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Kent April 15, 2021

Addressing anti-Asian bias

NEW YORK — Responding to recent reports of attacks targeting Asian Americans, New York State officials have voiced their intent to maintain an open dialogue with their communities and continue combatting incidents of discrimination as they arise.

Locals say no problems, law enforcement prepares

Reaching out to a handful of Asian American owned and operated businesses in northeastern Dutchess County, the ones contacted by this newspaper fortunately reported that they haven’t had any fears, concerns or problems related to anti-Asian bias or violence. A few other Asian-owned businesses didn’t respond to our requests for interviews. 

In Dover Plains, Jason Chen of Bi Kitchen said he hasn’t had any issues or worries, while Lim You, owner of Yi Kitchen in Amenia, said “I heard the news but I haven’t had any problems.”

However, while there have been no incidents or cases of bias reported thus far, officers from Dutchess County and New York State say they are prepared to handle any issues should they arise.

“As far as the handling of these incidents goes, I will say that the Sheriff’s Office has zero tolerance for bias in any form,” said Captain John Watterson from the Dutchess County Sheriff’s Office, “and should we have occasion to investigate a potentially biased incident, the matter will be taken extremely seriously and the full resources of the Sheriff’s Office will be utilized to bring it to a successful conclusion.”

Meanwhile, New York State Police Troop (NYSP) K Information Officer Aaron Hicks said the state police are aware of the situation but not discussing it “as we have no credible intelligence at this time,” adding, “we investigate hate crimes very seriously… when appropriate, hate crimes are handled by the Hate Crime Task Force created under the direction of Governor Cuomo. Again, we will always work tirelessly to bring those who break the law motivated by hate to justice.”

Human rights webinar follows slew of incidents

On Tuesday afternoon, March 30, the New York State Division of Human Rights organized a virtual webinar, “Challenging Anti-AAPI Bias: How Targeted Communities Have Responded to Hate” to discuss recent attacks against members of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities and how they fit into historical patterns of hate crimes. It can be viewed in full on the “NYSHumanRights” YouTube channel.

New York State Division of Human Rights Interim Commissioner Jonathan Smith called the attention of those watching to a recent video published online and showed an attack on a 65-year-old Asian American woman in broad daylight in midtown Manhattan.

Just a couple weeks prior to that incident, Smith recalled another incident in which an 83-year-old Asian American grandmother was approached by a stranger in Westchester County who proceeded to spit in her face and punch her in the nose, leaving her unconscious on the ground.

“The NYPD has reported that, this past weekend alone, there have been 27 anti-AAPI bias incidents in 2021 so far compared to eight during the same period from last year,” Smith said. “According to the group Stop AAPI Hate, there have been over 3,800 incidents of anti-Asian bias nationwide. Nearly 10% have involved physical assault, approximately 70% have targeted women and approximately 13% of those incidents have occurred here in New York State — and these numbers don’t even begin to capture all of the many other incidents and attacks that have occurred but are not reported to law enforcement or to groups like Stop AAPI Hate.

“All of this is tragic, all of it is heartbreaking and all of it is completely unnecessary,” he added.

In addressing these incidents, Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul said part of what needs to be done is to show up, listen and engage and then act. Between COVID-19 and the discrimination “that reared its ugly head because of the disgusting experience we just went through with the previous administration where they mischaracterized the whole origins of the COVID pandemic,” she said a cauldron of anger and angst against innocent AAPI individuals was created. 

Angered by the incident involving the 65-year-old Asian American women, Hochul said the bystanders who just watched the violence unfold offended her almost as much as the incident itself.

“If that’s the people we are, then I’m sorry, we have to change our character starting now,” Hochul said, “because we should be ‘upstanders,’ not bystanders.”

Cuomo creates $10M fund

Governor Andrew Cuomo and state lawmakers just agreed to create a $10 million fund in the budget to fight discrimination against Asian Americans. A reported $10 million in grants will be distributed to community and social service groups to stop bias  crimes committed against Asian Americans. Funding is also slated for bystander training programs, to detect and report discrimination and to fund civilian patrols.

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