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MN Asian-American Coalition Encouraged by Discrimination Helpline

Asian-Americans in Minnesota say they've been discriminated against through verbal backlash, as well as poor service, as a result of the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
Asian-Americans in Minnesota say they've been discriminated against through verbal backlash, as well as poor service, as a result of the pandemic. (Adobe Stock)
April 8, 2020

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- Advocates for Minnesota's Asian-American community say they're happy to see a new state helpline for discrimination incidents resulting from the pandemic. But one group says efforts shouldn't stop there.

The state established the phone line this week for victims or witnesses, since the spread of the new coronavirus, first detected in China, has prompted instances of lashing out at Asian-Americans. Bo Thao-Urabe, executive director of the Coalition of Asian-American Leaders in St. Paul, said being able to directly report the information in a more streamlined fashion should be very helpful.

"State agencies often have authorization over certain kinds of rules and regulations," she said, "and so, for the purposes of this, we really just want a space where the community can just document what is happening to them."

The information goes directly to the Minnesota Department of Human Rights, which also has an online form. The helpline number is 1-833-454-0148. Thao-Urabe said she does worry that some who call will run into language barriers, adding that, because some victims might distrust the government, it's important for community groups to also relay information reported to them.

Thao-Urabe said the cross-sharing of information will pave the way for proper follow-up of these incidents.

"How do we not just report into a system, but that the information is shared," she said, "so that communities can be proactive about how to stop anti-Asian racism and bigotry."

She said a key benefit of this effort is encouraging reporting by witnesses, since a victim could be too traumatized to speak up, and it also removes fears that the incident needs to be a provable crime.

The online reporting link is at mn.gov.

Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN