During the past year, a Woodbury resident of Hmong descent and his wife found a note on their townhouse door accusing them of "infecting us with your disease."
In Austin, Minn., an Asian American family discovered the words "China virus" burned into their lawn. And a Korean American journalist with MPR News described being harassed because of her race while working in rural Minnesota.
In addition, increasing numbers of Asian Americans have been physically assaulted nationwide over the past year. Anti-Asian hate is one of several forms of American racism that must be acknowledged and stopped.
The deadly March 16 shootings in Atlanta have heightened awareness of anti-Asian incidents, sparking solidarity protests over the weekend. Although the shooter's motivations remain unclear as the investigation continues, six of his eight victims were women of Asian descent.
Organizations that work on behalf Minnesota's 300,000 people of Asian descent say they've experienced discrimination and racism for decades. "Racism is not a one-time incident," Bo Thao-Urabe, executive director of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL), a St. Paul nonprofit, told the Star Tribune. She added that CAAL and other groups have been concerned that attacks on Asian Americans would increase and become more violent.
Fearing that the coronavirus outbreak would lead to a backlash, early last year the World Health Organization warned about the use of terms such as "Wuhan virus" and "Chinese virus." Former President Donald Trump seemed to take pleasure in disregarding that advice, and his use of those labels and others in tweets and public comments sparked the response that the WHO had predicted.
The ramped-up hostility has been well documented. According to PoltiFact, the respected Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University found that anti-Asian hate crimes rose from 49 incidents in 2019 to 122 in 2020.
The center used public records from 16 of the largest U.S. cities to come up with those numbers. And the FBI's hate crime data shows that reported anti-Asian hate crimes declined in the late 1990s but started to climb more recently.
It's important to note that experts say hate crimes are underreported. "There are barriers to reporting," Jeannine Bell, an Indiana University law professor, told PolitiFact. "Individual victims have to feel as if they are comfortable enough to report, and most likely they don't."
Last week, state Rep. Tou Xiong, DFL-Maplewood, who chairs the Minnesota Asian Pacific Caucus, addressed the Legsislature and rightly urged Minnesotans to denounce racism. "Silence amid this growing surge [in hate] against fellow Asian Americans is unacceptable," Xiong said.
President Joe Biden has directed the Justice Department to work with communities to address hate crimes against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. And in Minnesota, officials launched a discrimination helpline (1-833-454-0148) after bias reports against Asian Americans grew during the pandemic.
On Wednesday, CAAL will host an online event to raise awareness and share strategies to combat harassment and crime. It's a critical effort that all Minnesotans should support.