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Pandemic has increased threats against Asian-Americans, Pacific Islanders, but it's nothing new

Posted at 4:51 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 23:57:39-04

Shortly after noon Thursday, police officers arrived outside Oriental Wok on Buttermilk Pike in Fort Mitchell, Kentucky, in response to a reported threat made against the restaurant and its employees.

It wasn't the first time the staff has received threats, the restaurant said in a Facebook post, but in light of the recent Atlanta-area mass shooting that law enforcement officials believe targeted people of Asian descent, the owners weren't taking any chances.

"Our homes and cars have been egged, we are pummeled with daily calls telling us to 'go back to China' along with other crude and violent threats. We walk our staff to their cars to ensure safety every night," the statement reads.

The mass shootings in Georgia that left eight people dead -- the majority of whom were of Asian descent -- is a painful reminder for leaders in the Tri-State's Asian American and Pacific Islander communities of what a difficult year it's been.

"We're shocked, and we're saddened," said Leo Chan, executive director of the Midwest USA Chinese Chamber of Commerce, of Tuesday's shootings.

Early Tuesday evening, sheriff's deputies said a gunman, later identified as 21-year-old Robert Aaron Long, visited multiple Atlanta-area spas and opened fire, killing eight people, six of whom were women of Asian descent. Counterterrorism officials later said they believed the region's Asian American community was being targeted in the shootings.

Chan and others in Greater Cincinnati say they've seen an uptick in anti-Asian sentiments and aggression since the coronavirus pandemic began last March.

"I was very disheartened and very, very sad," said Yen Hsieh, honorary chair of the Mason, Ohio-based Asian Community Alliance.

But they also emphasized that, while the problem might be getting worse, it's nothing new.

"The anti-Asian, anti-Pacific Islander sentiment in the United States goes back centuries," said Cody Hefner of the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center.

Data from the group Stop AAPI Hate reports nearly 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders over the last 12 months.

"Some of these activities have definitely been on the rise, and it has been very, very difficult for the community to deal with," Chan told WCPO Thursday.

Lawmakers in Columbus, Ohio, are trying to create a state commission and state office for AAPI affairs, hoping that will help address some of these issues against the community. That bipartisan bill is still in the state senate.

Meanwhile, Chan said he just wants to see a conversation start.

"Just come out and talk to us," he said. "There's nothing that cannot be talked about, right?"