orrific attacks on Asian Americans have spiked in the past year, including numerous unprovoked attacks on public streets, many of them against elderly victims.

Last week’s murder of eight people in Atlanta, six of them women of Asian descent, brought new attention to the problem.

While the hate crimes have increased recently, anti-Asian racism has a long history in America.

The Chinese Exclusion Act and internment of Japanese during World War II were government-sponsored racist laws.

But it is the long history of anti-Asian characterizations in popular media and racist comments by politicians and the general public that must be addressed.

While the number of reported anti-Asian incidents have skyrocketed, experts say it is vastly underreported.

Reversing the hatred will not be easy or happen quickly, but the work needs to start, from the local level to the U.S. Capitol.

For starters, politicians must be held accountable when they pander to far-right supporters who have racist leanings. When the coronavirus pandemic started, former President Donald Trump and others hoping to court his favor labeled it the the “China virus” or “kung flu.”

The rhetoric fueled a jump in anti-Asian attacks in America and Europe.

Even last week, during congressional hearings aimed at addressing discrimination against Asian Americans, Republican Rep. Chip Roy labeled the effort an attempt to attack free speech as he denounced the Chinese government and said, “All Americans deserve protection.”

While aggressively prosecuting and punishing those who commit hate crimes is important, those who promote intolerance toward Asian Americans, and other minority groups, must also be called out and held accountable.

But avoiding overtly racist terms and holding politicians accountable when they use them is only a small part of what needs to be done.

As Americans begin to address the long history of institutional racism in this country, confronting anti-Asian sentiment must be an important part of the learning and discussion.

— The (Mankato, Minnesota) Free Press

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