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Kristi Yamaguchi: ‘The entire Asian American community is on alert’

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Former professional figure skater and Olympic gold medalist Kristi Yamaguchi said Thursday that “the entire Asian American community is on alert” amid a spike in anti-Asian violence throughout the past year and particularly after this week’s shooting spree in Atlanta, which left six Asian women dead. 

During an interview on CNN’s “New Day,” Yamaguchi, whose great-grandparents emigrated to the U.S. from Japan, said she was compelled to speak out following the recent attacks against Asian Americans, including at least two alone on Wednesday in the San Francisco Bay area, where she lives. 

“It’s important because it needs to stop, and I think we can’t tolerate it anymore,” she said. “I’m passionate about many different things, but this is definitely one that hits very close to home.” 

The former Olympian, who also founded the Always Dream Foundation to promote childhood literacy among low-income families, referenced the trauma her grandparents endured in the Japanese internment camps during World War II. 

Yamaguchi said that while previous generations of Asian Americans believed in “enduring almost the unbearable with dignity and perseverance and tolerance” in an attempt to move on from racism, “now is not that time to be silent.” 

“Now is really the time to raise more awareness of what’s going on and to demand that things change,” she said. “This younger generation is not afraid to speak out, I think they’ve given a lot of us courage to really stand up to what’s right, and I think that’s what we need to follow.”

On Wednesday, a 76-year-old Asian woman in San Francisco fought off an attacker who allegedly punched her in her left eye. Both the woman and the assailant were taken to the hospital following the incident. 

Police there said that an 83-year-old Asian man was also identified as the victim of an attack Wednesday, and a 39-year-old man is being investigated for both incidents.

A recent study from California State University’s Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism showed that hate crimes against Asian Americans in 16 of the largest U.S. cities have increased by nearly 150 percent during the coronavirus pandemic. 

While Atlanta police have said that it is too early to determine if Tuesday’s deadly shootings at multiple massage parlors were part of a hate crime, lawmakers in Washington have pointed to them as part of a pattern of increased violence against Asian Americans.

Tags anti-Asian hate crimes Anti-Asian violence Atlanta Atlanta shootings California CNN coronavirus pandemic figure skating Japanese internment camps Kristi Yamaguchi San Francisco

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