On April 2nd, a local Asian-owned business in the Charlotte Transit Center, Plaza Sundries, was vandalized. The attacker hurled racial insults at the owners and caused an estimated $9,000 in damages. Just 12 days later, 37-year-old storeowner Devi Chauhan was shot in the chest while working at his Asian grocery store off Albemarle Road. His attacker did not attempt to rob the store, only to hurt Mr. Chauhan. Mrs. Chauhan is still scared to open the store back up and even to send their children to school, for fear that they might also be attacked.
In March, six Asian American women were shot in Atlanta, leading to a joint proclamation between the city council and county commission led by Mecklenburg Commissioner Leigh Altman and Charlotte City Council member Dimple Ajmera condemning the nationwide rise in anti-Asian racism. A candlelight vigil for the dead was held in Marshall Park. Those attending remarked on how diverse the gathering was and that they were glad to see how different people stood in solidarity with the Asian American community. Unfortunately, it seems that this show of solidarity has done little to protect Asian Americans living in our own communities.
Mecklenburg County is home to over 60,000 Asian Americans. For some, moving to Charlotte is a chance at new opportunities. For others, living in Charlotte is all they’ve known. Regardless of place of origin, Asian Americans comprise a significant portion of the Charlotte community. We thrive when the community thrives and we suffer when the community suffers. When a local small business owner gets shot in the chest for no reason and his family is unable to even visit him in the hospital because of COVID-19, it begs the question of not only why is this happening, but how can we stop these kinds of tragic situations from becoming a possibility in the first place? How can we protect our community members and build a better, safer Charlotte?
We begin with awareness of the growing anti-Asian racism not only in distant places like Atlanta or New York, but here at home in the Queen City. We know from data gathered by Stop AAPI Hate that there have been over 30 recorded incidents of anti-Asian hate incidents in Charlotte since March of last year. In order to prevent, not just react to, these kinds of situations, we need to be aware of those who are vulnerable in our communities, checking in on them and making sure that they are safe. Although the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has increased patrols near Asian-owned businesses, the simple fact of the matter is that CMPD cannot be everywhere. It is important for those living in the greater Charlotte area to take care of those closest to us.
As Charlotteans, we pride ourselves on extending Southern hospitality to everyone we interact with. Now more than ever, we need to prioritize building community and protecting our friends and neighbors and spread awareness of this growing anti-Asian violence.
Amy Ohara is a third-year student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Other signatures: Dimple Ajmera, Charlotte City Council Member At-Large; Leigh Altman, Mecklenburg County Commissioner At-Large; Gracie Galloway, AAPI Democrats President; Toni Sawhney, India Association of Charlotte; Lal Vishin, India Association of Charlotte; Michael Wang, Carolinas Chinese Chamber of Commerce President; Ann Gonzales, Carolinas Asian-American Chamber of Commerce Former President