director for the Chinese Education and Culture Center in Richmond Heights. She said many do not feel safe.

Liu said one Chinese American student's mother has received hostile comments from customers at their family-owned restaurant who blamed Asian Americans for the coronavirus pandemic.

“[Her] mom encountered a customer that asked her if she was happy, and she answered ‘yes,’” Liu said. “The customer then said, ‘Why are you so happy when your people spread this virus to America,’ and then continued to make other racist remarks. Why should our young people have to face these kind of remarks?”

The response is part of an ongoing survey by the Chinese Education and Culture Center and Asian American Civic Scholars. The survey of Asian American teenagers is aimed at measuring the prevalence of anti-Asian sentiment in the St. Louis region, Liu said.

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met Friday with Asian American leaders in Atlanta to offer condolences. The shootings there occurred during a time when hate crimes against Asian Americans have risen substantially.

Asian American leaders in St. Louis say it's important to gauge the level of hostility toward their communities to ensure that that does not lead to assaults and hate crime. They say such reports could help draw attention to the racism targeted at Asian Americans and help prevent the kind of violence that occurred this week in Atlanta.

A vigil for the Atlanta victims will be held at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Chinese Education and Culture Center in Richmond Heights.

If people are uncomfortable reporting to law enforcement, Asian American leaders want to encourage them to share their experiences with others in the community, Fan said.

“People in our community, we don't report because we're scared of the police,” she said. “We really need to provide a safe space for vulnerable members of our community to come forward and testify, and also share other people's stories because we're never heard.”

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