Asian-American Community Unites to Rise Above COVID-19 Discrimination
When Plymouth resident Chen Zhou needs to step outside his home, COVID-19 isn’t the only thing on his mind.
“The hate crimes toward Asian-Americans that we have seen in the news caused great concern for me and my community,” Zhou explained.
Zhou moved to the United States from China 30 years ago. While he hasn’t experienced discriminatory attacks himself, he worries what other harms the pandemic could cause.
“I personally have not experienced discrimination due to COVID-19,” Zhou said. “But wearing a face mask while being Asian may have gotten some people’s attention. I think people may have wondered why I was wearing a face mask. It’s gotten better though.”
Bo Thao-Urabe, executive director of Coalition of Asian American Leaders (CAAL), agreed with Zhou’s concern. She also feels the need to be extra cautious in public.
“I’m more on edge. I’m more concerned for my safety because of what I’m hearing,” said Thao-Urabe. “I don’t know how other people will react to me and I don’t have control over that.”
However, COVID-19 hate crimes were no surprise for Thao-Urabe.
“We live in America and there’s a history of racism in America. Whenever there’s been a crisis in this country, there’s always a blame put on communities who are ‘others,'” Thao-Urabe explained.
COVID-19 Discrimination Hotline Launched
Asian-Americans throughout Minnesota like Thao-Urabe are trying to put a stop to discrimination.
Nearly 30 MN organizations including CAAL are working together to support diverse communities.
“We organized and put out a joint statement as well as contacted our elective officials to voice our concern,” Thao-Urabe said. “In that process, we worked with the commissioner of the Department of Human Rights and the governor’s office to say here’s what we’re hearing, here’s what we think we should do.”
With the organizations help, Governor Tim Walz launched a discrimination hotline earlier this month. The hotline allows those who experience or witness bias and discrimination to report incidents to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
“Minnesotans are resilient people who support their neighbors when the going gets tough,” Walz said in a April 6 press release. “As Asian Americans in Minnesota report heightened cases of discrimination amid COVID-19, my message is clear: viruses don’t discriminate, and neither do we.”
Minnesotans can call the discrimination helpline at 1-833-454-0148 or complete and submit this online form. Translation/interpretation services are available. However, if you have been the victim of a crime, including a hate crime, or fear for your safety, residents are also urged to call police.
“Having this helpline will allow our department to continue its work to investigate all incidents of discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act while also giving us the information needed to conduct outreach and education and change policies to create a more welcoming and inclusive Minnesota,” said Rebecca Lucero, Minnesota Department of Human Rights commissioner.
Helpline Not Limited to Asian-Americans
Thao-Urabe said it’s important for people not to feel like their experience with COVID-19 discrimination was isolated.
“The hotline is not limited to Asian-Americans,” Thao-Urabe added. “We should really understand that racism happens everyday to different communities and this just happens to be a time that Asian-Americans have been very targeted.”
Back in Plymouth, Zhou hopes the pandemic will help people come together, not divide.
“We want to work with everybody, we want to remind people that we’re all Americans, Chinese and Minnesotans so just be nice to each other. Keep it civilized,” Zhou said.
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