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Virtual talk on racism against Asians and Asian Americans begins Sunday



Authorities in Georgia are still looking into the motive for a deadly shooting spree this week that left eight people dead, including six women of Asian descent. The attack has heightened fears in Asian American communities about increased incidents of hate crimes and anti-Asian violence over the last year.

Natasha Chen Christensen, associate professor of sociology at Monroe Community College and a Taiwanese American, is one of the presenters at a virtual three-part discussion on the history of racism and xenophobia in the U.S. against Asians and Asian Americans. It begins Sunday and is presented in conjunction with the Levine Center to End Hate at the Jewish Federation of Greater Rochester.

The conference was scheduled before the recent killings in Georgia, but Christensen says the shootings will now be part of the discussion.

She says that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic a year ago, she, like other Asian Americans, has been afraid to leave her house.

“I basically am too scared to go out in public by myself, so if I do go out in public, then I’m always accompanied by other people,” Christensen says. She feels that comments made by former President Donald Trump last year in connection with the coronavirus pandemic did embolden some people to become more open in their bigotry regarding Asian Americans.

“What is happening to the Asian Americans is just an extension of what happens to Black Americans, Latinx Americans, Muslim Americans. We need to realize that this is all the same struggle and that we need to all work on this together,” Christensen said.

Rochester Police Investigator Jacqueline Shuman, who is also the spokesperson for RPD, says that RPD did not have any reported threats against Asian American businesses in the city, but is keeping a closer eye on those individuals and businesses.

Christensen is hoping that discussions, like the ones taking place in the upcoming series, will offer needed dialogue to help address that kind of racism.

The upcoming three-part virtual discussion, "Asian Matters: Standing with Rochester’s Asian American Communities," is open to the public. More information is available on the Levine Center’s website.

Randy Gorbman is the news director at WXXI News, a media partner of CITY.