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With discrimination and violence against Asian Americans continuing to be in the national spotlight, U.S. Rep. Jimmy Panetta this week assembled leading members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander community in the Central Coast to share their experiences and brainstorm about strategies to stop it.
One of them, UC Santa Cruz history Professor Alice Yang, noted that women are twice as likely to be harassed as men, according to data collected by the organization Stop AAPI Hate. “There is largely verbal harassment or shunning people, giving them dirty looks, crossing the street, making them feel unwelcome. But women report much more sexualized, hateful comments,” she told the group, which included other academics, elected officials and faith leaders.
Yang also noted how “the rhetoric of the last administration … has targeted people of Asian ancestry as well,” a reference to former President Donald Trump referring to the coronavirus as “the Chinese virus” and associated comments by Trump.
Marina Councilmember and Mayor Pro Tem Kathy Biala pointed out that even in Marina — where 70% of residents are people of color — racism simmers below the surface against not only Asian Americans, but also against Black and Latino people. “We don’t have overt violence. However, we have systemic racism, we have the undercurrents of racism every single day.” The incidents, she said, range from the defacement of Black Lives Matters signs on private property, to her personally experiencing racist comments during her campaign for office.
Panetta cited several congressional actions he supports as potential tools to help the AAPI community. They include House Resolution 151, which he said condemns anti-Asian sentiment and calls on state and local officials to investigate crimes and harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
He also said members of Congress are working on other legislation, called the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, which would enhance federal, state and local responses to these types of crimes. “We cannot turn a blind eye to the assault that Asian Americans are enduring,” said Panetta, and “we must work at all levels to provide answers and solutions to our local communities.”
Besides Yang and Biala, others offering perspectives included Richard Zhang, of the Monterey Peninsula Chinese American Association; Jeff Uchida, of the Japanese American Citizens League; and Mars Rocamora, the president of the Filipino Community Of Salinas Valley.
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