With violence against Asian Americans rising, a Virginia Tech director pushes for awareness and community building

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ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — More conversations are happening around the United States after the deadly shootings at Atlanta-based massage parlors become the latest examples of violence against Asian Americans.

Stop AAPI Hate is a national database that keeps track of reported attacks against Asian Americans. According to the center, 3,795 incidents were reported between March 19, 2020 and Feb. 28, 2021.

The attacks range from physical or verbal assaults to insults and even workplace discriminations.

Dr. Nina Ha is the director of the Asian Cultural Engagement Center at Virginia Tech.

She says the cycle of violence is nothing new, but it is being amplified. According to Ha, the coronavirus pandemic is making that evident.

Ha says references to COVID-19 — including “China Flu” or “Kung-Flu” — have been damaging to Asian Pacific Islander Desi Americans (APIDA) and the concerns are still growing.

“There’s already microaggressions toward the APIDA community,” Ha said. “It allowed people to express their hatred, from verbal abuse to physical abuse to vandalism and now I guess to murder and violence in that way.”

Ha believes people’s ignorance and misunderstanding different cultures play roles in potentially violent acts. More conversations need to happen.

“It’s just listening to people,” Ha said. “Listening to people’s traumas and experiences. Just because you yourself may have never experienced it doesn’t mean that you can’t listen and try to express support. Reach out to people.”

The Asian Cultural Engagement Center was established in 2017. To bring awareness to the violence happening toward Asian Americans, the center hosted Anti-Blackness panel discussions over the last year.

The APIDA caucus is planning to host a social on campus March 22. The community is invited to join the discussions about issues APIDA faces and strides made.

There is also a mental health support group for students on campus.

According to Dr. Ha, the APIDA population on Virginia Tech’s campus is about 10% of the entire student body. The estimate is nearly 4,000 students in that group, which excludes international students.

More events are scheduled to bring awareness in April during National APIDA Heritage Month.

This comes after eight people were killed in the Atlanta shootings. Six of the victims were of Asian descent.

Investigators say the suspect in this case admits to the shootings, but says he did it because of a sex addiction and not race. However, investigators are still considering filing hate crime charges.

There have been several examples of attacks against Asian Americans that have made national headlines recently.

Former NBA player and current G League basketball player Jeremy Lin says he was called “Coronavirus” by an opponent during a game.

The NBA investigated that incident and says it determined who insulted Lin. The league is handling the situation internally with the player with Lin approving of that method.

Earlier this month, the daughter of late New York Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan was accused of telling an Asian couple to “Go back to China” while riding in Manhattan cab.

The couple says Maura Moynihan was recorded on a cellphone during what it says was a random confrontation.

Moynihan has admitted to saying that but says the remarks were not racist.

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