GRAND RAPIDS, MI — When six women of Asian descent were killed last month in shootings at three Atlanta spas, Michigan Sen. Stephanie Chang worried about the safety of other Asian-Americans.
“I remember feeling first very sad at the lives that were lost, then angry at the law enforcement response that was happening and then also just scared, worrying about safety and the safety of my parents and their generation, wondering where are the public spaces that are safe for us to be in,” Chang, D-Detroit, said at a “Stop Asian Hate” rally in Grand Rapids.
Chang and more than a dozen other people spoke at the Saturday, April 17 rally at Rosa Parks Circle. More than 100 people showed up for the event.
The goal, according to organizers, was to bring voices together from several different groups to combat racism and hate. Among the groups taking part were the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Hispanic Center of Western Michigan, the West Michigan Asian American Association and the Asian and Pacific Islander American Vote.
Hate crimes have increased significantly during the coronavirus pandemic, event organizers said.
Rhetoric used on the national stage only exacerbated the situation, Chang said.
“Asian American community leaders and elected officials from around the country had been talking about the fact that we knew that, during the pandemic, that words like ‘Kung flu’ and ‘China virus’ were going to lead to this kind of racism,” she said.
Chang didn’t name former President Donald Trump specifically, but he has used both those terms.
San Hpound of Wyoming, who came to the United States about 10 years ago from Burma, watched from the crowd Saturday.
She said she’s experienced at least some degree of racism, even if it’s only subtle behavior. Sometimes at stores, “people look at us like we are a different people,” she said.
“But we are human beings, we are all the same. It’s just our skin color, our appearance and our language that are different,” she said.
Lilly Cheng-Schulting helped organize Saturday’s rally.
“We know that Asian-American hate crimes have increased 150 percent and that’s only those that are reported. But I think those hate crimes are related to a lot of the prejudices and the stereotypes that exist in our society that make it possible for the hate crimes to happen,” she said.
She believes part of the solution to stopping hate or racism against Asian-Americans is breaking stereotypes. Some are that Asian Americans are “meek and mild” or an “invisible minority.”
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