Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Tacoma leaders condemn acts of discrimination, as incidents spike amid pandemic

The streets of downtown Tacoma are empty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
Photo by Tom Collins
The streets of downtown Tacoma are empty amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Tacoma City Council recently issued a statementcondemning acts of discrimination, citing an increase in reports around the region and nation from Asian-American community members and other marginalized groups experiencing racism amid COVID-19.

City Council member Kristina Walker said the city’s Office of Equity and Human Rights brought reports of discrimination it was receiving to the council’s attention.

"They were saying that they had heard verbal stories of people who are experiencing discrimination and unable to go places that they normally went because they were being verbally abused," Walker said.

According to the Office of Equity and Human Rights, the city has received one report of a physical and verbal assault, one report of acts of discrimination or harassment in the workplace, and general concerns voiced about unwelcome environments for immigrants and refugees at local food banks.

The issue also has been felt across the nation. A reportby the Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council reviewed 673 reports of discrimination from March 19-25. Emerging trends indicated the council was receiving about 100 reports of coronavirus discrimination each day, with the most commonly reported type of discrimination being verbal harassment.

The state Commission on Asian and Pacific American Affairs is encouraging people to report when they experience an act of discrimination. The commission's director, Toshiko Hasegawa, said some may not be comfortable reporting to local law enforcement. 

She said community members with Asian and Pacific Islander ancestry face many barriers to reporting. Among them can be cultural, language and other accessibility barriers. Those who are undocumented might not report out of fear of being deported. 

Hasegawa said people can report to other groups if they are not comfortable going to the police when they have experienced or witnessed a hate crime. 

Those include national groups that are tracking acts of hate during the pandemic, including Asian Americans Advancing Justice. Acts of discrimination also can be reported to local civil or human rights offices, including the state's Human Rights Commission and Seattle's Office for Civil Rights.  Tacoma's Office of Equity and Human rights encourages anyone who believes they are facing unlawful discrimination related to the workplace, public accommodations, or housing to contact Tacoma's Human Rights Commission, which can be accessed by dialing 311 within the Tacoma city limits.

Hasegawa said reporting is important in order to get information from the community to decision-makers. 

"It's important to document so that we can take action by resourcing things that will provide support to people who are victims or try to take preventative measures," she said.

Hasegawa said steps that the state and local jurisdictions could take to support people experiencing discrimination include awareness campaigns that point people to where they can report, as well as providing services for victims of hate crimes who haven't reported. 

For more information on how to report acts of discrimination or hate crimes, see this list from the state Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs. 

News TacomaCity of TacomaCoronavirus Coverage
Rebekah Way is an on-call news host at KNKX. She began her career in public radio as a news intern at KNKX, where she's also worked as an interim producer and reporter. Rebekah holds a life-long passion for music and also works as a professional musician and educator in the Seattle area.