Local leaders push to protect Asian community against potential hate crimes

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — There have been 3,800 hate incidents reported against Asian Americans in just the last year, mostly against women, according to the nonprofit group Stop AAPI Hate.

This week, lawmakers condemned the anti-Asian rhetoric and called for action.

For many in the Asian American community, their fears only grew in the wake of the attacks in Atlanta, where several Asian American women were shot and killed.

Channel 9′s Glenn Counts spoke to leaders in the local Asian community, and they said they are shocked and saddened by what happened in Atlanta, but are not surprised, with some believing that is what happens when people demonize a group of people.

Ever since the start of the pandemic, some in the Asian community have felt like they are targets, and with the Atlanta murder, their worst fears have been realized.

“I think we can all be better for sure. A lot of folks are in grief and upset, angry,” Ricky Leung said.

Leung is the head of North Carolina Asian Americans Together, a group that promotes Asian causes and concerns.

“The anti-Asian sentiment is rooted in white supremacy,” he said.

“Obviously our hearts are very heavy from the victims of the shooting in Atlanta,” said Rhona Chen.

Chen is with the International Cabinet in Charlotte. Although she is a successful businesswoman, she says that racism bubbles up in the most innocent of ways, recalling an incident with her daughter and a neighbor’s dog.

“So she asked for permission, and the neighbor said ‘Sure, you can eat him too while you’re at it,’ and that’s when my daughter gave me a blank expression. I look at her and that’s when I gave him a lesson on ignorance,” Chen said.

All the people Channel 9 spoke to believe the atmosphere in North Carolina has improved since the pandemic started.

“I don’t really feel as much of that hate, and I just kind of feel as though people have come to some sort of understanding that we are all in this together.” said Jeremy Yen, owner of the Honey Bun, an institution in the Taiwanese community.

Chen said if there is any harassment, it’s probably being underreported for cultural reasons.

“We don’t really want to burden other people with our problems or our insecurities, so we’d rather suffer in silence,” Chen said.

The most recent statistics available from the FBI show there were 210 hate crimes in North Carolina back in 2019. Approximately 4% of hate crime victims nationwide are Asian.