(LEX 18) — In the wake of last week's string of shootings that killed eight people in Atlanta, including six women of Asian descent, Lexington Police Chief Lawrence Weathers agreed to meet with members of the local AAPI community via Zoom Tuesday for a nearly two hour conversation.
"For what happened in Atlanta, to me, I really don't care what the motive was," Chief Weathers said. "What I saw was the fear that it created [in the AAPI community]."
The conversation, which was moderated by Dr. Changzheng Wang of the Kentucky Chinese American Association, featured representatives from several Korean and Chinese churches, as well as local advocacy groups.
"I have people telling me about this issue as well," Dr. Wang said on the call. "We are very concerned and many people are worried about their safety when they go out shopping."
Dr. Wang and others who spoke emphasized that they believe Lexington is a safe place for Asian Americans, but that it is not immune from bigotry. A pastor from Lexington Korean Presbyterian Church recounted an incident when someone told him to "go back to your country" while shopping at Lowe's.
"Lowe's is my favorite shopping place," Hyeon Gu Lee said. "After that, whenever I stopped by there, my guard was up."
Chief Weathers told the people on the call that his department does not receive many reports of anti-Asian bias, but he did not question the validity of their experiences. Dr. Wang explained that people in the AAPI community are sometimes reluctant to report any acts of perceived hate.
"We should not suffer in silence," Dr. Wang said. "There are many cases I can relate to where people had bad experiences, but they [said], 'Ah, I don't want any trouble,' so they don't speak up."
In an effort to encourage people to speak up when subjected to bias or harassment, the speakers discussed the idea of coalition building between different Asian groups. Chief Weathers suggested the coalition could work with a liason from the police department. He encouraged people to report instances of anti-Asian hate, even if they believe they might be minor.
"Hate is not acceptable," he said. "Because hate leads to fear."