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TURES: Our Asian-American community needs us more than ever

When I read of the massacres at several Atlanta area businesses, where six of the eight killed were Asian-American women, it hit me especially hard. That’s because I live just down the road from Atlanta, in an area with a wonderful Asian-American community, where the vast majority of locals are highly appreciative of their great contributions. But I recognize the potential for hate from a few to change all of that.

Several years ago, I was in backyard in LaGrange, where my son was participating in the thread ceremony for one of his classmates and friends. The kids were in white robes, and the man who performed the ceremony was from California. There was incense, all kinds of Hindu symbols, and a who’s who list in the community, political and economic leaders on hand for the event. “A few decades ago, this might have seemed out of place” I whispered to one of the politicians, who smiled and nodded. All of us were happy to be there that great day, a sign of a changing USA.

At my son’s school, where my wife teaches, we have plenty of kids from South Asian and East Asian backgrounds. There’s a thriving medical community, and plenty of businesses owned by Asian-Americans, and a Kia Plant that came to town just as manufacturing plants were closing.  Every family from the Asian-American community has shown nothing but openness and kindness to us. My LaGrange College students loved it when Libertarian Senate candidate Lily Tang Williams came from Colorado to speak with them about why she and her family fled the terrible Chinese Cultural Revolution, a speaking event well-covered in the local newspaper.

These are all yet one more way that we find our town of LaGrange to be special.

I don’t know the motives of the killer in yesterday’s shootings. But I know the hate’s not confined to the Atlanta area. Stop AAPI Hate found that since the pandemic came to America, there have been nearly 4,000 reports of “hate incidents,” with more than 30 occurring in the Peach State. And other studies show that many other cases are going unreported.

On the day we read about the slaughter in the Atlanta area, word came of yet another elderly Asian-American who was brutally beaten, suffering facial and head wounds that left him unconscious and partially blind, part of a disturbing trend in the Bay Area. He’s lucky to be alive, as others have not survived similar horrible attacks.

While there has been an outpouring of support for the victims, the response could have been much better. There’s a reluctance to label the attack in the Financial District a hate crime, despite the obvious wave of violence in the region against Asian-Americans. And a bill introduced in the California legislature has alarmed the community. It plans to reduce such attacks where less than $1,000 is stolen, the victim does not sustain “serious injury” and a deadly weapon is not used to a “petty crime.” Even if the punishment technically remains the same, there’s a fear among the Asian-Americans that such attacks will spike due to the perception of such a crime being considered merely “petty.” Yahoo News reports that most petty theft cases are not even prosecuted.

There are reports that Asian-Americans are beginning to fear venturing out, hurting business.  Marketplace on NPR discussed Asian-Americans being laid off when the coronavirus came to America, and the struggle to get those jobs back. Bandying around the “China Virus” label for political gain only fuels that hate, and may be encouraging such attacks.

Every American should realize that an attack on one Asian-American is an attack on all Americans. Asian Americans Advancing Justice (AAAJ) wrote recently “Now is the time to hold the victims & their families in our hearts & with light.” See what you can do today to join these groups to resist these Anti-American attacks, and let America be America again.