Group gathers in Detroit to denounce hate against Asian Americans


Detroit – Olive Papasian is only 6 years old but she took the stage on Sunday to denounce hatred against Asian Americans at a gathering and vigil following the deadly Atlanta shootings.

“We’re here today to say we shouldn’t (hate),” said Olive, who lives in Warren. “Asians are (not) different from Americans. They are the same on the inside, but different on the outside. That doesn’t mean we should bully them.”

The young girl spoke to hundreds of people who gathered at the Patrick V. McNamara federal building in downtown Detroit to express their outrage over the deaths of eight people in the Atlanta area, six of whom were Asian-American.

Warren's 6-year-old Olive Papasian is next to speak to her 10-year-old brother Charlie as Asian Americans and other people met at the McNamara Federal Building in Detroit on Sunday

The suspect in the shootings, Robert Aaron Long, a 21-year-old white man, viewed the women at the spas as “sources of temptation,” police said, according to the Associated Press.

The killings also resulted in the group speaking outside the federal building in Detroit about discrimination the community was facing.

“Today we have a safe space for the Asian-American community and we’re going to take as much space as possible,” said Ceena Vang, one of two Detroit friends who started When We Are Needed to help the Asian and the world support black community and reduce racism.

“Today is our time to speak for ourselves, and it is long overdue. Today we will make history in Detroit.”

Mai Xiong, the newly elected commissioner of Macomb County and the first Hmong elected in the state, said the Asian Americans, many of whom have fled war and terror to come to America and then face discrimination in that country, a have a common sense of fear.

Macomb County Commissioner Mai Xiong speaks.

“But by 2021, Asian Americans across the country don’t feel safe at all,” Xiong said. “Others may say the Atlanta murders were not racially motivated, but they do not overlook the pain and fear that permeates the Asian-American community.”

The gathering was touted as the first on-site protest by Asian Americans, but organizers said it would not be the last. Those in attendance wore signs reading “#StopAsianHate”, “Love our people as you love our food” and “It could have been me”. They marched downtown and then held a vigil for those killed in Atlanta.

Investigators said Long confessed to the murders, but they were not racially motivated. Police have said they are still working to investigate a motive, including whether the attacks qualify as a hate crime.

Zora Bowens, co-founder of Whenever We Are Needed, said the Atlanta area shootings paralleled the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina shootings when a 21-year-old white supremacist killed nine African Americans.

“The shooter was pampered and protected like now,” Bowens said. “The news and media downplayed the severity of the event until people gathered like they are now.”

Everyone has to stand together, she said.

“The strongest thing we can do is fight together,” said Bowens. “They can’t stop us when we’re together. They can’t part us when we know we’re supposed to be together.”

MP Ranjeev Puri agreed but said he was exhausted.

“I’m so sick and tired of this conversation,” said Puri, D-Canton Township. “Whether we are fighting for Black Lives Matter, whether we are fighting for the separation of children at the border, or we are standing up today and shouting about the rise in crimes against the Asian community, we must put an end to systemic racism.”

Many of the speakers stressed that change could be achieved through breaking down stereotypes and allowing time for mutual understanding.

Somya Prakash of Farmington Hills said that while Asian Americans were raised to be silent, they could no longer be silent. Prakash urged them to report racism or hate crimes.

She also said that words are important.

“It’s called coronavirus and nothing else,” Prakash said. “It is no accident that so many hate crimes are committed against Asian Americans.”

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Twitter: @kimberkoz


Dusty Kennedy