Asian Americans notice more suspicion as some place blame for pandemic

Grand Rapids

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Violence against Asian Americans have surged across the United States since the coronavirus pandemic began.

There are reports of Asians being spit on, called names and physically assaulted. Leaders in the West Michigan Asian community tell News 8 that they have not experienced the more extreme hate crimes that other big cities have seen, but that aggression against Asians has increased.

“Pretty much from the beginning when this was referred to as a China virus and the kung flu and Wuhan virus, even though I’m not Chinese, being Asian, often times people can’t distinguish what country you may be from, and so you do have to think about something from an entirely different country and how it will impact how I move through my day-to-day life,” said SuLyn Weaver, an ambassador for the Grand Rapids Asian-Pacific Festival.

Weaver was born in South Korea but raised in northern Michigan after being adopted when she was 3. She now has kids of her own.

Since the pandemic began, Weaver said she has been yelled at in the store, and noticed people will wait for her to walk by or keep a farther distance from her than other non-Asian shoppers. To avoid it, she stays home as much possible.

“Even in situations where I may be outside and I might not need to wear a mask, I will generally wear one pretty much from the car to the store so that when people see me, I’ve already taken care of as many things as I am able to for the safety and comfort of others,” Weaver said. “Which isn’t really my responsibility, but I know it’s part of what I have to think about as part of being an Asian American woman.”

The Grand Rapids Police Department said its records don’t show an increase in reports of hate crimes against people who are Asian. That came as no surprise to Weaver, who says many of the actions don’t rise to the level of a police report or, if they do, people are scared to report it.

“The idea that we would have anything to do with bringing the virus to this county or increasing the spread of the virus really is so ridiculous, but it is part of the way people fear things they don’t understand,” she said. 

She wants others to understand that the prejudice exists and that you can help by speaking up when you see it.

“Sometimes it doesn’t take very much. Just having someone aware of your situation is all that it takes,” Weaver said.

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