We are heartbroken to hear the news from Atlanta of eight people murdered, six of them women of Asian descent. The media needs to be held accountable to call these incidents what they are: hate crimes against Asian Americans.
We don’t yet know all their names, but among those killed on Tuesday were Daoyou Feng, Paul Andre Michels, Hyeon Jeong Park, Julie Park, Xiaojie Tan, and Delaina Ashley Yaun.
They join Bawi Cung, Douglas Kim, Ee Lee, Hong Lee, Vicha Ratanapakdee, Helen Oh, Noel Quintana, and Kelly Yang and so many others — too many others — as Asian Americans across the country who became targets of harassment, assault, and even murder in recent months, based solely on what they look like. Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 3,800 instances of discrimination against Asians in the past year and 503 incidents in 2021 alone; the actual number is most likely much higher.
Anti-Asian rhetoric, attacks and hate crimes have risen dramatically since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. This undercurrent of racism and the threat it represents are a constant presence in the lives of Asian American and Pacific Islander community members, often invisible to the broader community, fueled by racist rhetoric that has become increasingly normalized, and left to smolder. This violence adds to the already-crushing burden created by the COVID-19 pandemic: Asian-owned businesses were among the first to experience economic pain, and Asian American workers continue to experience the highest rates of long-term unemployment of any racial or ethnic group.
Nor is this violence new. Anti-Asian racism, and the horrific acts that often accompany it, have been intertwined with our country’s and state’s history from the earliest days of Asian immigration to our shores. The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882; the St. Johns Riots of 1910, when a mob of hundreds of white residents attacked a group of South Asian mill workers right here in Multnomah County; the internment of 120,000 Japanese Americans during World War II and the ensuing destruction of their lives and livelihoods — all are examples of this dark history.
With white nationalism on full display, racists are emboldened to threaten, harass, attack and murder AAPI community members. Our board is here to say enough is enough. We will not stand for this or any other form of racism. Hate and violence is unacceptable. We recognize that in order to address anti-Asian racism, we must work to end all forms of racism targeted at Black, Indigenous, and other communities of color.
It is crucial that we assure our Asian American residents that Multnomah County will use our systems of care to provide rapid responses to threatening circumstances, invest in preventative measures to reduce violence, and support community-based safety measures and restorative justice efforts. We are committed to listening and learning from our residents about what it means to create safe spaces, and what it takes to create a community that is safe for everyone.
This work requires all of us. As a board we stand together to advocate for local, state, and national policies that reinforce civil rights protections to ensure our residents the safety they deserve.
With two Asian American members serving on our board, we see and acknowledge the pain, grief, fear, and trauma our AAPI community members are feeling. And we also recognize, and celebrate, the strength and resiliency of our AAPI communities that has been forged through decades of discrimination and oppression. Together we can dismantle the structures of racism, and we are more committed than ever to ensuring that Multnomah County is a place of safety, trust, and belonging for all.
Stop AAPI Hate Resources:
Anti Racism Resources:
Multnomah County Chair
Commissioner, District 1
Commissioner, District 2
Jessica Vega Pederson
Commissioner, District 3
Commissioner, District 4