Since the outset of the COVID-19 pandemic, 4,000 hate crimes have been reported against Asian Americans. On Monday, Vermont Rep. Peter Welch met with members of the state’s Asian and Pacific Islander community, who said they fear the violence here as well.
“My mom, the first thing when this virus came about, she called me and goes ‘be prepared'” said Mieko Ozek. “It’s in our heads, we have a history. We might be taken out, excluded, whatever it may be.”
That fear follows escalating attacks on Asians in major cities across the U.S., including the recent spa shootings in Atlanta and attacks on the elderly in New York City.
“All I could think about was my 75 year old mother,” said Paul Suk-Hyun Yoon. “My 3 sisters, my aunt, my cousins– all who live and work in New York. What if something like that happened to them?”
Ozeki and Suk-Hyun Yoon are 2 of the 12,000 people in the Green Mountain State who identify as Asian American or pacific islander. Congressman Peter Welch met with them prior to his flight to D.C. Monday. Welch says the hatred against Asians was amplified by the pandemic and rhetoric from the trump administration.
“The former president called it the ‘China virus’ and it was a concerted effort to attribute blame for COVID on Asians which manifested into hate against Asian Americans,” Welch said.
This week in Washington, the House will be taking up an Asian American Hate Crime Bill that passed in the Senate 95 to 1. Rep. Welch says it will create a new position in the Attorney Generals Office focused on addressing the attacks as well as hotlines as a channel for reporting hate crimes. In Vermont, leaders hope it addresses microaggressions and racist behavior.
“It’s the build up that we see,” Ozeki said. “It’s very subtle, it’s language, it’s behavior. It’s a build up, but it’s the extreme we fear.”