By Chris Hoffman

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — Attacks against the Asian-American community have been on the rise over the past year. According to Stop AAPI Hate, it’s received about 3,800 reported incidents since last March when the pandemic began in the U.S.

For members of the Asian-American community, attacks are something they said they’ve dealt with since their ancestors first came to America.

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“It’s a painful process what we’re going through right now,” Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance Member Judy Sun said.

In the past year, history is repeating itself with political rhetoric blaming their community for the COVID-19 pandemic.

“What that signals to many people is that this is OK. It’s OK to be racist. It’s okay to have these violent thoughts and sentiment,” Suh said in a sit down interview with KDKA.

She said attacks against her community have historically followed a pattern.

“Whenever there are deep economic and political crises in the United States, Asian-Americans are often scapegoated,” Suh said.

That played out in the Pittsburgh area with unions helping to push the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited the immigration of Chinese laborers.

“It is at once a place whereas an Asian-American, we’re constantly with our backs against the wall,” Organization of Chinese Americans President Marian Lien said.

Lien said she experiences racism almost daily.

“It comes at me as a verbal assault. It comes at me visibly as I’m walking down the street,” Lien said over Zoom.

It can be challenging to report as a hate crime. Lien said that’s because the AAPI community doesn’t have an instantly recognized symbol of hate aimed at them as other minority groups do, like a swastika or a noose.

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“It has to be as they are inflicting the hate, they have to actually tell you they hate you,” she told KDKA.

She said there’s also the problem of law enforcement minimizing their experience.

“This sort of association of us crying wolf sometimes is frustrating beyond anything else I can tell you,” Lien said.

According to Lien, the root of the hate is fear. Fear of the unknown and fear of losing control.

Dr. James Cook is an associate director of the Asian Studies Center at Pitt. He said that fear helps drive the current situation we see against Asian-Americans. As China has grown into a world power, it has become an alternative to the U.S. and European way of helping developing countries.

“This nervousness also translates into anti-Asian-American sentiment back here in the United States,” Dr. Cook said.

So how do we fight this fear? Dr. Cook said the simple answer is education.

“I think we have to spend more time learning about those traditions before we begin to assume China will act like the United States,” he said over Zoom.

Lien said it should start in public education, adding Asian-American history is American history.

“A wise friend of mine once said, ‘I will stop doing this work when my history is no longer an elective,’” Lien said.

If you are a witness to racism or an attack, community members ask you to try to step in and stop it; or at least document it to help the victim with any potential legal action.

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You can also report attacks to Stop AAPI Hate.