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Multiple Groups Ask, Are Hate Incidents Against Asian-Americans Being Underreported?

CHICAGO (CBS) -- As U.S. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) calls for a "deeper investigation" into whether the shootings in Atlanta last week were racially-motivated – and calls for the FBI to take a deeper look against crimes against Asian-Americans across the country, advocates are also pushing for change on the local level in Chicago.

Meanwhile this past week, Mayor Lori Lightfoot said police would be boosting patrols in Chicago's Asian-American communities.

And as CBS 2's Marissa Parra reported Sunday night, several local groups are now asking – are hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (AAPI) being underreported?

"I'm a little tired," said Grace Chan McKibben of the Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, "because it's emotionally exhausting."

We first met with Chan McKibben one month ago for the Lunar New Year, talking over fears within Chicago's Asian community as Anti-Asian sentiment began to manifest into attacks in corners of the country.

Parra asked Chan McKibben if anything has changed for her since then.

"A lot has changed," Chan McKibben said, "mostly because Atlanta – the shootings in Atlanta – brought so much public attention."

The shootings left eight people dead, including six Asian women.

"You see yourself and your family members in these victims," Chan McKibben said. "They could be, you know, my aunt or my mother."

The suspect behind the shootings blamed sex addiction, but advocates point to the longstanding link between fetishism of Asian women rooted in racism.

"Make no mistake about this – this was a hate crime," Mayor Lightfoot said this week.

Hate crimes in general are notoriously hard to prove in the court of law.

The hate crime dashboard on the Chicago Police website shows there were two anti-Asian hate crimes every year between 2018 and 2020.

But local Asian American advocates like Chan McKibben said they fear underreporting – partially because of language barriers.

And while not all hate incidents are crimes, they can still be traumatic.

"Saying, 'Go back to your country,' or, 'Go back to China,' or, 'Go back to wherever,'" Chan McKibben said.

Old Facebook posts associated with the initial sheriff's spokesman for the Atlanta shootings show he himself once promoted racist shirts saying, "COVID-19: imported virus from Chy-na"

New data from the national group Stop AAPI Hate, which was founded within the year, show that of the 3,795 hate incidents reported to them in the last year, almost 100 have come from Illinois. It is having a local impact.

And with the wave lately, Chan McKibben said: "A lot of older people, they're afraid to go out by themselves, and they're worried about being targeted. So this is devastating."

Asian Americans Advancing Justice Chicago is offering "bystander intervention trainings" in case you witness a hate incident.

They're also pushing for change like making Asian American history mandatory teaching in school.

Meanwhile, on behalf of Coalition for a Better Chinese American Community, Chan McKibben has been working on distributing a multi-lingual survey within Chicago's AAPI community in hopes of getting better data on local racism.

She is also co-organizing a "Fight Against Hate Crime" rally this Saturday, March 27 at 2 p.m. in Chinatown Square.

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