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Connecticut Leaders Look To Halt Anti-Asian Discrimination And Other Hate Crimes

Connecticut Attorney General William Tong
Jessica Hill
Connecticut Attorney General William Tong

Members of the Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in Connecticut say people should not be surprised at the escalation of violence against their communities.

Attorney General William Tong said the country can’t move on after the killing of six women of Asian descent in Atlanta. Not unless it first addresses the history of anti-Asian hate in the U.S. that continues today.

“And I think for a lot of us, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders across the country, not only do we feel like we have a target on our backs, but it seems like we’re being hunted,” Tong said.

He points to the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II.

“That history is a difficult one and I do spend some time talking to my kids about it because I think it is important they understand how complex it is, how deep seated it is, and how far back it goes,” Tong said.

Tong wants state lawmakers to approve legislation that would give him the power to enforce the state’s hate crimes laws. He said that would help establish a civil rights division in his office to handle hate incidents. Tong said enforcement could involve fines or restorative justice efforts between survivors and the accused.

Right now, hate crimes in Connecticut are handled as criminal cases by state prosecutors and the local branch of the U.S. Department of Justice.

Tong, state lawmakers and educators announced last week their push to include Asian American and Pacific Islander history in school curriculum. The state recently approved a curriculum highlighting the history of Black and Latinx communities.

Members of Connecticut’s indigenous tribes, LGBTQ residents and veterans are also advocating for representation in the state’s history classrooms.

Cassandra Basler, a former senior editor at WSHU, came to the station by way of Columbia Journalism School in New York City. When she's not reporting on wealth and poverty, she's writing about food and family.