By: Jennifer Rhoads, CFP

The pandemic has intensified many or our nation’s greatest faults, and last week we watched as Atlanta, Georgia became the latest epicenter of violence.

A mass shooting killed eight people, injured one, and devastated entire families and communities. Our team mourns for everyone victimized by this hateful act.

Six of the lives taken were women of Asian descent, making this tragedy another episode in a staggering series of anti-Asian attacks across the country. Amid this surge, Asian women have been targeted at more than twice the rate of men, highlighting how discrimination compounds for those whose identities make them targets in multiple ways.

Experts and officials say this scourge is fueled in-part by false statements from elected officials that maliciously scapegoat Asian countries and Asian Americans for the pandemic. These words have been hurtful, yet we also know that racism, misogyny and xenophobia plagued the United States long before COVID-19.

Looking at and listening to our communities

While this crime unfolded across the country, the heartbreak, fear and devastation is reverberating in every community, including ours. According to data from Stop AAPI Hate, Washington state residents reported 158 acts of discrimination over the last year, ranking us third in anti-Asian incidents among all fifty states.

Sadly, our local community partners say that discrimination has become an expected part of life, which is why they also expect the real numbers are underreported. Fourth Plain Forward has heard about Asian-owned businesses in Vancouver experiencing disparaging remarks and lost customers due to misinformation, fear and blame. Leaders of organizations like the Vancouver Chinese Association and the Vietnamese Community of Clark County say their elders are afraid to leave home, even as vaccines begin to provide some the opportunity for independence. All of this has spurred local Asian communities to stand up and speak out together.

The Community Foundation stands with its partners and our neighbors who are acknowledging and rooting out the causes of systemic racism and hate. These barriers hold us back from our shared aspirations of security and prosperity.

Starting where we are

We all have a responsibility and stake in fostering a culture of safety and belonging. Together, our actions create the community we want to see. Here are a few ways we can all fight this discrimination and create a safe, welcoming community.

As an organization, our staff is committed to this work. We will continue to center the needs of those most affected. In this case that means listening to groups like the Washington State Commision on Asian Pacific American Affairs and Asian Americans Advancing Justice – Atlanta, which has called for “a compass of community care” including mental health, legal and immigration services.

The act of listening to and learning from our neighbors is how we work toward a better future for everyone. Through this, we can build bridges and work alongside each other to ensure our shared safety and security. By speaking out in solidarity, we send the message that hate—in all of its forms—is unacceptable.

It is challenging work, but necessary if we as a community are to triumph over hate.

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About The Author

Jennifer Rhoads, CFP

Jennifer Rhoads served as President of the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington for nearly a decade before stepping down in April 2022. Under her leadership, the Community Foundation distributed over $100 million in grants, launched Give More 24! and grew its total charitable assets more than fivefold, becoming the second-largest Community Foundation in Washington state.