NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — Throughout the last year of the pandemic, 3,795 hate incidents were received by the Stop AAPI Hate Reporting Center. Those dates range from Mid-March 2020 to the end of February 2021.
"Could that happen to me? So, that question have never entered my mind until this past year," Middle Tennessee resident Li Weaver said.
Weaver has lived in Middle Tennessee for about 16 years. NewsChannel 5 interviewed her and Seth Yu back in early March prior to the mass shootings in Atlanta. Yu has lived in the area on and off since his first visit back in 2006.
The conversation focused on the Asian community, the hate and racism it has experienced we have seen on a national scale, as well as their own experiences.
"That’s actually one of the reasons I get more involved in all the community activities because we need to, you know, step up and we need to speak up, but at the same time I do want to say this is that, you know the country is getting greater and greater," Yu said.
In Tennessee from 2017 to 2019, there were 305 hate crimes with race, ethnicity and ancestry bias according to a report from the Tennessee Department of Investigation. Seven were anti-Asian.
"I've always felt Nashville and overall Tennessee has to be a very welcoming environment," Weaver said.
Weaver mentioned a story of seeing writing on a car, reading to the effect of "Chinese are the enemy." She spoke of the power of rhetoric.
"Maybe this person won't do anything or somebody yelling at another Asian looking person in the grocery store, maybe on the surface it seems to be harmless, but we don't know where that would lead to. What's the next thing?" Weaver said.
For Yu, in his former role as a civil rights attorney at a government agency, it was sort of his job to see it.
He said, in those trying times, it is not the ugliness just exposed, but humanity can be shown, too.
"It's [an] opportunity for us to expose all those issues and the opportunity for the Asian community to recognize that it is a shared struggle all those racial tensions," Yu said.
NewsChannel 5 wanted to dig deeper and give a broader perspective on racism against the Asian community.
Ben Tran is an associate professor at Vanderbilt, where he researches and teaches the history of anti-Asian racism. He said it is an elevated number, but it is not an exception to U.S. history and this latest iteration is because of the pandemic.
"Racism against Asians, you know, South Asians, East Asians, Southeast Asians, Pacific Islanders have occurred throughout history," Tran said.
He called the problem systematic, going beyond the pandemic and not just something that is an individual issue for one race.
"That's the harder question, is 'how do we proceed and move and change the system.' So that we make it fair for everybody," Tran said. "It's all within our social fabric and to reconstitute and redo that fabric that requires a lot of work."
The big question: how can we support our local Asian community?
Tran said in some ways it is being aware of our biases, counter them and call out racist acts. It is more than just being nice to someone who is Asian American, but it is building a better community.
"But if we work towards understanding each other, understanding our histories and our complexities and our desires and aspirations then I think together we can change these things," Tran said.
Li said we need to come together, love and help each other and check on them.
But, she also stressed to be aware of what we share on social media, by validating the source and making sure it is true.
"I think we can all guard against some of these very negative words or stories that's out there,” Weaver said.
Yu said be kind to everyone because it is not a race specific issue, it is a shared experience.
"Even though we look differently and even though we have different accents, but our experience are shared in this community and in this country," Yu said.