Illinois Asian American Caucus condemns rise in anti-Asian hate crimes
SPRINGFIELD (WGEM) - Wednesday marks one year since a white man killed eight people during targeted shootings at three Asian spas in Atlanta, Georgia. Six of the victims were of Asian descent. The Illinois Asian American Caucus says this should never happen again.
The organization Stop AAPI hate reports there were 10,905 hate crimes against Asian Americans from March 2020 to the end of last year. The Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism also found anti-Asian hate crimes rose by 339% last year. Women of the Illinois Asian Amerian Caucus say they have seen more of these hate crimes occur across the country and in Illinois.
McLean County Board Member Sharon Chung joined lawmakers during a press conference Wednesday morning. Chung is the only downstate member of the Illinois Asian American Caucus. She said the past two years during the COVID-19 pandemic have been very challenging.
“As a woman, we already walk around aware of our surroundings on a daily basis, especially when traveling at night,” Chung said. “And as an Asian American woman that is magnified by an even higher level. As an Asian American woman with two young daughters, I’ve had to be more vigilant than ever in my entire life prepared to defend my children and myself at a moment’s notice.”
On Friday, a man in New York hit an Asian American woman over the head 125 times before he was arrested. The caucus is calling for an end to these attacks against the Asian American community. Rep. Janet Yang Rohr (D-Naperville) said more people are realizing anti-Asian racism exists in many communities.
“Just last week, a prominent member of our community felt perfectly at ease throwing around racial slurs very casually. So, there’s still more to do,” Yang Rohr said. “There’s still more that we, as Asian American leaders, as a community, have to do to make sure that people know that those acts are just unacceptable. But we are going to be here to make sure that that happens, to make sure that those who follow us and those that we represent don’t have to experience that either.”
State lawmakers passed a plan last year to require all public schools to include a unit of instruction on the history of Asian Americans and their contributions to the country. While the TEAACH Act took effect on Jan. 1, the inclusion of Asian American history will start during the 2022-2023 school year.
Rep. Jennifer Gong-Gershowitz (D-Glenview) was the lead sponsor of that legislation. Gong-Gershowitz says hate and discrimination come from ignorance. She believes the best weapon against ignorance is education.
“This is a point of inflection, I think,” Gong-Gershowitz said. “The best that we can do as elected officials, as community leaders, is to ensure that we take this moment to do better.”
The Illinois House also held a moment of silence Wednesday afternoon to recognize the need for change across the country. Rep. Theresa Mah (D-Chicago) thanked members on both sides of the aisle for coming together to support the TEAACH Act last year.
“Amidst this darkness, there has been a light of hope that will allow us to fight ignorance and hate with knowledge and understanding and instill a firm sense of equity and belonging with regard to Asian Americans in our state and nation,” Mah said.
Rep. Denyse Wang Stoneback (D-Skokie) also rose to honor the lives of those lost in the Atlanta shootings. She said this anniversary is also a reminder of the “deadly intersection between hate and firearms in the hands of people filled with hate.”
Stoneback said mass shootings of this nature have impacted people of many backgrounds including Black people praying at a church in South Carolina, Jewish people murdered in the Tree of Life Synagogue, and members of the LGBTQIA community killed during the Pulse night club shooting.
“These tragedies remind us that the accessibility to firearms by people filled with hate is far too easy,” Stoneback said. “Last year, this House adopted House Resolution 163 to commit to passing meaningful legislation that would prevent people filled with hate from obtaining the means by which to end innocent lives. As legislators, we cannot stand idly by for the next person who is filled with hate to easily obtain firearms.”
The caucus will hold a virtual visual to remember the lives of those lost due to anti-Asian hate Wednesday night. US Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) will join members for the vigil at 7 p.m. You can register for the virtual event by clicking here.
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