by Rima Dael, General Manager, WSHU, Fairfield CT

Back in early 2020, one of the first steps WSHU-FM took in response to the global pandemic was to apply for its first newsroom grant from the William Caspar Graustein Memorial Fund. In May 2020, WSHU was awarded a $4,000 grant to produce the three-part series “Virus of Hate,” a deep exploration of the rise of anti-Asian racism in the age of COVID-19.

WSHU was one of the few public media outlets that raised awareness of this issue and amplified the voices of the Asian-American and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) communities not usually part of the mainstream media. Hate crimes against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders have increased by over 150% this year. The STOP AAPI HATE NATIONAL REPORT shares that 3,795 incidents were reported from March 2020 to February 2021. According to the Pew Research Center survey, three in 10 Asian Americans (31%) report having experienced racial slurs or racist jokes since the beginning of the pandemic.

I think the aspect of this conversation that we most urgently need to foster given the recent killings in Atlanta, is the intersectionality of this crime: the hate speech connected to COVID-19, gender violence, the exoticism of AAPI women and the structural racism that seeks to humanize the perpetrator — he had “a really bad day” — without fully acknowledging the deaths of his victims. We must have these hard and nuanced conversations because if we over-simplify or dismiss the issue, we will not grow as compassionate people, as a community, and as a human race.

As a key component of our mission states, WSHU Public Radio is committed to making our community a better place to live. I ask you to join WSHU in ensuring that AAPI communities are seen and heard. While hate crimes in communities of color are under-reported, WSHU Public Radio will continue to seek out stories not told in mainstream media, and elevate marginalized voices in all our communities.