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Asian American St. Louisans Call For An End To Anti-Asian Rhetoric

Research by the Stop AAPI organization found that nearly 3,800 hate crimes have been reported in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.
LA Johnson
Research by the Stop AAPI organization found that nearly 3,800 hate crimes have been reported in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic.

The Asian American community is calling attention to a spike in anti-Asian rhetoric since last year. According to the reportingforum Stop AAPI Hate, nearly 3,800 hate crimes have been reported in the U.S. since the start of the pandemic. Last week’s shootings in Atlanta ended the lives of six Asian Americans.

Social media campaigns began highlighting attacks on Asian Americans earlier this year. The community is using the extra attention to share stories of overlooked cases of harassment and racism.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, two local residents shared their perspectives and life experiences as Asian Americans growing up in St. Louis. In a city where discussions about race are heavily focused on the Black and white experience, many Asians report feeling left out of conversations about race in America.

Ed Shew is a Chinese American whose family settled in Hop Alley, the area known to be St. Louis’ historic Chinatown, until they moved to midtown after he was born in 1949. He’s been more outspoken about his life experiences after retiring and writing a historical novel. “Chinese Brothers, American Sons” explores the lives of the Chinese immigrants who played a role in building the western part of the Transcontinental Railroad.

“I started thinking more about the Chinese experience in the United States and my own personal experience. Writing that book changed my life as I started researching things, and I started thinking about things I hadn't thought about before,” he said. “That's when I started getting involved with various organizations.”

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch published his opinion piece about not perpetuating anti-Asian racism on Tuesday.

“Even recently, there was a state representative from Branson who used the term ‘Chinese virus.’ We certainly think that's kind of a dog whistle for racism and things we shouldn't be a part of,” Shew said.

Shayn Prapaisilp also grew up in St. Louis. He is the son of Thai immigrants influential in the immigrant community. They established St. Louis’ first international markets, Jay International and Global Foods. The family also runs King & I restaurant, Oishi Sushi, Oishi Steakhouse, United Provisions and Chao Baan under STJ Group Holdings, of which Prapaisilp is the chief operating officer.

On Tuesday, Prapaisilp announced Chao Baan’s Dining Out to #StopAAPIHate initiative. The program will run every Tuesday through April 27 to help raise funds for the Atlanta chapter of Asian Americans Advancing Justice and Stop AAPI Hate. Ten percent of the restaurant's dine-in and carryout sales will be donated to the organizations.

Both Prapaisilp and Shew said the recent attacks are unfortunately not a surprise, as they’ve experienced and witnessed an increase in anti-Asian rhetoric in the country.

“We've been kind of dealing with this silently as a community, trying to keep our heads down, trying to just go about our day. But I think the culmination of something like the mass shooting in Atlanta that happened, I think, finally just hit all of us,” Prapaisilp explained.

“We're not immune to this type of violence, and I think that it just really brought to a head the type of xenophobia and racism that our community has been dealing with for quite some time now.”

St. Louis on the Air” brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. The show is hosted by Sarah Fenske and produced by Alex Heuer, Emily Woodbury, Evie Hemphill and Lara Hamdan. The audio engineer is Aaron Doerr.

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Lara is the Engagement Editor at St. Louis Public Radio.