Mar 18, 2021 - News
How Asian Americans encounter racism in Des Moines
A screenshot of a Facebook post condemning Asian discrimination by Lucky Lotus, a restaurant in Des Moines
A screenshot of a Facebook post condemning Asian discrimination by Lucky Lotus, a restaurant in Des Moines. Screenshot via Facebook.

Discrimination is happening against Des Moines' Asian community — even if it's not visible to the public, said Amanda Lovan, civic engagement lead for Iowa Asian Alliance.

Driving the news: A suspect in Atlanta, Georgia was charged with murder and assault after allegedly shooting and killing eight people — six of whom were Asian women.

  • Police are still investigating if the shooting was a hate crime.

What's happening here: Aggravated assault cases against Asians in Des Moines actually decreased from 33 in 2019 to 24 in 2020, according to data from DMPD.

  • Yes, but: Lovan said people in the community are hesitant to file a report — making their experiences invisible.

In the last year, Lovan said her friends shared these racist encounters with her:

  • An Asian American woman was outside a carwash off Indianola Avenue when someone called her a slur and told her "go back to your own country."
  • A driver threw an egg at an Asian American woman by Double Dragon in Des Moines last month.

The bottom line: Even if Asians in Iowa haven't experienced the violent assaults making headlines in larger cities, racism still exists here, Lovan said.

Plus: The model minority myth places Asian Americans on a fake pedestal that erases their struggles and is used to excuse racism against other marginalized groups.

  • As in: If Asians can succeed in America, so can Black people, Latinos, etc.
  • This racist thinking robs us of our humanity and makes it easier for the public to ignore acts of violence against minority groups.

The bigger picture: We can become better allies by acknowledging others' humanity and by supporting Asian-led nonprofits like the ones Lovan lists here.

Linh's take: My mom asked me a few weeks ago if she should buy mace after seeing national news about attacks. My heart feels heavy.

This story first appeared in the Axios Des Moines newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.


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