North Carolina’s Asian American community is calling for change and greater protections in the aftermath of the deadly shootings in Atlanta that claimed eight lives.
Senator Jay Chaudhuri (D-Wake) and Senator Mujtaba Mohammed (D-Mecklenburg) introduced the Hate Crimes Prevention Act at a Thursday press conference.
The proposed legislation expands protections against hate crimes based on ethnicity, gender, gender identity, disability and sexual orientation. The bill would increase the punishment for hate crimes and make it mandatory for the State Bureau of Investigation to collect and analyze information about hate crimes from state and local law enforcement agencies. Another component of the bill would provide training about such crimes to law enforcement and prosecutors.
“I’m under no illusion the passage of this bill will do away with hate crimes and hate groups, but this legislation does build trust within our communities that are targeted by hate crimes,” said Sen. Chaudhuri.
Earlier this week, Stop AAPI Hate reported nearly 3,800 hate crime incidents between March 19 and February 28. The national group said the number could be higher, simply because not all incidents are reported.
In 68% of these cases, Asian Americans reported verbal harassment, with physical assaults in 11% of the cases. Other cases involved workplace discrimination and refusal of service.
Sen. Mujtaba Mohammed believes these numbers drive policy, making it essential for North Carolina do a better job collecting and analyzing crimes that appear to be motivated by hate.
“If we don’t report the data, those in power and the public will believe that hate crimes are not an issue and it becomes much more difficult to tackle a very real problem,” explained Mohammed.
“When law enforcement does not report, it sends a very clear message that we do not value public safety for all people.”
Click below to hear an emotional Sen Mohammed press for the legislation to get a hearing:
Women were more than twice as likely to report incidents of hate than men in the new Stop AAPI Hate report.
Chavi Khanna Koneru, Executive Director of North Carolina Asian AmericansTogether (NCAAT), said the multiple shootings in neighboring Georgia have shaken many in the community.
“Even though it has been in the news more for the past few months, anti-Asian discrimination and violence is not new,” said Koneru, noting the six year anniversary of the anti-Islamic attack on three Muslim college students in Chapel Hill.
Koneru said there is much diversity in the Asian American community in terms of ethnicity and political beliefs.
“This is a matter that has impacted our entire community and deserves to be considered.”
A virtual vigil organized in part by NCAAT drew 250 participants Wednesday evening.
Edward Binanay, President of Asian Pacific Islander Outreach blamed the spike in violence on xenophobic rhetoric, falsely blaming Asian Americans for the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We have been the fabric of this country and for centuries we have been part of America,” said Binanay in calling for an inter-racial dialogue educating American about the long and proud history of Asian Americans in this country.
Also lending a voice in support of the legislation was Gerald Givens, president of the Raleigh-Apex NAACP.
“No one is born to hate. Hate is taught. It begins with language. It begins with the language in our homes,” Givens said.
Sen. Chaudhuri called the new measure a common sense proposal, acknowledging the state’s current ethnic intimidation statute does not address ethnicity, gender identity, disability or sexual orientation.
“We know from research that some of our largest law enforcement agencies report zero hate crimes, because currently hate crime reporting is voluntary and not mandatory,” said Chaudhuri. “It’s very hard to make public policy when we’re not collecting such data.”
On Thursday, President Joe Biden ordered flags fly at half staff in respect for the victims of “the senseless acts of violence” in Atlanta.