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Anti-Asian Hate is Taking A Toll on Central Illinois' Asian American Communities

Damian Dovarganes/AP
Messages are posted in a wall of solidarity by people participating at a rally to raise awareness of anti-Asian violence outside the Japanese American National Museum in Little Tokyo in Los Angeles Saturday, March 13, 2021.

Anti-Asian hate appears to have worsened during the pandemic. A recent study from California State University finds anti-Asian hate crimes reported to police in major U.S. cities rose 150% last year — even as overall hate crimes dropped 7%. And an analysis by the group Stop AAPI Hate found nearly 3,800 self-reported cases of anti-Asian bias in the U.S. throughout the pandemic.

David Chih, director of the Asian American Cultural Center at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, says the rise in anti-Asian hate nationwide is taking a toll on the Asian American community in east central Illinois, leading to feelings of anger, frustration and despair.

“And we… as Asian Americans, never know when it might happen to us, the next time we go out to the grocery store or walk around on campus,” Chih says.

People who experience racism can suffer health consequences, says Teresa Mok, a licensed clinical psychologist in Urbana.

“Feeling stress, PTSD, despair, anger,” she says. “But also there’s secondary trauma that we know that happens for people who may read about events [or] try to support other people in their lives.”

Mok says she was horrified but not surprised by the shootings in the Atlanta area that left 8 people dead, including six Asian women, last week.

She notes that violence against Asians in the U.S. dates back hundreds of years, and the issue was exacerbated by racist rhetoric coming from the highest levels of government since the start of the pandemic — for example, with former President Trump frequently referring to the coronavirus as the “China virus.”

Pew Research study from last summer found 4 in 10 Americans say it’s become more common for people to express racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began. 

Christine Herman spent nine years studying chemistry before she left the bench to report on issues at the intersection of science and society. She started in radio in 2014 as a journalism graduate student at the University of Illinois and a broadcast intern at Radio Health Journal. Christine has been working at WILL since 2015.