Upon hearing of the tragic March 16 rampage in the Atlanta area, Pa Lee Moua quickly began texting and calling friends and family who work in the service industry in bars, retail stores, and nail salons in Fox Valley and her sister in Oshkosh to make sure they were ok.
While seeing the news of the shootings hundreds of kilometers away, she wanted to make sure friends and family in their own communities were safe.
Eight people, including six Asian women, were killed March 16 in shootings at two spas and massage shop in the Atlanta area.
The victims were identified as Soon Chung Park, 74; Hyun Jung Grant, 51; Suncha Kim, 69; Yong Ae Yue, 63; Delaina Ashley Yaun, 33; Paul André Michels, 54; Daoyou Feng, 44; and Xiaojie Tan, 49.
Moua, the Appleton Area School District’s Diversity, Justice and Inclusion Officer, also sent emails to Asia-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) staff in the district to reach out to them and their students to make sure they know they have a free space to deal with the shootings and mourn.
“That’s really an important pillar right now. We hope that a lot of people will just check in with each other,” she said.
The shootings follow a wave of violence against Asian Americans in the country that increased as the pandemic began, sparked by the racist and xenophobic language used by former President Donald Trump and others to link the coronavirus originating in Wuhan, China bring to.
Many Asian Americans in Wisconsin still mourn the losses in Atlanta – and speak out to ensure their voices and concerns about their safety are heard.
“People overlooked that”
Stop the AAPI hatred, an advocacy group, reported nearly 3,800 incidents of harassment, discrimination, and violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide from March 2020 to February 2021, compared with approximately 100 incidents in previous years. Women were more than twice as likely to report hate incidents as men.
Lawyers and residents across the country had already spoken out after reports of the rise in violence Attack series this year against Asian seniors and the murder of 84-year-old Vicha Ratanapakdee in San Francisco.
For Pam Her of Appleton, owner of 4Chi Business Solutions, the deaths drove home a fear she had had since the early days of the pandemic.
She, like many other Hmong residents in the area, had to find ways to protect herself as reports of discrimination and violence increased during the pandemic. Her family only started traveling during the day and kept an eye on family members when they stepped outside.
“We’ve done all of our shopping, all of the things we have to do during the day and not go shopping at night – shopping for two, taking care of our families, our grandparents, our older parents, our older uncles and aunts to make sure they don’t go alone in a shop, ”she said. “When our grandparents or our mothers or fathers go outside, also outside our house, only in the garden next to our house, we watch them. We make sure that we can see them, that there is a window to protect them. “
Tara Yang also noticed differences in Green Bay. She saw a decline in customers in her family’s business, Main Oriental Market, when the first cases hit the county in March.
During the summer months, business slowed in their store and some customers tried to avoid the store.
“We understood and felt that people no longer wanted to come to the store so much just because we are an Asian store,” said Yang.
In April the service cars were on the market destroyed with a racist message related to COVID-19, Yang said.
She also noticed racism in other subtle ways, such as when someone did everything possible not to be around her, when she went shopping at another grocery store, or when she went to the bank to help her parents apply for a business loan.
The “Model minority myth“A stereotype that says that all Asian Americans are successful and have no problems has often hidden racism against Asian Americans, she said.
“As an exemplary minority, we were very invisible and… even in rooms where we are the leaders of those rooms, our voices often mix with everything else. We really don’t stand out, ”she said. “I think with everything that happens, the invisibility of the Asian community is now surfacing.”
When she heard about the Atlanta shootings, one of her greatest fears came true.
“We didn’t think about our Asian deals and security protocols for them because they’re a sedentary target,” she said.
Many proponents, including Yang, said it shouldn’t have gotten to this crisis point; People across the country sounded the alarm much earlier.
“It’s sad that we had to wait for people to die to take action. Since the pandemic started, we’ve been saying, ‘Hey, someone just verbally assaulted us. Someone tried to spit on us.’ But people overlooked that, and that’s exactly why we are where we are now, because these petty crimes were overlooked, ”Yang said.
It raises a question she has had to ask over and over: “Why can’t we be seen as Americans and valued as Asian Americans? Why do we always have to be stereotyped as foreigners?”
Sheng L. Riechers, a senior communications specialist for the City of Appleton, noted that there is a wide range of people who identify as Asian Americans, from countries in vastly different regions of East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.
“As a Hmong American and Hmong Asian, I just wish that people would take the time to learn more about the Hmong people and our culture and history and the reason we are here in the US,” said Smellers. “And just to remind them that the Hmong in particular fought with US soldiers during the Vietnam War and that is why we are here. We are here as refugees from the Vietnam War.”
Has to fight hatred in the long term
Moua said local Hmong leaders have been working with Appleton and Fox Valley executives to ensure people are checking out Asian businesses in the area and communicating more with Hmong community leaders.
Green Bay Police Commander Kevin Warych said police will start holding community meetings with Asian-American residents in Green Bay.
Warych said the police department had not received any reports of hate incidents in the city, but Yang noted that they had heard of incidents that were not reported.
In the days following the shooting in Madison and Milwaukee, as well as in other states, people gathered in “stop hating Asia” marches and vigils against racism, misogyny and xenophobia, demanding justice for the victims.
Lee Her, a Hmong American who contributed to the 100 to 200 people. belonged to the Milwaukee vigil, said it was an opportunity for Asian Americans to be heard.
“Just because we’re calm doesn’t mean we’re out of pain,” she said. “It was really important to me to get out of here and take a stand. … Sometimes rest is not always the best way, although you want rest. “
At the rally, the speakers called on everyone to do their part.
“Think, ‘What do I not know about the history of this country?’ ‘What do I need to learn?’ Said Paula Phillips, Filipina, an outgoing member of the Milwaukee Public Schools Board and senior director of race and gender equality at YWCA Southeast Wisconsin.
Tammie Xiong, executive director of the Hmong American Women’s Association in Milwaukee, said at the rally that there are already many organizations working to protect the Asian American people.
“If you can take away from what has happened in the last few days, in the last few years, since the dawn of this country, look into your community and support those who do this work in the field,” she said.
Mai J. Lo Lee, Diversity Director at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay Multiethnic Student Affairs Office, noticed people post on social media or correct a stranger’s hateful or rude comment on the internet, but the hard part is having daily conversations of hatred against Asian Americans and Pacific islanders.
“I have encouraged allies who identify as non-Asians to really think about the deficit they have as individuals and be there for the organization,” said Lo Lee.
One way to build support and understanding is to make sure that young students are taught accurate stories about immigrants and other marginalized groups, Xiong said.
Lo Lee suggested that you consider your excuses for lack of awareness. Take, for example, “Oh, I don’t know anything about historical anti-Asia politics because my school never taught me,” she said. Historical guidelines include policies Immigration quotas introduced in 1924 which prevented many Asians from immigrating to the USA
“Let’s take a look at your current school district,” said Lo Lee. “Let’s look at the curriculum and say, ‘Let’s not make this mistake again.’ So how can I teach my child, niece, nephew, myself to do this? They realize, ‘I hold myself responsible for not knowing anything about anti-hate history because my school never taught me.’ Then hold your school in charge. Hold your colleges in charge. This is where the voice of the alumni is very important. “
The same mindset can apply to other areas of your life, said Lo Lee. If you don’t know many Asian Americans in your workplace, question your workplace’s hiring practices and guidelines. Unless you know that many Asian American neighbors, you’re wondering why. Aren’t there many grocery and other businesses made by and for Asian Americans in your community? How does your community support minority-owned small businesses?
“I always challenge my friends and immediate family: it’s almost easier to correct a stranger, but how do you correct the family? How do you correct colleagues? Your supervisor? The people you train? Because that’s where work really comes into play, that’s everyday life, “said Lo Lee.
Nusaiba Mizan of the Green Bay Press-Gazette and Sarah Volpenhein of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel contributed to this report.