A group of Asian women from the Twin Ports, committed to advocacy and engagement, wrote in a commentary in the News Tribune this past weekend that no, they are “not OK right now.”
Not after years of upwardly trending hate-crime reports, as documented in November by the FBI. Not after a year of record-breaking violence reported against Asian Americans, as a national report in February detailed. And certainly not after the shootings in Atlanta on March 26 that killed six women of Asian descent.
“The hate we are experiencing right now is not a new, isolated phenomenon,” the Twin Ports residents wrote. “This is a distressing time. … Only by standing together and seeing each other with a lens of love, gratitude, and hope do we have a chance to defeat the forces of hate.”
As much as we need to stand together, always, and accept each other, even when — perhaps especially when — we don’t look like each other, those certainly are not our “only” moves.
In St. Paul, as one example right now, lawmakers have an opportunity this legislative session to toughen the state’s hate-crime statutes. A bill currently moving through the Minnesota House would help the state more accurately track incidents, as its proponents advocated in a Forum News Service story late last week.
More specifically, the bill promises better data on hate crimes and more training for police officers in responding to hate-motivated incidents. It also would codify hateful graffiti as a hate crime, add gender identity and expression as a protected class covered by the law, and allow community organizations to report hate crimes to the state’s Department of Human Rights on behalf of victims more comfortable confiding in the organizations than in police, the story reported.
“We must take action against hate, and we can’t allow for it to continue, because we have seen what it looks like,” Rep. Samantha Vang, DFL-Brooklyn Center said, referring to the shootings in Atlanta.
While an amendment failed that would have also added police officers as a protected class in hate-crime statutes, Minnesota has other laws with enhanced penalties for crimes against officers, according to the story. Whether those other laws also need updating and toughening can additionally be considered this session by lawmakers. There’s no denying law enforcement is also being more often targeted.
More immediately, though, making stronger Minnesota’s hate-crime statutes is an obvious and logical move for the Legislature. Gov. Tim Walz can sign it into law because, unfortunately, an even tougher stand is necessary to protect those victimized just because of their race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexuality, or other immutable characteristics.
"Our communities are in pain. We are hurting. We are scared, and we’re looking for elected officials to take action right now," Nick Kor of the Coalition of Asian American Leaders said in a news conference last week in the Twin Cities.
Yes, we must stand together. We must see each other with love, gratitude, and hope. But at the Minnesota Capitol, we also must take strong and immediate action.