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Asian-American Minnesotans Speak Out Amidst Wave Of Racist Attacks: 'It's Very Painful'

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Deadly shootings in Atlanta Tuesday highlight an increase of attacks targeting Asian Americans nationwide.

Nick Kor is with the St. Paul-based Coalition of Asian American Leaders. His parents immigrated from Hong Kong, and he identifies as Chinese-American.

"It's very painful and devastating," Kor said.

Ge Le immigrated to the Twin Cities from Thailand in 1987, and opened BG Food Market in St. Paul in 2010. He's worried about the Atlanta shootings being racially motivated.

"This is a very, very big problem for me because it makes me scared to go anywhere," Le said.

The FBI says there hasn't been a spike in hate crimes against Asian-Americans in Minnesota recently, but there have been attacks in other cities like New York and San Francisco.

There's also the more commonplace abuse Asian Americans say they face. Jennifer Carnahan, the chair of the Minnesota Republican Party, describes how she was bullied as a child.

Ge Le Jennifer Carnahan and Nick Kor
Ge Le, Jennifer Carnahan, and Nick Kor (credit: CBS)

"Kids would throw rocks at my head," Carnahan said. "They would pull their eyes up at the corner, calling me 'Chinese eyes,' they'd tell me to go back to China."

Carnahan was adopted from Korea and grew up in Maple Grove.

"I went to bed every night and prayed to God that I would wake up the next morning looking like my mom and dad, and I'd have blond hair and blue eyes, so I could be pretty," she said.

Kor says he's been bullied his whole life, as recently as hearing a comment at the post office last week. He says something seemingly small like that perpetuates violence.

"We need people to know that it's happening," Kor said. "And we need leaders to speak up about it."

A report from Stop AAPI Hate, a national coalition aimed at addressing anti-Asian discrimination, found that Minnesota had the 15th-most hate incidents against Asians in the country from last March to last month.

"We should love each other, and we should share love," Le said.

Carnahan says Minnesotans have an opportunity in front of them.

"To drive positive change, bring visibility to the situation and stand behind people," she said.

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