Inland Empire Asian American leaders on Wednesday spoke out against hate crimes locally and nationally during a telephone town hall that was attended by 2,600 community members. KVCR’s Megan Jamerson reports, the event focused on the unique traumas faced by the AAPI community during the COVID-19 pandemic
The use of offensive words to describe COVID-19 like “Kung-Flu” and “Wuhan Virus” played a role in stirring up mass resentments and blame said Riverside’s Congressman Mark Takano, a Japanese American and vice chair of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus.
“We’ve all experienced as the AAPI community, the tremendous damage that was done by irresponsible leadership, whether it’s the murders in Georgia or the uptick in the number of AAPI hate incidences and assaults across the country,” said Takano.
Eastvale Mayor Jocelyn Yow also spoke at the event hosted by the Inland Empire Community Foundation and Listos. Yow said that while anti-Asian sentiment is not new, she was livid when she saw the headlines after the killing of the six Asian American women in Georgia.
“What the authorities failed to recognize was that the hyper-sexualization of Asian women is indeed at the root of sexism and racism," said Yow. "And let me be clear Asian women are not an object for your sexual gratification. Not ever, now not, and not in the future.”
She has since then sought out mental health support and urges members of the community to do the same, such as dialing 2-1-1 for information on local services.
A poll taken during the town hall showed 46 percent of participants reported a high level of personal fear about hate crimes happening to them or their loved ones.
UC Riverside’s Karthick Ramakrishnan said one in six Asian Americans have experienced hate incidents since the start of the pandemic, a number much higher than what has been reported to authorities.
“Please take care of yourselves. I know it’s very traumatizing and re-traumatizing to see some of these things on endless loop," said Ramakrishnan. "You might feel that there’s not much hope, that we are under attack everywhere. There are a lot of good Americans and allies especially in other communities of color that have our back. So, don’t feel that this is the only thing that is out there.”
The townhall speakers also urged the community to seek out the COVID vaccine since Asian Americans are among those disproportionately affected by the virus. Nationally Filipinos make up a third of nurse deaths from COVID and locally the death rate of Pacific Islanders is double the broader community.
The county says they are working to close racial gaps in vaccination rates. The latest data shows, over 50 percent of those age 65 and older have been vaccinated compared to only 28 percent of Asian Americans in that same group.
Mental Health Resources in Riverside County:
- Click Here for a Riverside County Mental Resource Guide designed by Listos.
- Call 2-1-1 to connect to community resources.
- Friday Night Live: a program offering services for youth. 951-782-2419.
- Text SHHELP to 844.204.0880 24/7 for free and confidential counseling via text message through What's Up Safe House.
- Riverside County 24/7 Mental Health Urgent Care: Offering in-person mental health services.
*Editor's Note: This article has been updated to correct an error. Riverside Congressman Mark Takano is Japanese American.