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Asian-Americans: Elected Officials Urged to Condemn Insensitive COVID Talk

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Thursday, September 3, 2020   

MINNEAPOLIS -- More than a dozen Minnesota organizations are renewing concerns over language being used to describe the coronavirus.

They're calling on elected leaders who either use offensive terms or embrace them to reverse course and condemn the rhetoric.

This week, the Coalition of Asian-American Leaders issued a statement on behalf of 17 other Minnesota groups.

They took issue with a recent interview involving state GOP Chair Jennifer Carnahan, who wouldn't denounce President Donald Trump for using terms such as "China Virus" or "Kung Flu."

Nick Kor, senior manager of movement building for the coalition, said they feel the rhetoric has fueled the hostility Asian-Americans have reported experiencing since the start of the pandemic.

"The language our leaders use has an impact on our communities, and they have an impact on how other people feel about specific issues," Kor said.

Carnahan, who is Asian-American, defended her stance on the president's use of the terms. She accused the organizations of using public pressure to conform to their viewpoint.

The state Human Rights department hasn't released specific numbers of reported hate incidents against Asian-Americans, but has acknowledged hearing of many instances of various forms of aggression.

Kor said it's time for all elected leaders to strongly condemn the language, so Asian-Americans and their communities can no longer feel scared.

"It makes people more fearful to really just be able to live out their daily lives, fearful to go outside, fearful to go to the grocery store," Kor said.

Back in April, the state Human Rights Department launched a helpline to report discrimination incidents resulting from the pandemic.

Kor's group and other organizations have been working with the state to get people to report such incidents.

But he said sometimes the information is too vague, limiting any follow-up work. He said that's why it's important for witnesses to speak up, which will aid investigators.


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