PORTLAND, Maine — With the rise in anti-Asian violence and hate since the pandemic began, Mainers say elected officials have a key role to play in combating discrimination.
The White House this week unveiled plans to address racism against the Asian American and Pacific Islander community ranging from increasing access to hate-crime data, to requiring law enforcement training on hate crimes.
Tae Chong, member of the Portland City Council, said it’s important to show unity in the face of hate crimes in Georgia, New York and even here in Portland, the site of a recent incident where a white man allegedly yelled racist remarks at an Asian woman and her 12-year-old daughter, attacking their car.
“Part of hate being spread is just the language people use to characterize Asian Americans as carriers of COVID, which is absolutely not true,” Chong explained. “You know, facts don’t seem to matter when you add hate to it, because any kind of hate language is about misinformation.”
From March 2020 to February of this year, the group Stop AAPI Hate documented roughly 3,800 hate incidents from verbal harassment to shunning and physical assault.
Chong acknowledged vigils and rallies to honor victims and condemn hate help heal communities when tragedies occur, but he contended they’re not enough.
He urged residents to challenge misinformation, even when it may be uncomfortable.
“What we want to do is prevent those tragedies by talking to people in our families at the dinner tables and educating them and being persistent and consistent for it to sink in,” Chong emphasized.
Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., and Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, have reintroduced the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would designate a Justice Department official to facilitate quick review of hate crimes related to the coronavirus.
It also would make online reporting of hate crimes available in multiple languages, and expand culturally-competent public education campaigns.