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TAYLORSVILLE – The violence and racism targeting Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders has rocked Utah's communities, and state lawmakers and local leaders released a statement condemning recent attacks.
Asian American and Pacific Islander lawmakers and local leaders said while we haven't seen that level of violence in Utah, it nevertheless sent a shock wave through our community.
"I think overall the community here is wonderful," said small business owner Tammy Luu. "Everyone treats everyone really nice."
Tammy Luu was just 10 years old when her family, including her eight siblings, came to Utah from Vietnam.
"We have no idea what the U.S. is like — we thought it was heaven and we were coming here," she said.
Over 30 years later, Luu's family embodies the ideal of the American dream. Together, they own and operate a successful beauty supply store and school.
When the pandemic shutdown business Luu's family business, they, like many Americans, turned their focus to giving back.
"We rallied the community here and we made over at least 13,000 masks and we donated them to the governor's office and local prisons," Luu said.
But she hasn't been immune to increased racism during the pandemic. She said she has heard hate speech against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders by people blaming them for the spread of COVID-19.
"We are Americans and for you to look at me and say, 'Oh, well, she's Asian and I should punish her because that's where it came from' — that is not fair," Luu said.
Tuesday's attacks at Atlanta-area spas hit home for many Asian Americans like Luu. While the suspect of the attacks claims his actions were not racially motivated, the incident comes at the heels of mounting reports of violence and racism towards Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
The nonprofit coalition Stop Asian American and Pacific Islander Hate National Reporting Center cataloged more than 3,795 incidents in all 50 states between March 19, 2020, and Feb. 28, 2021.
Verbal harassment made up 68.1% of discrimination detailed by respondents.
The increase of anti-Asian hate speech is absolutely unacceptable and must stop.
–Statement from local leaders
Meanwhile, local community organizations and leaders including Senate Minority Whip Jani Iwamoto, D-Holladay, House Minority Whip Karen Kwan, D-Murray, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, released a statement Wednesday decrying Tuesday's shootings in Atlanta, saying in part, "It is clear that anti-Asian hate incidents have exploded over the past year across our country. The increase of anti-Asian hate speech is absolutely unacceptable and must stop. Divisive rhetoric, such as describing the Coronavirus as the 'Chinese Virus,' has increased acts of hate against members of the AA&PI community broadly."
"Often the stereotype for Asian Americans is that we're meek and we're mild and we're timid and we don't cause any problems, and we often are invisible as an ethnic group because of that," Kwan said. "But to see the violence spread against AAPIs it's devastating, heartbreaking and it's shocking."
Kwan said Utah says hate acts in AA&PI communities too often go unreported.
Currently, Kwan said they have not documented violent attacks like those in other states. However, they're in contact with the Utah Department of Public Safety, who reached out to offer resources and support in addressing the issue and tracking hate crimes.
"When we close or at night, I am scared. I pray that nothing will happen to anyone, but I am scared and we are scared," Luu said.
Luu said her family hasn't experienced violence, but she has family and friends in other states and has felt the ripple effects.
"I was just telling my mom yesterday to be careful and make sure she is aware of her surroundings when she goes outside," she said. "You just never know."