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Kansas City metro Asian American advocates speak out about Atlanta killings

PaKou Her
Posted at 5:19 PM, Mar 17, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-17 18:26:13-04

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — In the aftermath of Tuesday's Atlanta-area killings, in which eight people were murdered at three massage parlors, conversations have sparked throughout the country regarding anti-Asian violence.

Most of the victims in those shootings were female or of Asian descent.

"There is a whole other realm of this reality that I think people are beginning to see a bit differently," PaKou Her, a Kansas City metro diversity and inclusion trainer/facilitator, said.

Asian Americans around the United States are being targeted. In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, some Asian-owned businesses in the KC metro saw a decline in business.

"Certainly in the last year, I will be frank and say I have sort have just been sitting on my hands waiting for something to happen," Her said, "or certainly anticipating like something really horrific might happen."

The Asian American Bar Association of Kansas City said in statement Wednesday that is "acutely concerned" about the violence in Atlanta.

"America has a long history of fear and xenophobia towards the Asian American community," the AABAKC said. "There have now been nearly 3,800 documented attacks against Asian Americans in this country since the start of the COVID pandemic just over a year ago. Last night’s murders, sadly, is the most brazen and violent. However, this cannot be viewed in isolation. It is only the latest in a distressing trend that specifically targets and physically attacks Asian Americans — particularly the elderly and women. This is totally unacceptable and must be stopped."

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Her said she saw bias first hand last year when the pandemic started.

"One of my kids started coughing, sort of joking, said, 'coronavirus,'" Her said. "I was like, 'First, we do not joke about that.' Immediately somebody, someone who was white presenting -- I can't say for sure if she was white, but light skinned -- Just gave me the most evil eye I've ever had."

Stop AAPI Hate, a nonprofit social organization, said that nearly 3,800 incidents were reported over a one-year period during a pandemic, much higher than the prior year.

The key to stopping the violence, according to Her, is education and talking about it.

"What we really need to talk about is that there is something else happening here that is creating the environment," Her said. "So first, have conversations with people, tell people this is actually a problem."

She also suggested talking to children about racism because the only way to end the hate is to acknowledge it's real.

"You can talk about racism. You can talk about how things are unfair. You can talk about how people are being harmed by racism," Her said. "There are tons of resources out there for people who want to have those conversations."

Similarly, the AABAKC said the country can't "allow racism to rise" as it heals from effects of the pandemic.

"We are calling for everyone to focus on unity and denounce anti-Asian attacks, xenophobia, and racist language, so our community and our allies may heal and transcend this atrocity," the organization said.