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Attacks against Asian Americans spur anxiety and concern in Wisconsin

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Posted at 6:41 PM, Mar 18, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-18 20:59:41-04

MILWAUKEE — New national data shows the number of anti-Asian hate incidents has grown over the last year.

While many of the attacks getting national attention are happening on the coasts, the concern and anxiety they cause are felt even in Wisconsin.

"It’s been emotional. It’s been frustrating," said Shary Tran, Co-Founder of ElevAsian, a group in Milwaukee aimed at discussing issues and elevating the local Asian community.

According to a non-profit organization called Stop AAPI Hate, 3,795 incidents were reported over about a year during the pandemic.

Reports came from all 50 states and included verbal harassment and physical assault. Women reported cases 2.3 times more than men.

Last year, ElevAsian put out a call to stop divisive language that blames the pandemic on the Asian community.

"A year later we’re seeing how that’s kind of manifested itself. The warning signs that we saw a year ago are just coming to fruition and seeing these words continue to embolden acts of hate," said Tran.

Wisconsin has seen some of these incidents.

Last spring, Lucky Liu's, a Chinese and Japanese restaurant in Milwaukee, said they would close temporarily because of xenophobic and verbal attacks against their staff.

The University of Wisconsin-Madison reported a spike in "bias incidents" aimed toward people who appear to be of Chinese and East Asian descent in March.

In May, Stevens Point Police arrested a man for verbally harassing a group of Asian Americans in a store.

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"It makes you think a little bit about what’s going on in our society and what has happened, where people are becoming so unkind," said Cat Tran, co-owner of Hue Vietnamese Restaurant.

When Cat and her husband Mark Nielsen first opened the restaurant, one of their goals was to share Cat's culture and traditions through their food.

They say the local community has been supportive and they have not experienced anti-Asian hate since the pandemic, but it does not make them immune to the anxiety sparked by stories of Asian Americans being attacked.

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Cat worries about her mom and people like her.

"There might be situations where she won’t be able to defend herself as I would, so there’s some concern when it comes to those that can’t fight back or verbalize back," said Cat.

"People have to stand up and say something when they see it and do their part to help," said Nielsen.

"The message that I think resonates is, when people are talking about being victims of racial attacks, or being victimized by hateful words, to believe them and to listen to them," said Shary.

While the numbers of reported hate incidents against Asians in America seem high, it is believed that the number may be even higher when you consider cases not reported.

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