CHICAGO — Gov. JB Pritzker says the shooting deaths of eight people at several Georgia massage parlors last week should serve as a call to action to address racism against the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.“Make no mistake, the state of Illinois recognizes that this was not an isolated incident. It was a year where the Asian, Asian American and Pacific Islander communities experienced racist scapegoating for the COVID-19 pandemic,” Pritzker said.
Pritzker staged a news conference Monday at a park in the Chinatown neighborhood of Chicago. Several state lawmakers and other Asian American advocates attended.
The day after the killings, state Rep. Janet Yang Rohr, D-Naperville, and several colleagues proposed the TEAACH (Teaching Equitable Asian American Community History) Act, a measure to require that all schools teach Asian-American history.
Rohr said she expects the General Assembly’s full support in making is state law.
“We also know this isn’t enough and we won’t stop here,” Rohr said.
Federal prosecutors haven’t said whether they will file hate crime charges in the shootings. Six of the eight people who died in the attacks were women of Asian descent.
Julia Ting, a leader with the Chicago chapter of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum, said the group considers the crime was caused by racism, classism and sexism.
“After hearing about the attack, I had the thought that I no longer wanted to exist in my body,” Ting said. “I looked in the mirror and wished that I could trade out my face for another, for one that makes me less of a target for the sexualization that too often comes with violence.
“But I am not what is wrong.”
Ting said working class Asian women often are treated as invisible.
McLean County Board member Sharon Chung also attended the news conference. She told WGLT false narratives and former President Donald Trump’s rhetoric still haunts the Asian American community.
Chung said she also has had to endure sexual objectification and harassment, adding she had to become outspoken.
“I’ve been thinking about all the other times in my life where I’ve had to do … to protect myself from men and the objectification they do,” Chung said.
Pritzker urged anyone who may have been a victim of discrimination to call the Illinois Attorney General’s civil rights hotline at 877-591-3692.