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City Council members and Monona city staff met June 7 to approve a resolution in support of the municipality's Asian-American population.

The city of Monona is calling on Wisconsin Attorney General Josh Kaul to prevent discrimination against the state’s Asian and Pacific Islander Desi American (APIDA) communities.

City council members unanimously approved a resolution this month that, “encourages the Attorney General to work with state and local agencies and the Asian American and Pacific Islander community-based organizations to prevent discrimination and expand culturally competent and linguistically appropriate education campaigns on public reporting of hate crimes.”

The resolution also states the council condemns of xenophobia, racism and anti-Asian bias, and encourages residents to do the same. Xenophobia is defined as a dislike of or prejudice against people from other countries.

Alder Kristie Goforth brought the resolution to the council with a co-sponsorship from Mayor Mary O’Connor. Goforth said it's a topic that hits close to home.

“Half of my family is Filipino… and so this is close to my heart,” Goforth said. “As we’ve seen the surge of this hate and racism in this past year, it’s been especially hard.”

The city resolution defines that surge as an increase in harassment, assault and scapegoating against Asian communities throughout the last year as the COVID-19 pandemic, which originated in China, has swept the globe.

The signed and adopted resolution cites a study from March 2020, in which the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE) reported a 150% increase in anti-Asian hate crimes across the 16 largest U.S. cities last year.

Since that study was released, both the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) have stated that it only “perpetuates stigma” to link the Coronavirus by name or association to China or the Chinese population.

Goforth wrote in the resolution that, “the use of anti-Asian terminology and rhetoric related to COVID-19, such as the ‘Chinese Virus’, ‘Wuhan Virus’, and ‘Kung-flu’ have perpetuated anti-Asian stigma.”

Jayson Chung, a Chinese-American and resident of Monona since 1979, said the recent uptick in violence against Asian-Americans is just the latest in a long history of anti-Asian bias.

“This past year has been tremendously concerning,” Chung said. “It is the latest episode in what I’ve seen as... recurring instances of turning against Asian-Americans whenever things are turning tough.”

The same CSHE study referenced in the city resolution also reported that more than half (68%) of the 3,800 attacks on Asian-Americans in 2020 were directed at women.

Chung said it’s beginning to feel even more personal, after instances like the March 2021 murders of six Asian women at spas across Atlanta.

“As a Chinese-American, watching the violence against Chinese-Americans and other east Asian-Americans happening across the country, it really hits home,” he said. “Especially because the violence towards women, it reminds me of my mother… it reminds me of my sisters.”

He said he’s “impressed” and “very happy” that, despite the historically low Asian-American population in Monona, the city is taking a stand. The U.S. Census Bureau reported in 2019 that the Monona population was only 1.6% Asian.

In a slew of recent racial equity initiatives from the city, Mayor Mary O’Connor said June 7 that she’s still interviewing candidates for the city’s recently adopted ad-hoc diversity committee. Applications closed May 26, with O’Connor reporting that a total of 18 Monona residents applied.

O’Connor said the committee, which is set to disband after a period of six months, will likely meet every three to four weeks, though she said she’s still working some of those details out.

You can read the city’s full resolution on anti-xenophobia on the city’s website, under the agenda center tab.

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