MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) –  Amid a surge in reported attacks and discrimination against Asian Americans, community leaders are encouraging Minnesotans to help combat these incidents by listening to people’s stories, learning about the historical context and reporting hate incidents.

This comes in wake the Atlanta spa shootings that killed eight people, including six Asian women. A suspect has been arrested and charged with eight counts of murder and authorities in Georgia are not ruling out tacking on hate crime charges.

On Wednesday, more than 1,000 people participated in an online event “Unheard Stories: Asian Americans Experiencing Hate” to hear from victims and discuss ways to take action against violence and discrimination.

“We have to work at all these levels right at the legislative level, at the community level and also at the media level around narratives,” said Chanida Phaengdara Potter, with the Southeast Asian Diaspora, or “SEAD,” Project, which is an organization that’s part of the coalition Asian Minnesotan Alliance for Justice hosting the event.

“We are trying to fight while we’re grieving and this is something that a lot of communities of color have to do on a daily basis.”

She said sometimes people get stuck and don’t know how to properly respond when they witness discrimination and suggested bystander trainings offered by the ACLU or Asian Americans Advancing Justice, which also offers a compiled list of resources in many states.

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The group Stop AAPI Hate reported 3,800 hate incidents against Asian Americans from March 2020 to February 2021, but experts say many incidents are not reported.

Potter said reporting to Stop AAPI Hate or the Minnesota Department of Human Rights if you witness or face discrimination is an important step to ensure a fuller picture of the problem. Minnesotans can file a complaint with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights here or call 1-833-454-0148.

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“Making sure that the racism that folks are witnessing is being called out and tell them, ‘Hey, that’s not okay,’ and also checking on the person who may be also experiencing that, or are targeted for that,” said Potter. “We need to name the systems that continue to create this culture of bias and bigotry and supremacy.”

bill aimed at strengthening Minnesota’s hate crime laws would allow community groups to compile reports and send to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, among other changes.

Potter also said it is critical for people looking to be an ally to the AAPI community to understand the historical context of racism against Asian Americans.

“This isn’t something new,” she said. “Anti-Asian violence and hate crimes have been going on for as long as America had brought over Chinese labor to build a railroad in California.”

Caroline Cummings