ST. LOUIS — With just four days left in Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage Month, St. Louis city leaders unanimously passed a resolution condemning recent hate crimes against the AAPI community.
According to the group Stop Asian Hate, the number of hate incidents has more than doubled over the last year, with women reporting twice as many as men. This comes as a new report shows Asian Americans are also experiencing unprecedented health inequities brought on by the pandemic and anti-AAPI hate.
St. Louis' Resolution 24 is more than symbolic. Alderman Bret Narayan also hopes it encourages those in the AAPI community to report discrimination and violence when it happens.
"A lot of people in minority communities have hesitated to come forward after they've been victimized," said Narayan. "It's been so ingrained in some of these communities to just keep your head down and keep on working."
Narayan introduced the resolution and is the city's first Asian American alderman. He says if the city can collect more data regarding anti-Asian crimes, city leaders can use the data for good.
"Without a good data set on what's actually happening, it's really hard to make decisions and allocate funds appropriately," said Narayan.
Passing the resolution is on trend with other cities as they grapple with an uptick of anti-Asian crimes. Congress also passed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act in March.
For many people in the AAPI community, racism itself is nothing new. Qui Tran, the owner of three popular Asian restaurants in St. Louis — Mai Lee and two Nudo restaurants — says racism is an unfortunate part of life.
"We could sit here and talk for days," said Tran. "Injustices haven't just happened now. It's happened for a very long time, and I think it's starting to come to the forefront. I'm very proud and glad that this [resolution] passed."
When Saigon fell in the 1970s, Tran's family knew they had to leave Vietnam and come to the United States. His family became war refugees and settled in St. Louis. His mom famously brought the first Vietnamese restaurant to the city in the 1980s. Mai Lee's is now a St. Louis staple.
"I really did enjoy growing up in St. Louis," said Tran. "It's more diverse than people think. I grew up in Little Italy, and that was fun. I was the only Asian in Little Italy, basically."
Despite Tran being a St. Louis kid through-and-through, he has dealt with people questioning his "Americanness" to complimenting his English. The pandemic was even more challenging, but Tran says with nearly 60 employees, failure was not an option.
"Not only do you have all of your employees on your shoulders, you have their families on your shoulders," he said. "You know, it weighs a lot."
As a business owner, Tran says he wants everyone to feel welcomed in his establishments, and he wants to give back to the community that gave him so much. He says that's why it's important to be able to talk about racism and discrimination so the community can move forward together.
"It's not just with the Asian community — it's everyone," said Tran. "But this is a big step forward."
To those in the AAPI community, it's not about special treatment. Instead, it's about connecting on beliefs that bring St. Louisans together.
"With everyone being more aware of racism and prejudice, we can open arms a little bit more and be kind to one another," said Tran. "That's really the key."
Resolution 24 now awaits the mayor's signature for final approval.