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We stand with our neighbors against violence and aggression

Americans were shocked and saddened by the shootings in Atlanta this week that killed eight people, six of whom were Asian women. My heart goes out to the families of those killed and injured, and I denounce hatred and crimes against people based on their race, ethnicity, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion or other characteristics.

Sadly, Asian Americans like me were not surprised. Recently, we have seen reports of Asians elders being assaulted and, in one case killed. Since early in the pandemic, despite little mainstream media attention, Asian Americans were very aware of increasing harassment and attacks on Asians. This was due to politicians using racist rants linking the coronavirus and trade conflicts to China and increasing anti-immigrant rhetoric.

In 2020, hate crimes against Asian Americans rose by 150%. The Stop AAPI Hate reporting center, launched in March 2020, has reported almost 3,800 incidents. Physical assaults are the tip of the iceberg, comprising 11% of reports. People are being harassed on public transportation, at work, in businesses, and outside their homes.

The anti-Asian attacks and racism are not new; they are layered on top of longstanding themes of the Yellow Peril, model minority, perpetual foreigner, and “yellow fever” (Asian fetish).

Besides physical harm, these attacks are causing fear and stress, especially among elders and women. Yesterday, I heard some of my own staff who grew up in America express this poignantly.

On June 17, 2020, the Tacoma-Pierce County Board of Health passed a resolution declaring racism a public health emergency. Racism is interwoven with the social, economic, and environmental factors that are the major drivers of our health. However, because race is a social construct, we have hope of reversing the pernicious effects of racism. We can shift attitudes and behaviors and dismantle the institutions and systems that perpetuate racism.

Tacoma and Pierce County residents should start by confronting our area’s historical roles in anti-Asian racism at these memorials:

Words and actions can hurt, but they can also heal. Check on your Asian neighbors and friends. Listen to their concerns. Examine your own language and biases. Stand with them against any form of violence or aggression. Discuss steps to protect them and restore their sense of safety.

At Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, we remain dedicated to improving the health of all people and places in Pierce County. That means:

  • Standing with our communities to push for justice, healing, and a safe place to live.
  • Partnering with all our racial, ethnic, and other communities to honor their voices.
  • Committing to become a multicultural and anti-racist organization.

Together we can address racism and all obstacles to good health.  Learn more at tpchd.org/racialequity.

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