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AAPI hate crimes bring renewed focus on COVID-19 discrimination

Stop AAPI hate
Posted at 5:00 PM, Feb 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-12 22:21:35-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — A string of coast-to-coast attacks on Asian senior citizens has put a shadow on the Las Vegas valley’s Lunar New Year celebrations, elevating concerns about hate crimes against the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

In Oakland, a 70-year-old grandmother was beaten, and an assault in San Francisco left an Asian senior dead. Both attacks happened within the past week.

RELATED: Suspect charged in connection with 3 alleged assaults on elderly Asian-Americans in Oakland

“I’m very saddened," said Sonny Vinuya, the president of the Las Vegas Asian Chamber of Commerce.

"You never want to see that happening to anybody let alone, Asian seniors,” he said.

Vinuya says the stigma within the AAPI community of constantly being seen as a foreigner and being somehow responsible for the pandemic has resulted in some being verbally abused.

“It’s not like we can walk around with signs saying 'I was born and raised here in the United States' and that we’re as American as anybody else,” he said.

Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says they have not seen a rise in hate crimes towards the Asian community, something Vinuya is grateful for.

RELATED: Las Vegas police not seeing spike in crime against Asian-American community

“There will always be bad behavior. The rude or bullying kind here but thank god it’s not violent,” he said.

The online reporting center Stop AAPI Hate says its received 21 reports of COVID-19 related discrimination in Nevada with 13 reports in Las Vegas. The vast majority of them involving verbal incidents.

One case happened at a pharmacy where a white lady was heard making insulting remarks. The report shows she emphasized the virus came from Wuhan, China, and said Chinese people take their shoes off and still started this pandemic.

Wayne Tanaka, a retired Clark County educator, says bridging the divide between people can help prevent these situations.

“How do you prevent it? Education," said Tanaka. "Fighting ignorance.”

He says having AAPI leaders in places like Clark County School District can help other community members, especially students, get a more diverse perspective of society.

“You need good, strong leadership no matter what you do," he said. "I would love to see an increasing number of Asians administrators, teachers, staff, because the kids are there."

Vinuya asks the wider community to remain vigilant and call out any hateful situations.

“If you see somebody who does that type of behavior or is boasting about it, let them know it’s not okay," he said.

"We’re all the same," added Vinuya. "We’re all trying to live, trying to survive."

LVMPD says it has a presence in Chinatown for the Lunar New Year holiday and consistently communicate with leaders in that community.