Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders experience added danger of anti-Asian racism

Area activists respond to the nationwide increase of racial bias reports

Clara Neupert

More stories from Clara Neupert


Sia Her responds to a question from Margaret Jensen, the moderator. The panel was held virtually, and 24 people attended the live event.

Snarky comments in the workplace. Racial slurs hurled on a university campus. An explicit social media post. Physical assault.

All of these acts of racial violence were targeted at Asian Americans/Pacific Islanders and are related to the novel coronavirus.

Three of these incidents were filed with the 1,497 other bias reports collected by the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council, a nationwide organization, within the past month.

One, the bias report about racial slurs, was filed on UW-Eau Claire’s campus last month.

The COVID-19 pandemic can be stressful for anyone, but API experience the additional danger of anti-Asian racism.

During a virtual panel at the end of April, API activists said the new coronavirus should be the common enemy, not a group of people. The panel was orchestrated by UW-Eau Claire’s Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“During COVID-19, we all have one goal, and that is to survive the virus,” panelist Sia Her said.

Her is the executive director of the Council on Asian Pacific Minnesotans. She was joined by Mai Xiong and Pa Thao. Xiong on the Eau Claire City Council and is the founder and president of the Hmong American Leadership. Thao is the executive director of the Black and Brown Womyn Power Coalition in Eau Claire and the former executive director of the Eau Claire Area Hmong Mutual Assistance Association.

Each of the panelists described how anti-Asian racism impacts them. Her said she feels “heartbroken” when she has to tell members of the API community to take extra precautions during their daily walks or trips to the grocery store.

“Going grocery shopping in the state of Minnesota should not be something that goes hand-in-glove with fear for one’s own physical safety,” Her said.

Recent acts of racial violence reveal the systematic oppression that API continually experience in the United States, panelists said.

Xiong encouraged members of the API community to reach out to each other when in need. She said she tells her family and friends to never leave home alone. When faced with a racist remark, Xiong said one should prioritize personal safety then correct misinformation.

Xiong urged non-Asian allies to engage in candid conversations about race.

“At the end of the day,” Xiong said. “I think we all want the same thing — we all just want better.”