BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Advocates have been trying to draw attention to the rise in violence and racism toward Asian Americans since the COVID-19 pandemic started more than a year ago.
However, the recent shooting in two Atlanta massage parlors that left eight people dead, six of which were Asian women, has sparked a demand for answers and change.
“Incidents are taking place all over the country, rural as well as urban areas,” Manjusha Kulkarni said.
As the co-founder of Stop AAPI Hate, Kulkarni and other organizers launched a national probe into Asian hate and discrimination at the beginning of the United States’ health crisis.
“(We wanted) to find out what was really happening to Asian American/Pacific Islander communities,” said Kulkarni.
Over the past year, the group received 3,795 hate incidents by victims or witnesses.
“We believe that it’s just the tip of the iceberg,” Kulkarni said.
Verbal harassment and shunning made up the two largest proportions of reported incidents, with 68.1% and 20.5% respectively. Other reports were categorized as physical assaults, civil rights violations and online harassments.
However, organizers realized not every victim reports a hate incident or even knows how to.
“I know that there were times when I experienced racism and discrimination,” Kulkarni said. “The only way we understand this problem is if people report it to us.”
Mississippi only has two incidents in the Stop AAPI report, but other studies show a better scope of the nationwide issue, such as one from the Pew Research Center.
Back in July, the center reported about three-in-ten Asian adults say they have been victims of racial or ethnic slurs or jokes since the COVID-19 outbreak started.
Advocates say the pandemic merely magnified the racial issues that already hurt AAPI communities, however they also say there are ways to solve them.
“On an individual level, if you see something say something,” Kulkarni said.
Along with self-reporting, advocates call on state governments to pass explicit civil rights protections - something that Mississippi does not have.
“We certainly want to work with policymakers to solve what’s happening now, addressing the hate,” Kulkarni said.
In the meantime, focus is on supporting organizations that specifically help more than 20 million Asian Americans across the U.S.
“We all need to do a better job at highlighting what’s happening to a pretty significant part of the American populations,” Kulkarni said.
To report a hate incident you experienced or witness, click here.